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Gaming monitors could become a complicated mess, thanks to HDMI

The HDMI Licencing Administrator says all HDMI 2.0 displays can be listed as HDMI 2.1, meaning your future gaming PC could miss out on features

gaming monitor with colon bracket sad face on blue backdrop

The best gaming monitors usually do what they say on the tin, whether they’re 4K or designed to handle the latest FPS games at high refresh rates. The same goes for connectivity, as labels like HDMI 2.1 help consumers get the most out of their gaming PC panel pairing. However, it looks like simplified spec sheets could be a thing of the past, as displays can now boast HDMI 2.1 compatibility regardless of whether they fully support the standard.

In a statement provided to TFTCentral, the HDMI Licencing Administrator revealed that HDMI 2.0 is retired and that products should use HDMI 2.1 as a spec sheet framework. The interface org suggests this is due to HDMI 2.1’s backwards compatibility, but also states that actually including all of the replacement standards staple features, like FRL signalling and increased bandwidth, is optional.

The decision to class HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 as the same thing is bound to confuse casual consumers and enthusiasts alike, and manufacturers are already using the change to their advantage. Last week, Twitter user Gouki201 spotted a monitor on the Chinese market that claims to be HDMI 2.1 compliant, but lacks the protocol’s expected feature set. While Gouki201 suggests the product is “fake”, the HDMI admin’s clarification on the situation means this practice could be above board in 2022.

It’s needless to say that the situation surrounding HDMI 2.1 is troubling, and it’ll make the process of finding a new panel more tedious. However, the HDMI Licencing Administrator’s new guidance highlights the importance of thoroughly researching before you buy, as it’s easy to overlook features that could affect a product’s overall performance.

That said, many of the best graphics cards, like the Geforce RTX 3080 and AMD’s Radeon RX 6800 are still in short supply, and older GPUs tend to use HDMI 2.0. So, while those wishing to upgrade either a refreshed Nvidia RTX 3000 series or RTX 4000 card will want to consider a monitor with HDMI 2.1 compatibility, you won’t have to dig down on panel specs immediately.