Should I Buy a TV Now, or Wait for HDMI 2.1?

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Q I’m looking to buy a 65-inch LG OLED Ultra HDTV to replace my Pioneer Kuro plasma, which is now 9 years old. Here’s my question: Should I wait until TVs and other components all have HDMI 2.1 connections, or should I just buy current models? Also, can products with HDMI 2.0a connections be updated to HDMI 2.1? —Alan McClure

A HDMI 2.1 is indeed coming, and it will be implemented on all manner of devices from TVs to receivers to Ultra HD Blu-ray players. But that doesn’t mean you should put off buying a new TV now. Here’s why.

First off, the HDMI 2.1 specification hasn’t yet been finalized, though that’s expected to happen sometime between April and June of this year. Once the spec is published, manufacturers can start implementing HDMI 2.1 in new products, which will arrive in 2018 at the earliest. So if you want to replace your aging Kuro with a new OLED, waiting on HDMI 2.1 means you won’t be able to do so until at least next year.

Second, though HDMI 2.1 will deliver a big increase in bandwidth — up to 48Gbps from 18Gbps in the current HDMI 2.0a version — it’s overkill for existing formats like Ultra HD Blu-ray, which require 18Gbps bandwidth at maximum. (And that’s only for 60fps movies . Most content on UHD Blu-ray is shot at 24fps, which requires much less bandwidth.) Why do we need a new HDMI version with all that extra capacity? Think of it as an investment in the future: HDMI 2.1 is designed to support forthcoming features like 8K resolution and 120fps frame rates. It also supports Dynamic HDR (something that the Dolby Vision format, which works with current HDMI formats, does as well), variable screen refresh rates for gaming, and enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC), which will enable streaming of object-based surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X from a TV to a receiver.

Here’s my take on the situation: HDMI 2.1 is going to make interesting stuff possible, but much of that is still several years out. In the meantime, you could be enjoying Ultra HD movies with high dynamic range in both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats, both of which are supported on LG’s new OLED models, and by new Ultra HD Blu-ray players like Oppo’s UDP-203 (pending a forthcoming firmware update). As for updating current HDMI 2.0a gear to support specific HDMI 2.1 features such as eARC and Dynamic HDR, that’s something that HDMI Licensing says will “depend on manufacturer implementation.” In other words, it’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on it.

WDZTony's picture

My wild guess would be that it'll take at least 9 more years before any 8K / 120 fps content is widely available.

Deus02's picture

You're right so why worry about it. Go for it now. These are the age old questions and I guess we all get caught up in having the latest and the greatest, yet, the way the technology is advancing and how good it is even now, the improvements are, at best, going to be incremental. It's like the old joke, "have you heard the latest, it isn't out yet". The second issue, of course, is source material and if someone like Netflix/Amazon etc. eventually choose to provide this premium service, what ISP is going to provide the ever increasing bandwidth needed to notice the difference from current technology? Also, are manufacturers going to build 8K BR players and will there be enough demand for discs?

If you have the money for the LG OLED go for it, with both HDR and Dolby Vision on board and along with a UHD player that is capable of transmitting both, like the Oppo after its firmware update, you will be set up for a few years yet. Frankly, when I look at the picture of the current monitors and even my late 2015 LG UHD monitor, I am really not sure how much better it can get.

drny's picture

The decision to buy a 2016 model year LG OLED would depend in three primary considerations for the buyer.
Is 3D viewing important? What is your budget limit? How long do you plan to wait until your next TV purchase?
If viewing 3D blu ray movies is important to the buyer, then he must make an immediate purchase.For 2017 LG has joined Samsung and Sony in deleting 3D from their premium displays.
If the buyer is concern with spending an additional $1,000 and above for 2017 LG models, then he must purchase a 2016 OLED immediately, as 2017 line up comes substantially higher cost than the current outgoing 2016 OLED models.
If the buyer will wait another nine years for his next purchase, then he should wait an additional two model years. In essence 4k, HDR, and connection/ streaming considerations are still in flux.
I went through a similar situation as the individual who posed the question in March of 2016. I indeed purchased an outgoing 2015 model year Samsung due to the fact that 3D viewing was a major consideration for me and Samsung was deleting 3D for 2016 models. I chose Samsung due to their brightness levels and color accuracy. For me being able to watch our main TV in a room flooded with bright day light was critical and neither Sony or LG came anywhere near Samsung bright levels for 2015 or 2016 (Z9D being the exception).
I say buy now, stop suffering from FOBO (fear of better option).

