What is HDMI 2.0b?

These days, you only need one cable to rig up your home theatre system, and that’s HDMI. This ever-evolving technology keeps your A/V equipment in an immersive space, where your senses are treated with bursts of colour and the best surround sound. 

To date, there are five types of HDMI connectors and about ten versions. The latest version and best standard is HDMI 2.1, but today we’ll also have a look at its direct predecessor, HDMI 2.0b. 

This article will provide all the information you need to understand what HDMI 2.0b can do and whether you should shelve it in favour of HDMI 2.1.

What is HDMI 2.0b?

The first HDMI standard, version 1.0, appeared in 2002. Over the years, the technology stayed evergreen by evolving, always keeping the best traits of the previous standard while also adding new improvements and features. 

HDMI 2.0b was released in 2016, almost a year after HDMI 2.0a. Right now, it’s the second-newest version available, being only surpassed by HDMI 2.1.

What does HDMI 2.0b do?

This might be an “older” technology already, but HDMI 2.0b still packs a serious punch, which definitely explains why many people continue to use HDMI 2.0b instead of upgrading to HDMI 2.1. 

Here are some of the main HDMI 2.0b features and specifications that you can expect.

  • Backward compatible with older HDMI versions
  • 4K streaming at 60Hz
  • A maximum bandwidth of 18 Gbit/s
  • Supports ARC and eARC
  • Supports 120Hz and 144Hz refresh rates
  • Simultaneous delivery of 2 video streams and up to 4 audio streams
  • 32 channels of audio
  • Supports advanced audio features (DTS-HD, Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby ATMOS)
  • Uncompressed and full-resolution chroma subsampling
  • 12-bit deep colour with 4,096 shades
  • Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG)

Are HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.0b the same?

HDMI 2.0b and 2.0a are essentially the same. The only major difference is that HDMI 2.0b supports Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), which is a newer type of High Definition Range (HDR) technology. 

Since the two standards are so similar, it’s not necessary to compare them, but what about the version that begot them both – HDMI 2.0?

What is the difference between HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.0b?

Since HDMI 2.0 is the parent technology of HDMI 2.0b, it should come as no surprise that they are almost identical too. The list of HDMI 2.0b attributes we mentioned a little earlier also applies to HDMI 2.0. 

However, the latter lacks one important feature from this list, and that is Hybrid Log-Gamma. 

This new video format was added to HDMI 2.0b, making the two standards only slightly different. However, HLG is a fantastic new feature. Here’s why you should get excited about this “tiny” change!

What is Hybrid Log-Gamma?

HLG is a new video format that is basically another kind of High Dynamic Range (HDR). It’s similar to HDR10 and Dolby Vision; all three bring brighter highlights, improved colour, and more impact. 

The difference is that HDR10 and Dolby Vision cater to streaming, disc players like Blu-ray, and video games. HLG was created for broadcast cable, satellite, and live TV. Indeed, the technology was developed by two broadcasting giants, the BBC and NHK (Japan’s national broadcaster). 

At the moment, HLG’s purpose is to enhance TVs that still rely on Standard Definition Range (SDR). SDR remains a common standard for video and cinema displays, but the tech has its limitations. One major drawback is that SDR can only show a fraction of HDR’s dynamic range. More simply put, a lot of details and colours are lost with SDR.

The HLG format handles this problem by blending HDR and SDR information into one signal. This is how it earned the “hybrid” part of its name, and true enough, this mixed signal can be used by HDR TVs to show an enhanced image. 

But what if your TV isn’t HDR-equipped? It will display SDR, not HDR quality. However, all is not lost. The HLG video format will upscale things somewhat and bring the quality a little closer to HDR.

What is the difference between HDMI 2.0b and HDMI 2.1?

Each HDMI version has always improved on the last. Bearing that in mind, what makes HDMI 2.1, the latest standard, better than 2.0b? 

To start with, HDMI 2.1 has kept all the good specifications of its predecessor. But the following improvements and new additions make HDMI 2.1 the uncontested first choice for many.

Resolution is Better

HDMI 2.0b already brought us great viewing by supporting a maximum of 4K at 60Hz frame rate. But HDMI 2.1 takes things further to a breathtaking degree. You can now switch on 4K at 120Hz, or 8K at 60Hz. 

This is a huge improvement for gamers who can look forward to smoother action and crisp graphics. For commercial and industrial purposes, HDMI 2.1 can raise the bar to 10K resolution. 

More Bandwidth for eARC

HDMI 2.0b inherited the Audio Return Channel (ARC) from HDMI 2.0, a feature that allows audio to transmit back and forth between a TV and another device, like a soundbar. 

Regrettably, the bandwidth wasn’t always adequate for pristine sound. Too often, the audio signal experienced compression and dropped to stereo and overall low-quality sounds. HDMI 2.1, on the other hand, offers uncompressed, full-resolution audio.

A Better Variable Refresh Rate (VRR)

Games rely on changing refresh rates to present the best-looking graphics. But sometimes, when frame rates fluctuate by slowing down or speeding up, there can be a mismatch between the information the game is providing and what the TV displays. The result includes annoying problems like screen tearing, judder, and lag. 

Gamers have discovered that all of these issues tend to pop up when they play VRR games on an HDMI 2.0b display that is not VRR-compatible. 

HDMI 2.1’s intuitive VRR ensures that the frame rate of both devices stays on track with each other, leading to faster gameplay and smoother graphics without disturbances. 

No Lip-Syncing

Perhaps you’ve experienced this pull-your-hair-out scenario before. You are trying to watch something on a TV that uses sound from a soundbar or receiver. But no matter what you do, the images on the screen don’t match up with the audio. 

Known as lip-syncing, this issue is mostly caused by the heavy amount of processing the TV is burdened with. Most audio systems need far less time to process audio signals than the TV needs for video processing, hence the mismatch. HDMI 2.1 eliminates this delayed video signal by allowing the TV to “talk” to audio devices in real time.

Should I upgrade to HDMI 2.1?

Despite all the improvements that came with HDMI 2.1, there’s no rush to throw out your HDMI 2.0b cables. They can still provide a satisfying experience as far as watching TV, and playing games are concerned. 

But if you ever want more, then upgrading to HDMI 2.1 is a natural move. HDMI 2.1 is also becoming the preferred standard of manufacturers who now include it in most new TVs, gaming consoles, and more. Chances are that you’ll upgrade automatically when you purchase any new tech with HDMI.  

Another reason why more people are turning to HDMI 2.1 is the fact that this standard is incredibly future-proof. Its abilities are so advanced that it will continue to work with technology and resolutions that aren’t even widely available yet. 

By investing in HDMI 2.1-compatible devices and cables, your entertainment system can keep up more easily with cutting-edge developments than HDMI 2.0b ever can.

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Marcel Deer

As a qualified journalist and 'veteran' gamer, Marcel has loved all things tech since the halcyon days of the 'scart lead'. When not writing about the latest tech, he's reviewing indie video games or trying to convince his wife the TV is too small...again.

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