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HDMI 1.4a ? Whats the truth behind the hype?

Here we have vital information for those purchasing Home Theater Hardware (TVs,Receivers,Blu Ray Players, Cable boxes)..that use HDMI Technology.

On May 28, 2009, HDMI Licensing released the HDMI 1.4 spec.
Then, less than a year later (March 4, 2010) and here comes HDMI 1.4a.  So those who bought HDMI 1.4 cables and receivers who were taken by surprise get pissed off and worried.  I think those in this position just weren't quite clear on the changes between the two.  


Be careful.  Some manufacturers would like you to believe that only their receivers/products sporting HDMI 1.4a will handle these formats, is it true?

Maybe.

HDMI stated that manufactures have to confirm for themselves that their devices will support the new mandated formats. This means that they'll have to test their recently released devices with content that hasn't been created yet. It's either that or upgrade to HDMI 1.4a. This is harder for some than others.

For sources, they only need to support one of the mandated 3D formats (which makes sense). Receivers need to be able to pass all four and displays need to be able to accept and display all four. According to Steve Venuti, President of HDMI Licensing, HDMI 1.4 equipped AVRs (receivers) should be able to pass all four formats as the new broadcast formats are essentially the same as 2D video. Of course, he put the onus on the manufacturers to make sure that his statement was true for their specific devices.

Displays are in a completely different boat. Consumers will want to pay close attention to the supported 3D formats on any new 3D display they are thinking of purchasing. If the device has HDMI 1.4, you know it can support the Blu-ray and game 3D formats. The formats they'll want to look for are the broadcast ones - Side-by-Side Horizontal (1080i at 50 or 59.94/60Hz) and Top-and-Bottom (720p at 50 or 59.94/60Hz as well as 1080p at 23.97/24Hz).

Real information on 1.4 /1.4a HDMI


What HDMI 1.4 is not
Although a new micro connector is being introduced for portable devices, there is no change to the shape, number of pins or pin configuration of the standard 19 Pin Type A HDMI connector found on most home electronics devices. That means unless you specifically need a cable that supports a new feature that you find is not supported by your current cables, your current cables should continue to function fine. So there's no need to rush out and replace all your current cables until the time comes.

Also, as new HDMI 1.4 devices come out, they will continue to be compatible with all your current HDMI 1.3 and older devices and cables. HDMI will continue to be backward compatible.

HDMI Without Ethernet
The HDMI Ethernet Channel
HDMI with HEC (ethernet)
1.4 introduces a new HDMI Ethernet channel. This new feature further delivers on HDMI promise to reduce cable clutter between your devices. As more and more devices become "connected" devices, taking advantage of features like streaming video over YouTube and NetFlix, rather than buying a new router and stringing Ethernet cables to each of these devices, your television can act as a type of router connecting to the internet through a single Ethernet connection and distributing connectivity to each of your other devices through the same HDMI cable that's transmitting video and audio content.

Audio Return Channel
HDMI with Audio Return Channel
The new Audio Return Channel allows the HDMI connection between a television and A/V receiver to transmit audio two ways, both upstream and downstream. This eliminates the need for a separate audio cable and ensures you maintain the high digital audio quality of HDMI. Your experience is further enhanced by the LipSync functionality of HDMI which matches the audio and video of your programming compensating for any processor delays.


3D Support
Another new pending revolution in the A/V world is the new 3D technologies being promised. HDMI stays ahead of the game by supporting several different methods of rendering 3D images. Movies and games of the future promise to bring you to a whole new level.


4K x 2K Support
Resolution on par with state-of-the-art Digital Cinema projectors used in the local multiplexes will be coming to your living rooms. 4K x 2K which represents resolutions of 3840x2160 and 4096x2160 will both be supported by HDMI 1.4. All High Speed versions of HDMI cables will support this new feature.



End of the day, just check with manufacturers if they support firmware upgrades as many of the 1.4 releases allow upgrades to 1.4a.  In fact, Harman Kardon is already planning to upgrade three of their 1.3a receiver to 1.4a. Since they are saying that their receivers will be upgraded to "HDMI v.1.4a with 3D,".  Honestly I have no idea how this is possible since HDMI initially claimed that you needed a different chipset for 1.4. If so, however, you'll need HDMI 1.4 cables to take advantage of the Ethernet Channel feature (the Audio Return Channel is more or less supported with current generation cables). Other HDMI 1.3a receiver owners shouldn't hold their breath for upgrades, however, as no other manufacturer has announced any similar plans.

