Is HDMI Backwards Compatible? – Cables and Ports

Simply put, the answer to the question “Is HDMI backwards compatible?” is a resounding yes.

Both the HDMI cables and the ports are backwards compatible. Hence, HDMI 2.1 is compatible with HDMI 2.0 and 1.4. Similarly HDMI 2.0 is compatible with HDMI 1.4 and older gen interfaces.

In other words, if you have a PC with an HDMI 2.0 port, you can connect to a monitor with HDMI 1.4 port and vice versa.

Similarly if you have an HDMI 2.0 cable, you can use it on an HDMI 1.4 TV.

In the following, I will talk in detail about HDMI ports and cables and their versions.

HDMI Ports and HDMI Cable Versions

Before we delve deeper into the topic, you must note that there are two components that make the HDMI interface happen.

  1. HDMI ports
  2. HDMI cables.

The key point to understand is that both the ports and the cables have different versions!

Is HDMI Backwards Compatible?

As mentioned earlier, HDMI interface is certainly backwards compatible. Meaning both the port and the cable version are compatible with the older and inferior specs.

To further answer this question we can look at the ports and the cables separately.

Are HDMI Ports Backward Compatible?

HDMI Port
HDMI Ports are Backwards Compatible. Newer devices can connect to older devices.

With the resolution and refresh rate on monitors and TVs getting higher and higher, so does the bandwidth requirement for A/V interface.

Meaning, the higher the resolution and the refresh of monitors and TVs, the more data they generate and hence the more robust an HDMI interface they need.

The HDMI interface evolves with the bandwidth requirement.

HDMI 1.4, which is perhaps the most widespread interface, has a bandwidth of 10.2 Gbit/s. HDMI 2.0, the next iteration, has a bandwidth of 18 Gbit/s and so on.

So basically, a device with an HDMI 1.4 port would be limited to catering to 4K@30Hz. If you want your TV or monitor to work at  4K@60Hz, you will need at least an HDMI 2.0 port.

The following table shows the different HDMI versions and the maximum specs and bandwidth they can support.

HDMI VersionMax ResolutionMax Refresh RateMax Bandwidth
(Gbit/s)
Effective Bandwidth
(Gbit/s)
HDR?Audio Technology
Supported
HDMI 1.01080p1080p @ 60 Hz4.953.96No- 8 Audio Channels
HDMI 1.1/1.21440p1440p @ 30 Hz4.953.96No- 8 Audio Channels
-Super Audio CDs
HDMI 1.3/1.44096 x 2160 (4K)120 Hz @ FHD Resolution
30 Hz @ 4k Resolution
24 Hz @ 4k Resolution
10.28.16No- 8 Audio Channels
- ARC
- Dolby TrueHD
- DTS-HD
HDMI 2.04096 x 2160 (4K)60 Hz @ 4K Resolution1814.40Yes- 32 audio channels,
- Dynamic Resolution Adaptation (DRA)
- High-Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding (HE-AAC)
HDMI 2.1Upto 10240 x 4320 (10K)Upto 120Hz @ 10K4842.67Yes- 32 audio channels
- eARC

The latest HDMI version is 2.1 and it can support even 10K resolution at 120Hz refresh rate!

Hence, given the fact that newer HDMI ports can carry a lot more data compared to their older gen counterparts, naturally makes them backward compatible.

However there is caveat:

The Interface Will Work at The Specs of the Weaker Device

There is a possibility that the devices in your interface do not conform to the same version.

For instance, if you have a monitor with an HDMI 2.0 and it can support 4k@60Hz but your PC only has an HDMI 1.4 port, then the entire interface will be limited to the specs of HDMI 1.4 i.e 4K@30Hz.

The same is true if you have a Set-Top box or a gaming console connected to your TV.

If you have a Sony PS5 gaming console which has an HDMI 2.1 but your TV only has an HDMI 2.0 port, it will support the max specs of 4K@60Hz, despite the HDMI 2.1 on PS5 being capable of pushing 8K@60Hz.

Also Read: How to Check HDMI on Laptop?

Are HDMI Cables Backward Compatible?

HDMI 2.1 cable
HDMI 2.1 Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable. Source: Highwings Store

As mentioned earlier, in order for your HDMI connection to work at the desired specs, the HDMI cable version also has to be taken into consideration.

While all HDMI cables may look the same from outside, there can be a world of difference in their performance.

The following table shows the different HDMI cables based on their performance.

HDMI Standard
Certification
Max Data Rate
Supported
Specs SupportedBest Port
Standard4.95 Gb/s720 or 1080P @ 60Hz<1.4
High Speed10.2 Gb/sFHD @ 60Hz
QHD @ 60Hz
4K @ 30Hz
1.4
Premium High Speed18 Gb/s4k @ 60Hz2.0
Ultra High Speed48 Gb/s4K @ 60Hz
8K @ 120Hz
10K @ 120hz
2.1

Hence there are four types of HDMI cables:

  • Standard HDMI aka HDMI 1.4 cable
  • High Speed aka HDMI 1.4 cable
  • Premium High Speed aka HDMI 2.0 cable
  • Ultra High Speed aka HDMI 2.1 cable

The Standard HDMI cable is more or less obsolete.

The vast majority of the HDMI cables out there are High Speed HDMI cables or HDMI 1.4 cables.

So just like the HDMI ports, the cables also have a limited bandwidth they can carry. An HDMI 1.4 cable (High Speed HDMI cable) can carry 4K@30Hz max. Whereas, if you want 4K@60Hz, you will need to have an HDMI 2.0 cable (Premium High Speed Cable).

And just the like HDMI ports, the cables are also backward compatible.

Meaning an HDMI 2.0 cable can be used to connect HDMI 1.4 ports. Similarly, an HDMI 2.1 cable cab be used to connect HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 1.4 ports.

Also Read: How Many Types of HDMI Cables Are There?

FAQ

Is HDMI 2.0 Backwards Compatible?

Yes, both the HDMI 2.0 ports and the HDMI 2.0 cables are backwards compatible with HDMI 1.4 devices.

For instance, you can connect a monitor with HDMI 2.0 monitor to a laptop with an HDMI 1.4 port. But you will only be limited to the specs of HDMI 1.4 port (4K@30Hz).

The same goes for HDMI cables.

Is HDMI 2.1 Backwards Compatible?

Yes, HDMI 2.1 ports and cables backwards compatible with HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 1.4 specs.

In other words, you can use an HDMI 2.1 cable with HDMI 2.0 or 1.4 ports.

Are 4k HDMI Cables Backward Compatible?

There is a misconception that 4K HDMI cables are in a different category on their own.

The fact of the matter is that almost all of the contemporary HDMI cables can carry 4K resolution. The difference is in the refresh rate. 

The short answer, though, is yes. 4K HDMI cables are backward compatible.

An HDMI 2.0 cable can display 4K@60Hz max, it is compatible with an HDMI 1.4 port.

Similarly an HDMI 2.1 cable can display 4K@240Hz! Yet it is also compatible with devices that only feature HDMI 2.0 or 1.4 ports.

Also Read: Does PS5 Come with HDMI 2.1 Cable?

Final Words

TL;DR the answer to the question “Is HDMI Backwards Compatible?” is a yes. Every new HDMI version is backward compatible with the previous version.

This applies to both HDMI ports and cables.

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Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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