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HDMI 2.0 is finally released, but a year later

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September 4, 2013

More than eleven years after work began on the first version of the new television connectivity standard, the people behind the HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) standard have taken the wraps off release 2.0.

But this is happening a year later than previously anticipated. On one hand, HDMI 2.0 is essentially nothing more than squeezing more bits per second through its own cable media-- 18 Gb/s, up from HDMI 1.0ís much slower 3.96 Gb/s, and HDMI 1.3ís 10.2 Gb/s.

The extra bandwidth will also allow HDMI 2.0 to carry video images at 50 Hz and 60 Hz frame rates. HDMI 1.4 currently allows 3840 x 2160 pixels at 24 to 30Hz or 4096 x 2160 pixels at 24 Hz.

4K color depths of up to 48 bits per pixel can now be supported as well with HDMI 2.0. The bus' clock rate rises from 165 MHz in HDMI and 340 MHz in HDMI 1.3 to 600 MHz, raising the per-channel TMDS (Transition Minimized Differential Signaling) rate from 1.65 Gb/s and 3.4 Gb/s to 6 Gbps.

Like HDMI 1.4, version 2.0 supports 3D video, and is able to host Ethernet networking traffic and has an audio return channel.

The new specification makes room for 32 separate audio channels, adds support for dynamic lip-syncing and extends the range of device control commands that HDMIís CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) mechanism can support.

To be sure, CEC routes remote control commands from one device to another, allowing your TV remote control to operate your Blu-Ray player or your DVR, for example.

HDMI 2.0 is compatible with previous versions of the standard so that new consumer equipment can easily connect to old.

The cables remain the same, as do the connectors, but youíll need Cat 2 (ie, High Speed) HDMI cables to take advantage of the higher bandwidth.

Work began on HDMI 2.0 back in January 2012. It promised the specification would be complete and ready to publish by the end of the year, but that deadline was missed. This year, the HDMI Forum promised a first-half release, but that has clearly slipped back to the second half of 2013.

The timing of the new specification is appropriate-- the 'IFA Show' opens this week in Berlin and is expected to play host to the new 4K TVs that manufacturers are expected to bring to Europe in 2014 as 4K broadcasts begin.

In other high tek news

Earlier this morning, Intel released a bit more details about its upcoming Clovertrail+ system-on-chip (SoC) platform for smartphones, and its enhancements appear to provide beyond the company's current smartphone chip, Medfield.

During a morning session yesterday at the 'Hot Chips Conference' at Stanford University, Intel provided a feature-by-feature, capability-by-capability comparison of the various differences between Clovertrail+ and Medfield.

Hot Chips is a technical conference, not a marketing blitz, but understood by all was the fact that if Clovertrail+ doesn't significantly takes off in the market, Intel's opportunities for smartphone success will look increasingly negative.

And Medfield hasn't exactly set the mobile world on fire either. To be fair, it has scooped a few design wins in the smartphone market, but it hasn't rocked the ARM-dominated mobile world in any way.

China's ZTE, which has announced that it will release a Clovertrail+ phone soon packs a Medfield SoC into its ZTE Grand X In, as does Motorola for its Razr i, and so does Orange in Britain and the Xolo X-900 in India.

There are also a few others as well, including the Taiwan-only version of the Asus FonePad. The most obvious difference between Medfield and Clovertrail+ is the number of CPU cores. Where Medfield has a single-core Atom Z-2480 running two threads, Clovertrail+ is powered by an Atom Z-2580 that doubles that core count, lifting the thread count to four.

Additionally, the Z-2580's compute cores benefit from Intel's HyperThreading technology, which should improve threading efficiency and boost performance.

To be sure, both chips run their compute cores at 2 GHz, but no mention was made in the presentation about whether there would be a burst mode that would allow temporary CPU clocking above the Atom Z-2580 cores' speed. However, there was a bursty discussion about Clovertrail's GPU core.

The dual-core GPUs in both the new SoC and its older sibling are based on two different PowerVX SGX-series designs from Imagination Technologies, and both of them run at a base rate of 400 MHz.

But Medfield's 540 part is locked into that frequency, while Clovertrail+ can burst its 544 part up to 533 MHz when needed and when sufficient power and thermal overhead is available.

System memory in the Medfield platform is limited to 1 GB of LPDDR2 RAM with a bandwidth of 800 million transfers or megatransfers per second.

Clovertrail+ improves that to 2 GB of LPDDR2 RAM at 1066 MT/s, and adds optimizations for out-of-order operations. Speaking of memory, storage in the Medfield platform maxes out at 64 GB of embedded multimedia card 4.3 flash, which will be upgraded to 256 GB of eMMC 4.41 in Clovertrail+.

Source: The HDMI Forum.

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