What Does HDMI Mean?

By Joe Fletcher

You have been using your old Zenith television for nearly 20 years. Meanwhile, a world of new technology has been swirling around in the marketplace and you aren't familiar with much of it. It is time for a new set, and you keep hearing words and acronyms thrown around but haven't the slightest idea of what they mean. You know HDMI is a positive (or at least you think it is) but aren't sure what it means or how it applies to the TV. Here are the essentials.

Identification

HDMI is an acronym that stands for High Definition Media Interface. Essentially, HDMI is just a simpler, more accurate way of transmitting data between components. HDMI is an alternative to other connections, such as DVI or component video. The system consists of digital televisions that include HDMI inputs and components (DVD players, cable/satellite boxes and Blu Ray Players) with HDMI outputs. An HDMI cable, which consists of 19 individual wires rolled into a single cable, is used to connect the two. The interface resembles a large USB connection, with 19 pins or holes.

Benefits

So why use HDMI? There are a number of benefits. First, the cable features a bandwidth of 5 gigabytes per second (Gbps) or more, providing the speed needed to transmit an HD signal, with space leftover. HDMI also transmits a pure, uncompressed digital signal. Other connections use a digital-to-analog conversion which can degrade picture quality. Unlike other video connections, HDMI also includes audio (eight individual uncompressed surround channels), thereby eliminating the need for separate audio cables. In short, HDMI can deliver the best high definition picture and highest quality sound while eliminating excess cables.

Considerations

If you plan to purchase a high definition television and subscribe to HD programming, HDMI is a good choice for connecting your components and ensuring the highest quality video and audio. It is also interesting to note that current high definition programming only uses about half of the available bandwidth of some HDMI cables. Therefore, the cable is prepared for future applications that require more bandwidth, such as higher resolution HD. Knowing the rate that technology evolves, this may be in the near future. When shopping for a television set, consider how many sources that you would like to connect using HDMI (cable, DVD, game system and more) and make sure that it has an appropriate number of HDMI inputs.

Types

While HDMI is the recognized technology, there are slight variations on HDMI, including HDMI 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3. There are even some sub-variations, such as 1.2a and 1.3a. Each of these incorporates subtle differences and additional features but will all function to provide the same quality audio and video. To read more about the specific features and differences, follow the second link in the Resrouces section below. Consider purchasing the latest HDMI incarnation available for the most up-to-date performance for current and future applications.

Price

Although some companies sell "high-end" HDMI cables that promise better performance, this is largely considered hype and spending $50 or $100 on cable will be a waste of money. HDMI cables that cost a mere $10 or $20 can deliver the same performance and will provide a quality video/audio experience. Check out the link below for a strong denouncing of expensive cable from CNET.

Background

HDMI was developed by a cooperative effort among Hitachi, Panasonic, Royal Philips Electronics, Silicon Image, Sony, Toshiba and Thompson. HDMI has served as a more complete connection platform for high definition applications and has become a leading standard. HDMI also supports HDCP or High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection, helping content providers protect against illegal duplication of copyrighted digital content.