The Great HDMI Cheat

If I were an A/V sales person, I would likely lose my job sometime this summer because I would try to talk you out of buying an HDTV, 3D Blu-ray player or A/V receiver (AVR).

And, quite frankly, every sales person with a conscience should follow me to the unemployment line.

Why? Because you’d would be buying your HDTV and AVR under false pretenses, believing you’re getting a complete, state-of-the-art product.

You’re not.

All new HDTVs and AVRs are (or should) be equipped with HDMI jacks supporting version 1.4a. Ostensibly, the 1.4 standard, adopted at the end of last year, enables the transport of 3D signals from a Blu-ray player through the AVR to the HDTV. The spec was upgraded to 1.4a (and never has a lower case “a” been more important) at the end of February to support the cornucopia of broadcast 3D schemes.

Aside from 3D support, HDMI 1.4a also includes three other benefits: Audio Return Channel (ARC), which enables AVRs to pass audio signals back from the HDTV through HDMI to the amplifier (especially handy to listen to Pandora or Rhapsody streams eminating from a networked HDTV in glorious stereo or surround, or to more easily connect a soundbar), support for future 2K and 4K ultra HD standards, and, something called HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC), the capability to pass Ethernet signals from HDMI 1.4 connected device to HDMI 1.4 connected device –all you need is one Ethernet connection to any of your HDMI 1.4 devices to bring Ethernet to ALL your HDMI 1.4 connected devices.

The problem is, current HDMI 1.4a product support only 3D and ARC. Chip sets included 2K/4K and HEC support are in production now, but I’m told by several manufacturers that AVRs won’t have complete implementation of all HDMI 1.4a features AVRs until next year.

Which means all new HDMI 1.4a gear made and sold in the next 6-8 months will soon be obsolete.

Oh, cool your over-reacting, mock-indignitied jets, I hear you say. It’s not that big of a deal, you scoff. Au contraire, my rationalizing friends.  We are always complaining about how nearly instantly obsolete our gear is. Well, we KNOW this current generation of A/V equipment will be obsolete and we KNOW what the next gen will offer. See how you’d feel after spending $3,000 on a new 3D home theater rig, only to find out eight months from now that you’re missing a critical piece manufacturers knew about but didn’t bother to tell you about.

So, don’t say you weren’t warned.

About Stewart Wolpin

I have been writing about consumer electronics for four decades, including news, reviews, analysis and history for a wide variety of consumer, niche and trade outlets. For the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), I annually update the industry's history and write the official biographies of the CTA Hall of Fame inductees. Aside from writing about consumer technology for a variety of consumer, tech and trade publications, I write a blog and do market research for Digital Technology Consulting. In the non-tech world, I have written "Bums No More: The Championship Season of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers" and "The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle." Check out my work at
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