By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Looking to combat confusion over the capabilities of HDMI cables and connections presently on the market, Monster has added an educational section and downloadable white paper to its Web site.
The effort is aimed at educating the company's retail partners' salespeople and consumers that the evolving specs of HDTVs, and the HDMI standard itself, leaves some available cables unable to reproduce optimum screen performance.
The presentation stresses that HDMI is a standard that is still developing and that since HDMI 1.0's debut in 2002, each subsequent update to the spec — 1.3 is the most recent release — has allowed faster data rates for better screen performance through improved color reproduction, higher refresh rates and greater pixel density on larger screens.
The problem, as Monster sees it, is the perception that all HDMI cables work equally with all A/V sources, when, in fact, the data transfer requirements of sources such as DVD players, set-top boxes, game consoles and HD video players vary greatly, as do the displays themselves. And five updates to the spec in five years has left a lot of CE salespeople and consumers confused about their needs.
HDMI standard co-founder Silicon Image, which developed the five revisions to the standard so far, designates cables as either standard speed or high speed, depending on their capabilities in the areas of signal resolution, color depth, frame rate and bandwidth requirements. But even between the two speeds, there is a wide range of data rate requirements, Monster points out. And while current HDMI 1.3 cables can handle the 1080p resolution, eight-bit color depth and 60Hz frame-refresh rates delivered by current blue-laser decks and game consoles, there is an arriving generation of high-end HD displays that boast higher color depths and 120Hz refresh rates.
To illustrate the point, the report notes the data transfer requirements of popular 720p/1080i screens are relatively low, at 2.2Gbps, whereas 1080p displays need double the data rate, 4.46Gbps. A consumer who is upgrading to a 1080p set may not get optimal performance from a cable at an earlier spec bought with a previous set. And since cable performance can degrade over longer runs, installation factors need to be considered also. "Since the cable is probably the least expensive component in a home theater system, it pays to purchase the best possible cable that current technology allows," Monster states.
Next-generation HD screens will go well beyond the current spec. The 1080p, eight-bit, 120Hz displays that will appear in the near future will have throughput requirements as high as 12.2 Gbps. Monster noted that it is developing cables to meet these standards and expects to have them available "later in 2007."
Looking ahead, displays with 12-bit and 16-bit color depth, the "deep color" technology that Blu-ray and HD DVD are capable of delivering, will have throughput requirements of 14.93 Gbps and beyond and the HDMI consortium will continue to update the spec to accommodate the rising data rate requirements. Monster makes the argument that consumers, by doing some basic research into the data rate requirements of a new HDTV, can "future-proof" their investment by matching the display with the most up-to-date HDMI cable available for that set's needs. And given the healthy margins on cable sales, retail salespeople would be wise to consider the needs of the consumer and help match the right cable to the display or component being sold.
Other issues involving HDMI connections, including what to consider before an installation project and a troubleshooting guide for existing installs, is available at www.monstercable.com/hdmi.HDMI Signal Combinations
|Application||Signal resolution||Color Depth||Frame rate||Bandwidth required|
|480p DVD playeror game console||480p||8-bit||60Hz||0.81 Gbps|
|HD set-top box||720p/1080i||8-bit||60Hz||2.23 Gbps|
|PlayStation3||1080p||8-bit or 12-bit||60Hz||4.46-6.68 Gbps|
|HD DVD/Blu-ray||1080p||8-bit or 12-bit||60Hz||4.46-6.68 Gbps|
|Next-generation HDTV||1080p||8-bit or 12-bit||120Hz||10.20-14.93 Gbps|
|Future-generation HDTV||1440p+||16-bit||120Hz||&14.93 Gbps|
|Source: IDC, Monster © TWICE 2007|
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