HDMI 1.3 multimedia interface officially introduced

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Sunnyvale (CA) - The founder group of the HDMI multimedia interface today introduced an upgraded version of the technology, which promises a capability to display "billions" of colors, more bandwidth for higher resolutions as well as support for "lossless" audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), a technology that initially was developed and promoted by Hitachi, Matsushita, Philips, Silicon Image, Sony, Thomson and Toshiba, is considered as one of the foundations to enable high-definition (HD) audio and video. Current higher-end consumer electronics supporting HD devices such as HD DVD and Blu-ray players use HDMI version 1.1 - which will see a major upgrade with version 1.3 later this year.

HDMI 1.3 will debut with the release of Sony's Playstation 3 game console in November of this year and will offer more than twice the bandwidth of 1.1. Single-link bandwidth increases from 4.95 Gb/s at 165 MHz to 10.2 Gb/s at 340 MHz to enable more data to be transported between HDMI devices. For example, future HDMI 1.3 displays will be able to show more than one billion different colors in 30-bit, 36-bit and 48-bit (10, 12 and 16 bit for each component of RGB), remove "virtually all limits" on color selection, and enable higher HD display resolutions down the road.

The new HDMI version also brings lossless audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, which will improve the audio quality from the current compressed formats Dolby Digital and DTS. Additional new features include an exact synchronization between audio and video content, an increased contrast ratio as well as a new HDMI mini-connector that can be built into portable devices such as HD camcorders and still cameras.

The HDMI founders claim that HDMI 1.3 devices will be backwards compatible with earlier versions of the interface as well as DVI. It is unclear at this time how far the term "compatible" will reach when the interface will become available in commercial devices.

In earlier demonstrations this year, for example at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, we witnessed considerable audio noise when 1.3 devices were combined with 1.1 TVs. However, the organization tells us today that consumers will not have to distinguish between certain versions of an interface when choosing their equipment. Instead, buyers should be focusing on features they want, such as deep color or specific audio formats - which at least indicates that several versions of HDMI may coexist for some time.

According to the HDMI group, the new interface will be introduced with the Playstation 3. Displays, DVDs and A/V Receivers are expected to ship early in 2007.