The short and simple answer to the question “Can I plug HDMI 2.1 cable into a 1.4 port?” is an absolute yes! The key idea here is that you can use newer gen cables on older gen slots.
So essentially, the HDMI interface and cable standard is backwards compatible. The standard isn’t however forward compatible.
If you have a premium high speed (HDMI 2.0) or an ultra high speed (HDMI 2.1) cable, you can more than easily use it on an HDMI 1.4 or older ports.
In the following text, I will talk in detail about different HDMI versions as well as about HDMI cable types in the aims to clarify why the HDMI interface is backwards compatible.
HDMI Ports and Their Versions
HDMI is an ever involving interface. As TVs and monitors evolve and offer ever higher resolutions and refresh rates, the HDMI interface also needs to cater to the higher specifications.
HDMI, or any other video interface for that matter, is like a pipeline that sends data from the source such as PC, gaming console to the display device such as monitors and TVs.
The higher the resolution and refresh rate of the display device, the more data needs to be sent through the pipeline.
The newer the version of the HDMI interface, the larger is the diameter of the pipeline and hence the more data it can carry.
The amount of data that is carried is represented in Gigabits per second (Gbit/s, Gbps) and the amount of data that needs to be carried over the HDMI interface (which includes the ports and the cable) depends upon three key aspects:
- Refresh Rate
- Color Bit Depth – which represents the amount of colors a screen can show.
The latest HDMI interface is HDMI 2.1. This has the capacity to carry 48 Gbit/s of audio/video data from the source device to the display device.
Compare this to the first version of the HDMI interface i.e HDMI 1.0 released all the way back in 2002 which had a bandwidth of 4.95 Gbit/s.
The following table explains the max resolution and refresh rate that the different versions are capable of.
|HDMI Version||Max Resolution||Max Refresh Rate||Max Bandwidth|
|HDMI 1.0||1080p||1080p @ 60 Hz||4.95||3.96||No||- 8 Audio Channels|
|HDMI 1.1/1.2||1440p||1440p @ 30 Hz||4.95||3.96||No||- 8 Audio Channels
-Super Audio CDs
|HDMI 1.3/1.4||4096 x 2160 (4K)||120 Hz @ FHD Resolution|
30 Hz @ 4k Resolution
24 Hz @ 4k Resolution
|10.2||8.16||No||- 8 Audio Channels
- Dolby TrueHD
|HDMI 2.0||4096 x 2160 (4K)||60 Hz @ 4K Resolution||18||14.40||Yes||- 32 audio channels,
- Dynamic Resolution Adaptation (DRA)
- High-Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding (HE-AAC)
|HDMI 2.1||Upto 10240 x 4320 (10K)||Upto 120Hz @ 10K||48||42.67||Yes||- 32 audio channels
It should be note that the most widespread HDMI interface version is 1.4 since a lot of users still use at most a full HD (1920×1080) with 60Hz refresh rate at most.
HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 are quickly gaining pace as 4K TVs and monitors become more common.
HDMI 1.3 and older ports are more or less obsolete.
HDMI Cables and Their Versions
This brings us to the next point which is cables.
Now order to cater to the ever increasing data rate, the standard HDMI cable designed for the HDMI 1.4 port i.e FHD@60hz, just isn’t sufficient.
Hence, you have different cables as the following table shows:
|Max Data Rate|
|Specs Supported||Best Port|
|Standard||4.95 Gb/s||720 or 1080P @ 60Hz||<1.4|
|High Speed||10.2 Gb/s||FHD @ 60Hz|
QHD @ 60Hz
4K @ 30Hz
|Premium High Speed||18 Gb/s||4k @ 60Hz||2.0|
|Ultra High Speed||48 Gb/s||4K @ 60Hz|
8K @ 120Hz
10K @ 120hz
Also Read: Are All HDMI Cables 4K?
The names of these cables are commonly connected with the HDMI specs they are compatible with. Hence:
- Standard HDMI = HDMI 1.4 cable
- High Speed = HDMI 1.4 cable
- Premium High Speed = HDMI 2.0 cable
- Ultra High Speed = HDMI 2.1 cable
So Can I Plug HDMI 2.1 Cable Into a 1.4 Slot?
This brings us to our original question, can you plug a new HDMI 2.1 cable into a 1.4 port? It should be abundantly clear from the discussion above that you can.
Coming back to analogy of a water pipeline. The data carried over the HDMI cable is analogous to water in a pipeline and the max bandwidth of the HDMI cable is analogous to the diameter of the pipe itself.
While a pipeline with a larger diameter would easily be able to carry a small volume of water, it would leak or get damaged if a volume higher than its capacity is passed through it.
Similarly, an HDMI 1.4 port can transmit a maximum of only 10.2 Gbit/s of data. This is far lower than the 48 Gbit/s of bandwidth that an HDMI 2.1 cable can carry.
Hence, you should have absolutely no issues when using this cable with an HDMI 1.4 port on your laptop or on your monitor.
Also Read: Is HDMI Backwards Compatible?
HDMI is Backwards Compatible BUT NOT Forward Compatible
So the key concept to understand here is that the HDMI interface and HDMI cable versions are backward compatible.
Hence, you can:
- Use an HDMI 2.1 cable (Ultra High Speed Cable) with a 1.4 port.
- Use an HDMI 2.1 cable (Ultra High Speed Cable) with a 2.0 port
- Use an HDMI 2.0 cable (Premium High Speed Cable) with a 1.4 port
However, the reverse is not true. HDMI is NOT entirely forward compatible. You cannot use an HDMI 1.4 cable with a monitor or a TV with HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 specs.
For instance, you cannot use an HDMI 1.4 cable and expect your monitor or TV to work at 4K @ 120Hz refresh rate or beyond. HDMI 1.4 port or cable are only limited to 4K @ 30 Hz.
Either your TV or monitor will not work at all or it will work at a reduced performance.
As a rule of thumb all components in the HDMI interface MUST match. The output port version at the source side (PC, gaming console, set-top box), the input port version (monitor, TV, projector) and the HDMI cable version must all match ideally.
In the end it all depends upon your settings too or the amount of data being generated. If you have an 8K monitor requiring an HDMI 2.1 port for its full potential BUT you set it to run at 4K @ 60Hz, then even HDMI 2.0 cable would suffice.
Also Read: Does PS5 Come with HDMI 2.1 Cable?
The answer to the question “can I plug HDMI 2.1 cable into a 1.4 port?” is a yes.
While the comprehensive answer is in the details, suffice it to know that newer and more advanced cables can work with older gen ports.