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Why HDBaseT 2.0 is So Awesome: USB and Multipoint Video Distribution

HDBaseT gets even better with the recently announced 2.0 spec, supporting USB streaming and point-to-multipoint video distribution -- no pricey matrix switch required.


HDBaseT 2.0: 4k multipoint HDMI, IR, RS-232, Ethernet data, power, USB ... over a single Cat 5/Cat 6 cable

I have seen the future! Strangely, it looks like the plain old Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables we already know and love. It supports HDMI with 3D and resolutions up to 4K, and carries Ethernet, IR and RS-232 traffic. I speak, of course, of HDBaseT. But it gets even better with the recently released HDBaseT 2.0 spec.

What’s new? USB 2.0 support for one thing. Having an extender with integrated USB 2.0 support means that gamers can hook up their controllers in the TV room, while the console is tucked away in a rack on the other side of the home.

It means that computer users can have their noisy and clunky computers stored in a remote room while keeping their work space quiet and tidy.

It means you can integrate an Xbox 360 with Kinect without having to buy an additional extender, and without an additional run of Cat 5.

More significant than USB support is the support for point-to-multipoint video distribution, and the addition of HDBaseT 2.0 switches.

Currently, HDBaseT is strictly a point-to-point solution. If you want to take your cable box video and send it to multiple screens in the home, you will have to purchase a separate matrix switch.

Now, with HDBaseT 2.0, you will simply need an inexpensive switch that will distribute your video throughout the home, again using that same Cat 5e or Cat 6 wire. This should dramatically lower the cost to implement video distribution, thereby increasing consumer interest in video distribution … and give dealers yet another money-making opportunity.

Keep in mind that it will be some time before we see the HDBaseT 2.0 products for sale, as the specification was just released. It is also unclear as to whether the HDBaseT 2.0 products are backwards compatible with the current 1.0 products on the market, but again, we are probably at least a year or two from seeing 2.0 gear hit the market. In any case, the cost savings that should exist with this system should compensate somewhat if they happen to require new equipment.

The Beauty of HDBaseT

So that’s the new and exciting stuff. If you still are not in the HDBaseT game, here’s what you need to know.

Many integrators still haven’t recovered from the unholy mess that was HDMI in the early days … and messier still when you consider the uncertainties of the forthcoming HDMI Rev. 2.0. (Will HDBaseT 2.0 be compatible with the new HDMI rev? Find out at CE Pro’s HDMI 2.0 Webinar on Aug. 28.)

Incompatibilities between different pieces of equipment were bad enough, but it was hit or miss if that dual Cat 5 HDMI extender would really work once it was installed.

Every manufacturer used different technologies and chips to extend the signal. Often, these solutions were lossy, resulting in errors in transmission that could, at best, degrade the image, at worst; render nothing more than a black screen and an error message.

It was not uncommon to hear of three, four, or even five service calls … diagnosing and troubleshooting HDMI extender problems and swapping out different brand extenders, trying to find one that works.

Manufacturers were frustrated as well, so much so that Samsung Electronics, Sony Pictures Entertainment, LG Electronics and Valens Semiconductor formed the HDBaseT Alliance to promote the technology originally created by Valens.

The result of this was the HDBaseT 1.0 standard, which was finalized in June of 2010. Not only was reliable HDMI transmission in the specification, but they managed to squeeze in 100Mbps Ethernet, along with IR and RS-232 for control, as well as providing audio back from the TV to the AVR with ARC or, in some cases, Toslink. All over ONE cable.
Three years later, we have products on the market from multiple manufacturers in multiple product categories – extenders, TVs, projectors, receivers, switchers—that are all certified to work properly.

imageLearn and understand how Rev. 2.0 may affect you and your business. Attendees will receive several illustrations composed of schematics, waveforms and block diagrams that can be used as reference. Great information with a bit of humor. Register

The specification also allows for up to 100 watts of power to be transmitted. For now, this simply means that the extenders need only be powered on the “transmit” side. The display side box simply pulls its power over the cat 5/6 cable from the transmitter.

In the future, though, displays up to 40 inches could be powered directly from the transmitter, with the “receive” side built into the set itself. Imagine being able to relocate a customer’s wall-mounted TV anywhere in the home without having to have a line-voltage electrician relocate a power outlet! That same Cat 5/6 cable that is carrying the audio and video would be powering the set.

Now, while the HDBaseT group has shown this functionality at various trade shows, we have yet to see TVs on the market with this feature. Here is hoping that this is a temporary situation.

HDBaseT has taken a great concept, the extension of HDMI over a Cat 5/6 cable, and standardized it for the industry. They have created a certification program that ensures interoperability and performance. They have taken all of the guesswork out of HDMI extenders for the integrators, and made sure we have reliable equipment that we can specify. The end result is happier customers, and fewer service calls.

With the addition of the 2.0 specification, they have now standardized residential video distribution as well. With more manufacturers getting on board with HDBaseT, I would recommend that every integrator familiarize themselves with this technology. And if you aren’t using HDBaseT products currently, you might ask yourself this question: “How much has not using HDBaseT products cost my company over the past year in service calls?”

