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3 Ways to Improve HDMI

Final standard, locking nuts and field testers would be a big help.

Although the initial entrance of HDMI into the CE market had problems, it's always had great potential.

Unfortunately, potential -- as my high school track coach often pointed out to me -- can be the ugliest word in the English language.

Much of the initial hesitancy of using HDMI in installations was due to HDCP-compatibility issues between players and TVs. After you get your fingers burned a few times, you're leery about going back for more.

Fortunately, HDMI's reliability has gotten better with its iterations, and more integrators are using it. But it's still not 100 percent.

Here are three ways HDMI can be improved.

Stop Tinkering, Already!

First it was 1080p. Then it was Deep Color. Not to mention being able to pass lossless audio.

By any yardstick, the interoperability issues caused by spreading the rollout between HDMI v1 and v1.3a have been a monumental hassle for every one of us in the business.

Ironically, one of the arguments the HD-DVD lobby used against Blu-ray was that HD-DVD was a final version, whilst Blu-ray was still being tinkered with and new updates threatened the shelf-life of first generation Blu-ray players.

This is exactly the situation we've had with HDMI interfaces. The way that HDMI's feature set has rolled out in fits and starts has led to sundry issues in interoperability between sources and displays.

From the perspective of a consumer on the outside looking in, it's not unreasonable for them to have formed some suspicion that it's not over.

Look at it from their perspective: what if (the currently fictional) HDMI v1.3b or v2.0 comes along and makes their shiny new player or TV functionally obsolete?

In the early stages, the refrain from cautious integrators when they were avoiding using HDMI at all was "we're not there yet." Interoperability has gotten a lot better, but I think we'd all be happier if we knew that we were done.

Make Locking Nuts Mandatory

Some HDMI cables have locking machine screws on them located above the male cable ends and some don't.

Some HDMI-equipped devices have matching nuts on them located above the female receptacles and some don't. Even better, locking HDMI cables don't always seat properly with devices that aren't lockable.

What better reason to stock two different varieties of cables in your inventory?

Given the relative frailty of the HDMI interface, I think it would be great if locking nuts were a mandatory part of the physical standard.

My friend Dave Long, the Dealer Manager for Toronto-based rep agency Evolution Audio/Video, recently told me a great story that underscores the perils installers face with fragile HDMI receptacles:

I've always found the connectors in equipment WAY too sensitive to force. Shove that wire in like you would an RCA or even DVI and you bust the connector from the board. Move it too much sideways and it doesn't take much -- the same result. Attach the wire to your piece of equipment… push it back into a shelf with a back on it… push just a bit too hard and bingo… busted connector.

Recently, I've even had a connector crunch on me in a projector that was on a 7ft. high shelf. I carefully connected an HDMI cable. No sweat, it worked fine. I tied off the lines but not too taught since I'm aware of the stress level on HDMI connections, so all lines are tied straight down from the projector.

Then, at the eleventh hour, the unit needs to move a few inches, so I figure I had better disconnect the HDMI rather than stress it unduly. I go to remove it and it doesn't want to give.

I could untie all the lines and totally free up the HDMI cable, but it SHOULD still pull straight out, right?. So I tweak it just ever so slightly to one side then the other to loosen it a touch ... and then I hear it.


Sure enough, I test it and it's shot. Had to use the number 2 input and get the connector fixed. I got it fixed the same day, but what a pain in the ass.

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29 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by crude dude  on  03/27  at  03:29 PM

The locking connector is a good idea but it would require drilling into the chassis which I doubt is a very good idea.The only feasable solution is a plastic shroud that fits over the connector and a flange with adhesive tape for the chassis,the only problem is there is no standard size connector.
As for the protocol I think the industry should stay at 1.3 so the manufacturers can catch up with the technology.HDMI 1.3 supports technology that doesn’t exist yet(outside of a lab) so developing HDMI 1.4+ is a waste of time.
To sum up:the ship has sailed on trying to standardize the HDMI connector because millions of CE products are already out there in use.If any companies like my plastic HDMI shroud thingy then give me a call wink

Posted by drew  on  03/27  at  07:51 PM

I think HDMI is a joke - despite articles to help it along, the professionals I know already responded to a product that doesn’t perform. They just don’t use it. The handshake keeps real multi-room video switching nearly impossible, it’s not a viable solution. 1080p over component or vga is a much better solution for now. I have high hopes for DisplayPort, but we’ll see.

