HDMI-CEC Functions

By David Lipscomb

The High Definition Multimedia Interface specification offers a function known as CEC, standing for Consumer Electronics Control. Carried on pin 13 inside an HDMI cable, CEC offers convenient features such as one-touch playback and recording, power on/off control from one remote, and automated settings adjustment. Although this feature is implemented slightly differently from manufacturer to manufacturer, the core feature concepts are the same.

Command and Control

Universal remotes of various complexities have been on the market for years, offering the promise of one-touch control for numerous functions. HDMI CEC offers a similar implementation, using the remote for a television or source device. As long as the display recognizes the source, which it displays on an on-screen list, you should have control of not only that source, but the display as well. This means that you probably won't need a more expensive remote to perform basic functions, such as playback, power and recording.

Setup Functionality

When you implement it correctly, HDMI CEC communicates with other connected devices, determining their capabilities with each other, and making those settings accordingly. For example, if your Blu-ray player is connected to a 1080p high definition LCD, CEC informs each device of this, and sets the player's output to 1080p. This allows less tech-savvy consumers some peace of mind that their systems can be correctly configured with minimal effort.

The Catches

The first potential obstacle to CEC is that various manufacturers like to call CEC by proprietary names, such as "SimpLink," "EZ Sync" and "Theater Sync." These names don't always adequately state the function or purpose of how CEC control is integrated into the product. Additionally, CEC sometimes goes unmentioned in product manuals. This may be due to the fact that since CEC is automated, in theory there needn't be a user setup. The second is that often, CEC is only implemented by companies among their own televisions, Blu-ray players, and other devices. Therefore, the possibility exists that components and displays won't fully communicate unless they're all the same brand. It is important to remember that the full suite of CEC functionality need not be implemented in order for consumer electronics companies to meet HDMI specifications. Companies may only involve those functions that they choose to offer to meet their intended feature sets. The loose specification guidelines allow manufacturers to offer increasing levels of CEC control in higher-end products if they choose.

Simplay Labs

Simplay Labs is an independent body, objectively testing HDMI components and cables to ensure this minimum level of functionality and interoperability, although it is important to understand that they do not establish standards for HDMI manufacturers. Manufacturers may submit their products for testing, whether it is a basic cable or a new high definition television. These tests are performed on functional, retail-ready products in environments mimicking those in living rooms and home theaters. Products issued to Simplay that require firmware upgrades or other tweaks at the time of testing will fail. Manufacturers may in turn place the Simplay logo on their compliant products, informing consumers that their offerings are more in step with HDMI's full functionality than other companies lacking this certification. Simplay's fundamental goal is to ensure that when HDMI components are connected, you will always see a picture and hear sound. CEC functionality is included in this goal, since SimplayHD certification implies that those products carrying the logo will work together without issue.