Main Considerations BEFORE purchasing your Hardware

3D TV Compatibility
 
Most 3D TVs that were sold starting in 2010 were HDMI 1.4 compliant. This is a good thing, since HDMI 1.4 specifies the various acceptable 3D formats for all 3D sources. So if your 3D TV is HDMI 1.4 compliant, then you can rest assured that it will work with all the latest 3D content sources such as 3D Blu-Ray and 3D cable from your local cable service provider.

On the other hand, if you own an older 3D Ready TV that was sold without active shutter glasses and a sync transmitter, then you most likely own a TV that is only HDMI 1.3 compliant. In that case, your 3D TV will not be able to handle all 3D content formats as specified in the HDMI 1.4 specification since the Full HD 3D specification is completely new and not backwards compatible with the HDMI 1.3 specification. To successfully view FHD3D content on your HDMI 1.3 compatible TV, you will need to purchase an external converter box (if available) that processes the FHD3D signal and converts it into a signal such as Side-by-Side 3D or Top-Bottom 3D that your HDMI 1.3 compatible TV is capable of displaying.
In general, Side-by-Side 3D and Top-Bottom 3D (Over-Under 3D) formats that end up halving the sub-frame resolution in the horizontal and vertical dimension respectively (Frame Compatible 3D), are compatible with HDMI 1.3 components since they use the same bandwidth as regular 1080p HD content. Additionally, Side-by-Side 3D and Top-Bottom 3D were one of the first 3D formats that were adopted, thus resulting in early HDMI 1.3 compliant “3D Ready or 3D capable TVs” being able to process these formats.
Keep in mind that if you own an HDMI 1.3 capable TV and connect it to the HDMI 1.4 port of a Blu-Ray player, you might have compatibility issues as your HDMI 1.4 will try to “talk” with your TV but will be unable to do so since your TV is only HDMI 1.3 compliant.

Long story short.  Make sure you know what you're buying when you choose a 3d TV.  A lot of massively cheaper TVs don't support new technology.  Realistically, if you're anything like me? Who cares. I don't need 3D technology as I think it sucks.  When I am impressed by it I'm sure the technology will have moved beyond this anyways and new hardware will be required.

Audio Receiver Compatibility

HDMI/DVI joining an EDID EPROM from source
This is one of the main problems for most consumers. Most AV receivers sold up until mid-2010 were all HDMI 1.3 compliant. This creates a problem when connecting your receiver to a 3D Blu-Ray player that is HDMI 1.4 compliant. The reason is that when devices are connected to each other via HDMI, they communicate with each other via EDID (Extended Display Identification Data), which is a system for all the components in your Home Theater system to communicate with each other and identify their display capabilities. The problem is that when you connect your HDMI 1.4 capable 3D TV, or Blu-Ray player to your AV receiver, they will communicate to the receiver that they are capable of handling a number of formats as specified under the HDMI 1.4 specification (such as Full HD 3D). All these formats have new EDIDs, that were undefined under HDMI 1.3. As a result, the AV receiver won’t know what to do with the signal it is receiving as it won’t be able to identify the EDID of the other components attached to it, thus resulting in no signal being transmitted through.
This is very unfortunate as many consumers do not feel like dropping more money on a new AV receiver after
Panasonic 3D Blu-ray
already having spent money on a new 3D TV, 3D BluRay player and 3D Glasses. One way around this is to buy a Panasonic 3D BluRay player(included a link to purchase below), as some of their offerings have an HDMI 1.4 port as well as another HDMI 1.3 port that acts as an Audio-out. In this case, you can connect the HDMI 1.4 port directly to your TV to display the video and you can connect the HDMI 1.3 audio-out to your HDMI 1.3 capable AV receiver to output the audio to your speaker system. You have to give kudos to Panasonic for being one of the only manufacturers to go out of their way to help consumers defray the cost of 3D adoption






Again, just make sure you know what you know what you need before you purchase anything.  On the bright side?  I look at this as an opportunity to get some good deals on hardware, if you don't need or want the current technology.