If the answer to that is any money at all, you may want to consider a change.

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Video · Multiroom Video · Hdbaset · All topics

About the Author

John Nemesh, Inside Sales
John Nemesh has been in the Consumer Electronics industry for over 20 years, having worked in the past for Ultimate Electronics, The Good Guys and Definitive Audio. Currently he is working in inside sales at AVAD helping dealers in the Northwest since August of 2007. Nemesh has experienced and sold most major brands of electronics, from entry-level Home Theater in a Box systems to high-end audiophile stereo systems, projectors, flat panels, speakers of all shapes and sizes, and all of the tools, widgets and thing-a-ma-bobs needed to get these systems installed and working.

21 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  08/23  at  10:10 AM

Nice piece, John! Thanks so much for the contribution.

Posted by qubit88  on  08/23  at  05:19 PM

I have been meaning to ask this question about the future of HDBaseT. When AVB becomes more prevalent and the speed increases to over 10gbit/s+ and the cost of that speed is reduced enough for the home what will happen to HDBaseT?

Posted by nicholsjh  on  08/24  at  06:07 PM

FYI- XBOX 360 cannot be controlled over USB.  It only charges the controllers, does not relay control, so your centralized theory would not work.

Posted by MarkD  on  08/25  at  03:25 PM

She didn’t say anything about Xbox and controllers over USB. She said you could extend the Kinect over using integrated USB.

Posted by John Nemesh  on  08/26  at  10:27 AM

@nicholsjh You would have to use a wired controller over USB 2.0, you are correct on the wireless controllers though.  Even though they CAN be hooked up with a USB connection, it still uses the wireless connection for control and just uses USB for power.  This is not true, however, on the PS3, PS4, or the Xbox One….just the 360 has this limitation.

Posted by John Nemesh  on  08/26  at  10:41 AM

@qubit88 First, I would say, that is a LOT of “ifs” you have there!  I have not heard of AVB.  Do you have a link to some information on it?  I have not seen this equipment on the market yet, either, while HDBaseT (1.0) products are on the market now.

That being said, if there is a superior technology out there, and it is available now, great!  But, I would be wary of vaporware, and I would like to know how well it works in the field before recommending something new to my customers.

One of the things that sold me on the benefits of HDBaseT was that I have a dealer, who was VERY tired of HDMI failures, invested in an HDMI certification tool from Quantum.  They brought it into my shop, and we tested all of our HDMI cables and HDMI extenders.  This tool not only checks cable continuity, but it can perform a “loop through” test, comparing the data it sends through a cable or extender to what it picks up on the other end, and it keeps a tally of all of the errors that accumulate.  While EVERY SINGLE dual cat5 extender failed the tests miserably (TENS of thousands of errors during the test), the multiple HDBaseT certified extenders we tested from Gefen, Key Digital and Transformative Engineering passed all of the tests with flying colors and ZERO transmission errors.

I also have more anecdotal evidence that they are reliable based on the number of defective returns that I see, compared to the less expensive dual cat5 products. 

It is their real world performance and reliability that gets me excited about HDBaseT, and the new features they are working on with the 2.0 standard make me even more excited for the future of these products!

Posted by John Nemesh  on  08/26  at  10:45 AM

@nicholsjh Was wondering, though, if maybe you could use the USB adaptor that you use for connecting an Xbox wireless controller to a Windows box.  Hook THAT up with USB to the extender, and have the extender hooked up USB to the Xbox.  I don’t know if that would work, but it may be worth looking into!

Posted by John Nemesh  on  08/26  at  10:48 AM

@MarkD “She”??  Did you SEE the moustache?

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  08/26  at  11:24 AM

John would not be a pretty lady.

Posted by qubit88  on  08/26  at  11:34 AM

AVB is short for: Audio Video Bridging. I should have expanded to the full phrase rather than the acronym. “AVB provides the specifications that will allow time-synchronized low latency streaming services through IEEE 802 networks” aka “Ethernet”

Posted by John Nemesh  on  08/26  at  12:54 PM

@qubit88 And what products currently use Audio Video Bridging?  Any?

Posted by John Nemesh  on  08/26  at  12:58 PM

@qubit88 Also, if it’s designed to use “Ethernet”, that would imply a compromise right there.  HDBaseT sends a whopping 8Gbps through a regular cat5 or cat6 cable.  If this AVB tech is going to work over standard Ethernet, we would either have to have a 10Gbps residential network (NOT common in residential use!) or the signal would have to be highly compressed.  Again, I would need to take a look at the products that are available and how they work, so any links to more information would be appreciated.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  08/26  at  01:23 PM

John, if you’re going to CEDIA, I can connect you with the AVB guy there (from AVnu Alliance). Look out for them, definitely an HDBaseT competitor, starting out with commercial.‎

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  08/26  at  01:24 PM
Posted by John Nemesh  on  08/26  at  01:27 PM

Thanks Julie, I will check it out!

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