HDMI 1.3: The Missing Link

If you recently upgraded to an HDTV, you've had to adjust to a few changes. The first is watching a strikingly crisp, widescreen image that smokes your previous TV's picture. Another is finding a forest of unfamiliar jacks on your new set's back panel. The most significant one is HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), a unidirectional link for connecting source components such as a high-def disc player or cable or satellite receiver.

HDMI's main benefit is that it allows digital high-def video and audio signals to be sent over a single cable. But the newest version of the HDMI standard, 1.3, holds the promise of even more A/V advancements. It's important to note, however, that most products with HDMI 1.3 connections won't show up in stores until early 2007 (though Sony's PlayStation 3 game console and Toshiba's second-gen HD DVD players will be out of the gate earlier). You should also know that 1.3 is designed to be compatible with older gear, so you shouldn't have a problem connecting that PS3 to an older HDTV with an HDMI (or even a DVI) connection.

More Bandwidth

With HDMI 1.3, the connection's bandwidth increases from 165 MHz to 340 MHz - enough to carry up to 10.2 GB of data per second. That might sound like a jumble of numbers, but it makes it possible to feed video displays with even higher resolution than current 1,920 x 1,080-pixel (1080p) models. The arrival of such sets - and suitable source material to take advantage of them - is far off. But "4K" front projectors designed for professional digital cinemas and even some flat-panel TVs with 4,096 x 2,160 resolution (twice as many pixels as 1080p HDTVs) have been showing up regularly at consumer trade shows in recent years. And while HDMI 1.3 won't exactly be able to handle that lofty level of high-definition, its increased bandwidth will help accommodate any potential resolution boosts on the HDTV front.

Faster Frame Rates

HDMI 1.3's fatter bandwidth means that it can also support increased video refresh rates (the speed at which the picture gets redrawn on your TV's screen). Most HDTVs have a 60-Hz frame rate. A few Pioneer plasma models bump that up to 72 Hz to enable image processing designed to reduce picture "judder" - a blurring effect that sometimes occurs during camera pans or fast-motion action. According to HDMI Licensing, an industry group charged with promoting HDMI technology, several other companies plan to produce gear in the near future that can show pictures at frame rates higher than the standard 60 Hz - which is why support for this feature was built into 1.3.