HDMI 2.0: Another piece of the 2013 Mac Pro Puzzle?

Today the HDMI Forum announced a big upgrade to their video connectivity standard: HDMI 2.0. What does this mean for this autumn’s ‘4K’ Mac Pro?


HDMI 2.0: 4K and more

HDMI (High Definition Media Interface) is a successful video and audio interface standard that has been used in over 3 billion devices since 2003. It is used to transfer uncompressed video and audio from one device to another.

The initial definition defined a maximum video resolution over a single connection of 1920×1200 at 60 frames a second with 24 bits used to represent each pixel, using a maximum throughput of 4.95 Gbit/s.

Today’s 2.0 definition includes the following specifications:

– Maximum resolution: 4096 x 2160 p 60 48 bits/pixel

– Maximum audio channels: 32

– Maximum audio sample frequency: 1536kHz

– Simultaneous delivery of multi-stream audio to up to 4 users

– Support for 21:9 aspect ratio

– Maximum throughput: 18 Gbit/s

The cables and connectors haven’t changed, the definition of the data that can be transmitted along the wires has changed.

Apple and HDMI 2.0

Apple is a member of The HDMI Forum, so what does 2.0 mean for Apple products?

In June Apple previewed this year’s new Mac Pro. Many were surprised that Apple included six Thunderbolt 2 ports and an HDMI 1.4 connection. Firstly, Thunderbolt 2 had only been announced a few days before by Intel with the first products using the new standard expected in 2014. Secondly, given that Apple said that the Mac Pro is designed to be a full 4K editing device, why include an HDMI port that can only handle 24 frames a second at 4K?



HDMI 2.0 could explain some of the Mac Pro specification. Thunderbolt 2 is implemented using Intel’s Falcon Ridge I/O controller. It doubles the possible maximum throughput of the connection in one direction from 10 Gbit/s to 20 Gbit/s.

Currently Apple’s Mac Pro page states that it will have an HDMI 1.4 connector. As the I/O controller on the Mac Pro will be able to transfer up to of data 20 Gbit/s along Thunderbolt 2, maybe the HDMI port will be upgraded to 2.0 on launch day to transfer up to 18 Gbit/s of video and audio. HDMI 2.0 is electrically identical to HDMI 1.4: the wires and ports are the same. It’s probably a matter of upgrading the firmware in the I/O controller. The HDMI site says that ‘The HDMI 2.0 Compliance Test Specification is expected to be released before the end of 2013.’

It also allows Apple to launch a range of 4K monitors that use HDMI 2.0 data standards. Knowing Apple however, they may transmit the HDMI video and audio signals along a special Apple-flavoured Thunderbolt 2 cable instead of using standard HDMI connectors and cables.

HDMI 2.0 might mean there’s more to the Mac Pro’s 4K ambitions than Thunderbolt 2 and a new version of Final Cut Pro X.

  1. Marcus Moore said:

    True enough- obviously Apple couldn’t have announced HDMI 2.0 when it hadn’t been ratified until today. Now, I went back and looked at the keynote, and Schiller doesn’t specify verbally HDMI 1.4 (though as you say it does on their webpage).

    We can pretty much assume that the “up to 3 4K [computer] displays” Apple mentions are coming off the Thunderbolt ports (one per controller?)- so what’s the use-case for the HDMI? Does it eliminate the need for a video I/O box? Coupled with a certified display could you use it for proper broadcast monitoring?

    I think timing will be very much a consideration. Every major component in the new MacPro is new. As far as I know this will be one of , if not the first machine to ship with the new Xeons, Thunderbolt2, and those AMD GPUs. Is HDMI 2 going to be ready?

  2. Alex said:

    Sony announced the Z100 today, a prosumer 4K camera. A quote from their site:

    A future firmware upgrade is planned to provide compatibility with the new HDMI 2.0 standard and enable 4K 50fps/60fps output to a wider range of devices.

    The use case is uncompressed 48bit/pixel 4K up to 60 times a second as a video signal on a certified display. Thunderbolt is for data transfer, not video.

    • Andrew said:

      Thunderbolt is for data transfer? I think you need to go look up the use and specifications for Thunderbolt.

      I am just saying this as I would like people to stop pigeon-holing Thunderbolt into a specific task. It is a multi-use technology that goes far far far beyond “data transfer”.

      Currently it does in fact transfer video…

    • Stu Brannon said:

      Dude… if it’s not for video, HOW exactly are you running any and every screen that’s hooked up to the Thunderbolt ports of ANY current Mac then? How else do you figure will people be hooking up screens? Hmmmm…

      • Alex said:

        The video signals are encoded as data which are interpreted my the screens. HDMI is for uncompressed video that any device at the other ends can deal with including TVs and recording devices. You can’t connect TVs and video recorders to Macs via Thunderbolt – they can’t handle the various resolutions, frame rates and clock speeds that Macs can produce.

  3. Stu Brannon said:

    There MAY be an FCP update?? Erm… it’s been said over and over that there most certainly WILL be an FCP update for (at minimum) Mavericks. That will surely incorporate any and every tech update needed to use FCP on a new Mac Pro to its full potential.

  4. mikey said:

    Alex you’re talking absolute rubbish: I’ve used all kinds of devices and TV’s plugged into my Tbolt ports using the separate Apple HDMI-to-Tbolt adaptor, with absolutely no problems whatsoever.
    Tbolt can handle everything HDMI can, over its DisplayPort transport (HDMI and DP are interchangeable). It was purposefully designed that way, so Tbolt ports can handle BOTH video and other data, and even at the same time (hence the ‘daisy chaining’ philosophy of having 2 Tbolt ports on most peripheral devices).

    The reason for having the HDMI port is mainly one of CONVENIENCE, hence why Apple have been including HDMI ports on most of their computers recently (accept the MPAir). It means users can easily plug in ANY type of screen device, many of which happen to use HDMI (whether specifically computer displays, or more obviously any type of TV – whether that TV is 2K [1080p] or 4K).

    Apple are dropping the old philosophy of not offering HDMI and only offering DP, and have been for some time. But by using Tbolt rather than HDMI for the majority of ports on the new Mac Pro, users have the choice of using them for data OR video as they choose. So no point including loads more HDMI ports, just one for convenience, and if users need to use other HDMI displays they just buy an adaptor or two to use them in the Tbolt ports.

    Makes a lot of sense.

    (2.0 HDMI firmware upgrade later-on is also a given, as the spec on a great deal of other devices in the marketplace with the 1.4 issue, have been promising later free upgrade to their firmware; why would Apple’s super expensive new top-end not offer likewise.)

    • Stu Brannon said:

      Get a grip mikey. How did Alex write ANYTHING to the contrary??! You might consider working on your reading comprehension skills.

  5. Mario said:

    What confuses me is the fact that Apple used to be ahead of the game. With HDMI 2.0 available, why is that they chose to use HDMI 1.4 only?

    • Alex said:

      Because HDMI 2.0 was announced as a standard in September, and no chips and software are yet available to anyone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: