HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface)

Why Trust Techopedia

What is HDMI?

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is an industry standard that specifies how to transmit digital audio and video signals over a single cable. HDMI is commonly used to connect video game consoles to TVs.


Manufacturers of HDMI-compatible products must sign a licensing agreement and pay royalty fees to use HDMI specifications legally in their products. They are also required to submit each of their HDMI-compatible products for compliance testing to ensure they meet HDMI standards.

Different HDMI cable types handle different bandwidth requirements and special features. The cable choice depends on the HDMI features the end user wants to use.

What is HDMI?

History of HDMI

The HDMI Forum released the first version of HDMI in December 2002. Before this, digital audio and video signals had to be transferred between devices with several different types of analog cables and connectors.

By 2003, consumer products with HDMI ports began to hit the market. The standard was highly appealing to consumers because it not only decreased cable clutter, it also preserved signal strength better than analog connections. HDMI’s rapid adoption made it a dominant standard within a few years.

What is the HDMI Forum?

The HDMI Forum is a nonprofit corporation that developed the HDMI standard. It is composed of electronics manufacturers, film production companies, and other businesses that are involved in the production and distribution of audiovisual (AV) content and hardware.

The HDMI Forum is responsible for updating the HDMI specification and fostering an ecosystem around the standard. This includes maintaining a close collaboration with the HDMI Licensing Administrator, Inc.

What is the HDMI Licensing Administration?

The HDMI Licensing Administrator, Inc. is a company that the HDMI Forum appointed as a licensing agent for the HDMI specification. HDMI LA is responsible for collecting license royalties from manufacturers and enforcing license compliance.

How HDMI Works

Once two digital devices are connected with an HDMI cable, the source device can encode video and audio data and transmit it as electrical signals to the receiving device.

The receiving device decodes the signals and converts each type back into a format that can be displayed on a screen (pixels) or played through speakers (analog waveforms).

HDMI Use Cases

HDMI is commonly used to connect external content delivery sources to televisions.

Other popular use cases for HDMI include:

HDMI Specifications

Over the years, HDMI specifications have evolved to support higher resolutions, better digital audio quality, and increased bandwidths.

3 HDMI Specifications

HDMi Features

Each iteration of HDMI also introduced features designed to improve the user experience (UX).

HDMI 1.0
Provides support for HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection).

HDMI 1.1
Added support for DVD Audio.

HDMI 1.2
Added support for PC sources and high-resolution audio.
HDMI 1.3
Added mini-HDMI connector and support for Deep Color and automatic lip syncing. 
HDMI 1.4
Added micro-HDMI connector and support for 4K resolution at 30 Hz. Allows an Ethernet connection through an HDMI cable.
HDMI 2.0
Added support for 4K resolution at 60 Hz, up to 32 audio channels, and 21:9 aspect ratio.
HDMI 2.1
Added support for 10K resolution, enhanced refresh rates, and better audio.
HDMI 2.1a

Added support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) content performance.

Types of HDMI Connectors

There are five different types of HDMI connectors, each with a corresponding type of cable. Although the connectors vary in size to accommodate different digital device sizes, they all carry the same HDMI signals.

Types of HDMI Connectors

Types of HDMI Cables

Adapters can be connected to HDMI cables to convert between different connector types, and HDMI splitters can be used to send the same HDMI signal through multiple cables to multiple displays. Splitters can also act as a repeater to boost the signal strength.

Standard HDMI CableHigh-Speed HDMI CablePremium High-Speed HDMI CableUltra High-Speed HDMI Cable

Description: Designed to handle most video/audio transmissions.

Common Uses: Suitable for cable and satellite TV transmissions, older gaming consoles, and DVD players.

Description: Capable of handling increased bandwidth for advanced display technologies.

Common Uses: Suitable for most modern Blu-ray players, game consoles (up to 4K@60Hz), and streaming devices.

Description: Provides higher performance than High-Speed HDMI cables.

Common Uses: Suitable for home cinema setups and advanced gaming with features like High Dynamic Range (HDR).

Description: Designed to support HDMI 2.1 performance standards and capabilities.

Common Uses: Suitable for 8K resolution displays and features like high refresh rates (VRR).

What is an HDMI port?

The digital interface that an HDMI cable connection plugs into is called the HDMI port. The HDMI version supported by the port determines the maximum resolution, audio formats, and advanced features it can handle.

Formats & Devices HDMI Supports

The table below provides information about the different A/V formats that HDMI supports. It also provides examples of devices that use each type of format.

Formats & Devices HDMI Supports

HDMI vs DisplayPort

HDMI and DisplayPort are both digital audio/video interface standards. HDMI has strict licensing requirements and is used primarily for consumer electronics.

In contrast, DisplayPort is used for high-performance computing (HPC) environments that require multiple displays or extremely high resolutions. Licensing requirements for DisplayPort are less restrictive than those for HDMI.

BandwidthMax ResolutionAudio SupportVideo SupportIdeal Use CasesCable LengthLicensing and RoyaltyMarket AdoptionMulti-Stream Support

HDMI 2.1: Up to 48 Gbps

DisplayPort 2.0: Up to 80 Gbps

HDMI 2.1: Supports up to 10K resolution

DisplayPort 2.0: Supports up to 16K resolution

HDMI 2.1: Supports up to 32 audio channels

DisplayPort 2.0: Supports multi-stream audio

HDMI 2.1: Supports Dynamic HDR, VRR, ALLM, and QFT

DisplayPort 2.0: Supports HDR, DSC, MST for multi-display setups

HDMI 2.1: Broad consumer use in TVs, gaming consoles, and home theaters

DisplayPort 2.0: High-performance computing, professional displays, and video production

HDMI 2.1: Up to 3 meters without signal degradation

DisplayPort 2.0: Longer cable lengths possible without signal degradation

HDMI 2.1: Requires licensing, royalty payments, and compliance test for use of standard

DisplayPort 2.0: Royalty-free but must comply with VESA standards

HDMI 2.1: Widely used in consumer electronics

DisplayPort 2.0: Used in professional IT environments

HDMI 2.1: Limited to single video and audio stream per cable

DisplayPort 2.0: Capable of multiple video streams (MST)

HDMI Pros and Cons

Even though HDMI supports high-resolution video and multi-channel audio in a single cable, a lot depends on the type and quality of the HDMI cable used to connect the digital device to a display unit.

To ensure the best performance, it’s important to choose a quality HDMI cable that is designed to support the specific resolutions and features you want to use.

Low-quality cables or the wrong type of HDMI cable will negatively impact signal integrity.

The Bottom Line

In simple terms, HDMI meaning is a digital audio and video interface standard. It specifies the connector types, signal formats, communication protocols, and electrical interfaces that licensed manufacturers should use for devices that transmit or receive audio and video signals.

De-facto, HDMI is the standard for connecting digital devices to a TV. Before connecting a game console to a TV, however, the end user should ask themselves two questions:  “What type of HDMI cable do I need to access the features I want to use?” and “Do my TV and console both support these features?”

Knowing what the HDMI cable will be used for and what type of HDMI your game console and TV support will help you select the right HDMI cable and avoid incompatibility and performance issues.


What is HDMI in simple terms?

What is a HDMI used for?

What does HDMI mean on a smart TV?

How do I connect my TV to HDMI?

Why would I need an HDMI port?

Do I need HDMI on my TV?



Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.