Despite the routing of exhibitors, CES 2022 has already made its first major announcement. The HDMI Forum will present HDMI 2.1a in Las Vegas, a new standard that will further complicate the state of affairs.
HDMI 2.1a is a revision of the latest HDMI 2.1 standard that incorporates an important feature for streaming HDR content: “source-based tone mapping” or SBTM. SBTM allows you to adapt the HDR video output of a console or player to the specific capabilities of the television or monitor to which we connect it. The content source and the screen communicate with each other to map the video tones according to the performance of both computers, resulting in better image quality.
SBTM is not a new HDR standard, nor will it replace HDR10 or Dolby Vision, but it will allow the source to optimize the content that passes to the screen, and will eliminate the need for manual calibration, provided the source manufacturer, screen and cable support it. It will also allow you to combine various types of content, such as on a computer that is displaying an HDR game next to a window with black and white text.
Unfortunately, HDMI 2.1a is also going to complicate an already complicated situation. With this one, there are eight different versions of HDMI.
HDMI 2.1 was announced in November 2017 and is a must for displaying 4K HDR content at 120Hz as it doubles the bandwidth of HDMI 2.0. However, the complicated nomenclature of the HDMI license manager makes it impossible to refer to the older standards, so you don’t know exactly what technology you are buying unless you look at specific characteristics like bandwidth. HDMI 2.1a messes things up even more.