Posted by Eric  on  03/28  at  11:23 AM

I agree with Drew.  The only reason HDMI has survived this long is because of end-users who bought into the hype.  I can’t tell you how many customers that don’t have any real HD sources absolutely demand that we put in HDMI.  They’re the same customers who look at the 480i picture after we’ve given in and put in the HDMI cable and go “wow, that looks so much better.”

We can kill HDMI, I know we can.  We just have to pull together.

Posted by Faster48  on  03/28  at  11:43 AM

As an integrator who has been using HDMI quite successfully for the past year now, I have to disagree with the prior comments. Most of the installers I know have begun to use it for each and every display save the extra long runs or distributed systems. The color and black levels (in my opinion) have been improved when using it on cable/sat boxes too. All this is based of course on using known cables of good quality and designing the system with plenty of headroom from the start.
I would like to see the standard set at the current 1.3a with some (any)sort of locking mechanism for the connector. Honestly, does anyone really see 1440P coming anytime soon?? We still don’t have much from 1080P. Give the industry time to catch up and standardize and thing’s would go alot smoother.

Posted by Lee Distad  on  03/28  at  11:54 AM

Aside from the debate about using HDMI for distribution, for single-room cinema jobs HDMI is pretty much a given in these install today.

Even though I was one of the biggest loudmouths about HDMI’s deficiencies in the last couple years, essentially boycotting using it in client’s systems until recently, last fall when my old team did up my new basement Media Room, we made use of HDMI switching and scaling products, and we have been completely free of the issues that had plagued us previously.  As an end user, I’m happy with how HDMI hardware is working in my system.

Posted by Robert  on  03/28  at  12:45 PM

The manufacturers should also label the cable connectors 1.2, 1.3a etc so that if one runs into an already installed cable or has an old one lying around without the packaging, one knows what it is.

Posted by Two broken projector hdmi ports  on  03/28  at  12:58 PM

Two times the slightest pressure has broken the hdmi connector from the circuit board on my projector.  Each time I was without a projector for 30 days while it ws shipped for repair.
Four teeny solders onto a plactic circuit board? really? Its ridiculous, why did dvi know to have screws and these guys don’t?  I am going back to component.

Posted by drew  on  03/28  at  01:19 PM

it’s just a lost cause. DVI is robust and works great for computer’s on screen. My issue with HDMI is that it didn’t fix a particular problem - the ‘one wire for everything’ idea is fatally flawed in that most people break out the digital audio anyway. I’ve done a lot of testing with HDMI vs component (quality cables) and I’ve actually found myself preferring the analog system.

Posted by Tessa  on  03/28  at  01:20 PM

A lot of good information.  Thank you Lee.  I’d like to try to answer some of the questions and or objections with regard to HDMI.  A locking connector in its current form won’t work because of the realestate it would take.  HDMI connectors with and without flange have been available from the beginning if mfrs wish to take advantage of it.  Drew, I hope for your sake that HDCP never truly becomes a reality because you would have a major problem if we were cut off from any resolutions over 480 in the analoge world.  All versions of HDMI are backwards compatable.  Robert, your question was also one of mine.  Maybe DPL, the rating system will be able to help us.  I keep checking their website for the results of their cable testing.  I understand we’re supposed to start seeing them within ten days.  They did send me a matrix of the feature pack by each version of HDMI including 1.3 Cat 1 & 2 Just keep asking questions and eventually we’ll all end up understanding the digital interface a lot better.  Oh, by the way, you may find that Display Port is very similar.  Another system to change to, no way!

Posted by Faster48  on  03/28  at  01:26 PM

Drew, why would you “break out the digital audio anyway”? For Dolby True HD or DTS whatever you would/will be shortchanging yourself. Now when dealing with multizone audio you may be breaking out the audio, but why else??

Posted by Loran  on  03/28  at  03:44 PM

I just read the article and about the first 5 responses. Why don’t all of you in the industry just go out in the woods with a gun. Each man would shoot the man next to him in the foot and pass the gun on. The next man would shoot the latest shooter in the foot. Because that is, figuratively, what the setter of the HDMI standards and the makers of the cables and the makers of the A/V equipment and the custom installers are all doing in terms of damaging their incomes with the HDMI scam. I am thoroughly enjoying my great Tandberg 2075 stereo receiver, 32 years old this month, and my 21” Sony. I’ll buy a converter box for it and keep watching it for another 10 years.

