Do you need an HDMI 2.1 monitor?

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Computer monitors that support HDMI 2.1, the latest HDMI standard, are beginning to trickle into online retailers. They sell at extremely high prices (when they’re available at all). Even the most affordable HDMI 2.1 monitors, like the Gigabyte Aorus FI32U and Acer Nitro XV282K KV, are priced near $1,000.

The high price of HDMI 2.1 implies it’s important, but the truth is more nuanced. HDMI 2.1 brings new features to the table, but they’re relevant only to people with specific needs. Here’s who should, or shouldn’t, buy an HDMI 2.1 monitor.

What is HDMI 2.1?

HDMI has become the world’s video interface for consumer electronics. You likely recognize it even if you don’t know what HDMI stands for (that’s High-Definition Multimedia Interface, by the way).

First introduced in 2002, HDMI’s original standard has received a number of updates to enable higher resolutions and refresh rates, among other things.   

hdmi version HDMI Forum

The chart above, which can also be found in our guide to HDMI 2.1, lists the improvements found in HDMI’s latest revision.

It’s a significant update on paper, but much of it doesn’t apply to monitors. Features like Dynamic HDR metadata and enhanced audio return channel (eARC) target home theater enthusiasts.  

Other features, like Quick Frame Transport (QFT) and Display Stream Compression (DSC) may be used by monitors but were already available over DisplayPort, or adaptive sync standards like AMD FreeSync and G-Sync.

For monitors, HDMI 2.1 is mostly about one specific upgrade: Variable Refresh Rate (VRR).



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