WildGuy's picture

if you just bought a big screen hdtv recently, say like your hdtv is only 3 years old, then wait is better. actually thinking about it, your 9 years old hdtv pioneer kuro plasma still has some life left, so wait for another year or two before upgrading to big screen 4k tv.

the biggest reason is cost. big screen 4k tv with hdr is still expensive, especially if it's oled tv. beside your kuro plasma still outperforms led-lcd in terms of black level, viewing angle, no motion blur. sure, oled might outperform kuro plasma in term of black level, but it has some motion blur that plasma doesn't have.

by the end of this year, 2017 oled tvs price might drop to even more affordable level. i suspect as much as 40% off the original price. so wait for some more months to see how price has fallen.

who knows, maybe next year, we might get 4k120 oled tv with hdmi 2.1. sure it might be very expensive, but the price might drop off to a much more affordable level after another couple of years. but that might be too long a wait.

so i recommend you to wait for another 6 to 9 months to see the newer 2017 oled tv drop their price as much as 40% off. beside, the 2017 model oled tvs is 25% brighter than 2016 models, which is even better for hdr videos/movies.

Bob Schaffer's picture

I wouldn't wait for the newest iteration of HDMI, but I WOULD wait for the new SONY OLED. The OLED panel technology makes even the LG, with it's merely "okay" video processing, into a world class picture performer.
SONY's new OLED will combine the incredible OLED panel technology with the MOST ADVANCED video processing technology on the planet! It will take OLED TV to a whole other level, one which most people have never even imagined before--and it's only a month or two away from availability.
THIS TV set will be the new "benchmark", the modern equivalent of the Pioneer Kuro plasma sets!
If you buy the LG and you then get to see one of these amazing SONY OLED sets, you will be sorry that you spent the money on the LG!
Sony showed their OLED right beside the LG at the CES show back in January, and it literally SMOKED the LG!
THIS television will be the "Holy Grail" of 4K TV sets that you have been waiting for!

Oreo's picture

I bought one of the 3LCD WEGA RPTVs back in 2007 or so. It was a big investment, but I thought I was buying quality that would last for a decade with only a few lamp changes along the way. The electronics died before the lamp did, and after less than 3 years. When I started looking up the issue, it was endemic to that model, along with another issue with the SXRD sets of the time.

That was $1200 down the drain, and another $1500 for a new Panasonic plasma, and I've been very happy with it. Sony ruined their reputation with me on that deal, so I won't give them more money if I don't have to.

Bob Schaffer's picture

I understand your feelings, but keep in mind, EVERY manufacturer of lamp-based projection TVs (not only Sony, but also Panasonic, LG-yes LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Hitachi, RCA, you name it!) had horrific issues with the electronics getting literally cooked to a crisp by the heat from the lamps. Some, like the Panasonics and LGs had plasic casings literally melting (I got a free LG DLP TV with a melted, heat warped shell from somebody throwing it away because the screen had even warped over time). That's why everybody but Mitsubishi stopped making these sets--and Mitsubishi had to increase airflow for cooling RADICALLY to make their sets even halfway reliable! But I can understand: Once burned... (no pun intended).
Yet, if you have your mind set on an LG OLED, then wait for the 2017 models (coming very soon). They are a VAST improvement over the 2016 models.

CFWhitman's picture

In 2019 still not all companies have released a full line of HDMI 2.1 compatible televisions.

The one reason you might decide to wait for HDMI 2.1 is eARC. It is the one feature of HDMI 2.1 that should have real world benefits now. That is because there is no way for your television to pass uncompressed surround sound to a sound bar, a receiver, or a surround processor. This means that current surround sound formats like Dolby TrueHD and and DTS HD can only pass to your receiver or surround processor directly and then to your television rather than directly plugged into your television and then to your sound equipment. Of course, your sound equipment has to also support eARC.