    I will not be ripped off by “the industry”. We consumers see the unending iterations of HDMI as a scam to deliberatly obsolete equipment as fast as we buy it. Either that or, at a minimum, evidence of gross stupidity by the industry. I will NOT be ripped off by you guys. Lousy cables with all the problems you cite in your responses, an unending, (literally!) series of iterations of the standard, nothing works, nobody knows how to make it work, so what we do is just spend our money on other fun stuff!!!!!  Wonder why the phone isn’t ringing or, when it does, it’s another irate customer? You know why.

    The mere fact that we see 1.3b tells us, at least those of us who have studied math, how many more iterations are to come. If you had used letters, like Version A and Version B etc., it would have suggested 26 possible versions. But, you see, when you use numbers, the number of possible versions is clearly very large. Some multiple of the number of electrons in the universe, e.g. at a minimum.

    Get all HDMI cable version administrators and the cable makers and the component makers and the installers in a big hall in Tokyo or Stockholm or New York. Hammer out an agreement that THIS is what we can do right now technically, and THIS will be the standard for HDMI from now until 2030. No changes allowed. Then get the standard setters- ISO or whoever it is, to get it codified and then enacted into law by the 20 largest industrial nations in the world. Have the UN use its auspices to standardize the standard. Then every 30 years meet to upgrade the standard for HDMI. Use the UCC approach.

    That way, the world can prosper, move forward and enjoy A/V. What if in 1950 various record companies and turntable manufacturers had come out with 78 rpm records and 75 rpm records and 76.5 rpm records and then later 45 rpm and 44 rpm and 43 rpm and 46.3 rpm records? Nobody but a few rich morons would have bought any of it and that is exactly the response you are getting today.

    If and when you follow my advice here, you can all start earning a nice living. Until then, enjoy going broke. As I see it, this nightmare represents a failure of government. 

    This mess will only be solved when you all agree to meet, set one standard, and then get your national governments to enact it into law. Those laws will all begin with the phrase “Until the year (2030), this shall be the HDMI standard for all cables, components….offered for sale to comsumers in….”

    Loran W. Harding, Stanford ‘64.

Posted by Lee Distad  on  03/28  at  03:58 PM

That was my point, more or less, Loran.  You just said it better than I did.

Posted by brentm  on  03/28  at  05:46 PM

Posted by drew: I think HDMI is a joke - despite articles to help it along, the professionals I know already responded to a product that doesn’t perform.

While there has certainly been resistance to HDMI, it is lessening now. Installers are starting to reliably do installs at distances up 200’.

Posted by drew: They just don’t use it. The handshake keeps real multi-room video switching nearly impossible, it’s not a viable solution.

Also true and also changing.
Many people forget that the robust VGA/Component switching that we now enjoy took many years to develope (actually many more than HDMI).

Posted by drew : 1080p over component or vga is a much better solution for now.

It maybe (today), but what about high rez audio and control (CEC is now being implemented).
More importantly when the content flags get turned on (and they will because they will effect a very small portion of the buying public)component will be limited to 480/540P.


Posted by drew: I have high hopes for DisplayPort, but we’ll see.

For all practical purposes DisplayPort is just like HDMI just a different company.

Cables mfgr’s (and I am one) make more money with less problems selling component/digital cables.

Posted by Tessa  on  03/28  at  06:22 PM

You obviously have NEVER dealt with any computer manufacturer in the world.  Good Luck, You really need help.

Posted by drew  on  03/28  at  06:23 PM

I appreciate all the comments here. When I went to CEDIA last year, my main objective was to ask all manufacturers ‘what is the deal with HDMI’s failure?’ (obviously a pointed questions). Without fail, from Marantz to Pioneer to LG etc, every engineer I spoke to agreed it was awful. Both to develop with and to implement.

I’m absolutely pining for a reasonable digital video/audio transmission format. I’ll jump in when it’s an true IP based solution delivered via copper or multi-mode fiber.

So much of the installs out there incorporate analog signals, I’d expect content flags to exist in the 1080p world only (kinda=HD Fury anyone?), but then 2k and 4k via IP. Once that happens, stripping the HDCP will be even easier than it is now and they’ll give up. DRM is a silly idea anyway. Bandwidth, IP Network Design and Service are the future of this industry. HDMI doesn’t fit into that plan.

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