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HDMI 2.1 vs. 2.0 - Which Cable Type Do I Need?

Find out the differences between HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 to help determine which one you should buy.

HDMI cable Brandon Jones / TechReviewer

Last Updated: December 28, 2021

Written by Brandon Jones

There are many different HDMI cables out there, but which one do you need for your display? In this article, I'll go over the features of both HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 to help determine which one you need.

HDMI 2.1 vs. 2.0

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HDMI 2.1 is an overhaul of the older HDMI 2.0 standard and has many significant upgrades compared to HDMI 2.0.

The main difference is that HDMI 2.1 can handle up to 48 Gb/s while HDMI 2.0 could only handle 18 Gb/s bandwidth. HDMI 2.1 also adds many additional features and improvements, along with the increased data transfer speed.

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HDMI 2.1 can now handle higher resolutions up to 10K along with faster refresh rates overall. This new version of HDMI also added many new features like Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), Dynamic HDR, HDMI Forum Variable Refresh Rate (VVR), enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC), Quick Media Switching (QMS), and Quick Frame Transport (QFT).

New Features With HDMI 2.1
HDMI 2.1 FeatureBenefit
Increased Bandwidth Adds support for 4K, 5K, 8K, 10K resolutions at 120 Hz.
Auto Low Latency Mode Enables ideal latency setting to be set automatically. Allows smooth lag-free and uninterrupted viewing and interactivity.
Dynamic HDR Lets a display alter the HDR metadata on a scene by scene or frame by frame basis.
Variable Refresh Rate Eliminates stuttering and frame tearing in games.
Enhanced Audio Return Channel Improves support of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio standards.
Quick Media Switching Decreases the delay when switching video sources.
Quick Frame Transport Reduces latency for smoother gaming without lag and real-time interactive VR.

Which HDMI Cable Type Should You Get?

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Since HDMI 2.1 is backward compatible with older HDMI versions, it's probably best to buy an HDMI 2.1 cable for future-proofing. You will ensure that you'll get the most out of your display without worrying about which one to buy. HDMI 2.1 is also needed for devices that support eARC, for better quality audio to soundbars and audio receivers. If you want to make it even easier, be sure to check out my recommended HDMI 2.1 and 2.0 cables below.

With that said, to get all of the features and speed increase, be sure to check if your display and device (PCs, game consoles, etc.) both support HDMI 2.1 and its features.

Keep in mind that HDMI cables can only go up to specific lengths. If you want a very long HDMI cable, you may need to go with HDMI 2.0 instead and follow one of these HDMI extension methods.

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Shorter HDMI 2.1 Cable

Longer HDMI 2.1 Cable

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Shorter HDMI 2.0 Cable

Longer HDMI 2.0 Cable

Max HDMI Cable Length

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Each type of HDMI cable has a limitation of how long it can reach. There's no specific "max" length a cable can go, but a limitation from the material they're made with.

Most newer copper HDMI cables reach around 15 to 25 ft (5 to 7.5 m). HDMI cables made with fiber optic can reach much farther. On average, fiber optic HDMI cables can reach around 50 to 200 ft (15 to 60 m).

Below are the three types of copper HDMI cables with their average length limits and resolutions they can handle at their max cable length:

Max Length of Copper HDMI Cables
TypeMax Cable LengthSpeedSupported Resolutions
Standard HDMI 49 ft (15 m) < 10 Gb/s 720p 60 Hz | 1080i 60 Hz
High Speed HDMI 15–25 ft (5–7.5 m) 18 Gb/s 1080p 60 Hz | 4K 30 Hz
Ultra High Speed HDMI 10–15 ft (3–5 m) 48 Gb/s 4K | 5K | 8K | 10K 120 Hz

Why HDMI Cables Have a Max Length

Most HDMI cables are made of copper, limiting the cable's length because it loses signal strength the farther it reaches. Signal loss can happen with cables made of other materials also. This signal loss (attenuation) is measured in decibels per distance—the greater the distance, the more signal loss.

The signal level may not be high enough if an HDMI cable is too long due to too much attenuation. If you need to support a longer distance, you'll need an extender, repeater, or fiber optic HDMI cable. Otherwise, you will need to find a way to use a shorter HDMI cable.

How to Extend HDMI 2.0 Cables

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HDMI Repeater

An HDMI repeater extends the connection for shorter runs by connecting two HDMI cables and amplifies the signals for better transmission.

Determining the max length when using a repeater depends on the HDMI repeater and the HDMI cable type, but I give the average ranges below. Remember that HDMI repeaters are directional, so be sure to use the device's correct input/output sides.

HDMI Repeater Range
ResolutionLength
4K @ 60 Hz 60–100 ft (18–30 m)
4K @ 30 Hz 100–130 ft (30–40 m)
1080p @ 60 Hz 135–195 ft (40–60 m)

To be safe, assume a repeater can reach only the shorter end of those ranges.

Fiber Optic HDMI Cable

Fiber optic HDMI cables are like standard HDMI cables but made with optical fiber inside the cable and meant for farther distances up to 164 ft (50 m) for 4K @ 60 Hz.

These cables aren't meant to be used with an extender, repeater, or switch and should be used alone. They also must be installed in the correct direction, with the output/display label connecting to the side with the display.

Learn more about fiber optic HDMI cables in my article: What Is a Fiber Optic HDMI Cable and Is It Worth Getting?.

HDMI Over Ethernet Extender

The HDMI over Ethernet extender is similar to an HDMI over fiber optic extender but uses an Ethernet cable for a shorter extension. An HDMI over Ethernet extender can extend the connection up to 130 ft (40 m) for 4K @ 60 Hz or 230 ft (70 m) for 1080p.

Learn more about HDMI over Ethernet in my article: HDMI Over Ethernet - How to Extend HDMI With Cat 5e/6a.

HDMI Over Fiber Extender

An HDMI over Fiber extender uses an optical fiber cable to transmit the data to reach a much farther distance. You could use an HDMI over Fiber extender to extend the connection up 1,000 to 3,300 ft (300 to 1000 meters) for 4K @ 60 Hz.

Learn more about HDMI over fiber in my article: HDMI Over Fiber - How to Extend HDMI With Fiber-Optic Cable.

Learn About TVs

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Want to learn more about TVs? Check out the articles in my TV series:

Learn About HDMI

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Find answers to your HDMI questions by checking out the articles in my HDMI series: