HDCP 2.2 and the ongoing hassles of the 4K consumer experience
Stephan Jukic – March 12, 2015
There are a few things you need to know about HDCP 2.2 and if you’re on the market for a 4K TV or anything that’s going to connect to the one you own or want to buy, you really need to know a few things about HDCP 2.2.
Anybody who’s done their homework in looking at the 4K TVs now on the market and on devices like Set-top boxes and video cards has probably noticed the rather odd little HDCP 2.2 specification that appears in these different platforms and devices. Possibly you’ve also wondered exactly what the HDCP thing stands for. Well, it’s quite important, tricky and annoying and here is a breakdown:
The HDCP hardware encryption standard is a mechanism for protecting the content delivered to TVs and media devices from unauthorized content copying. The latest version, HDCP 2.2 is only the latest in a series of previous versions that started with the original developed by Intel all the way back in 2001. The HDCP standard is found on every major TV and video card on sale today and the latest version, 2.2 is the only one that’s compatible with 4K content due to new security reinforcements in its internal protocol.
Thus, HDCP 2.2 is what any 4K ultra HD TV worth its salt has to come with and dealing with the protocol has become quite a hassle because of this particular detail.
For starters, in order to use any sort of HDCP 2.2 enabled device or 2.2 protected content, you’ll absolutely need a 4K TV with the latest copy protection standard. If your TV doesn’t come with it, then you’re either closed off from all the latest 4K content from almost any source on the market or you’re going out and buying a whole new 4K TV that definitely does have HDCP’s latest 2.2 version in it.
The same necessity applies to almost all set-top boxes and the new 4K Blu-ray players that are coming out later this year. They will be equipped with HDCP 2.2 and your TV has to have the same to work with them for anything 4K.
Luckily, almost all name brand 4K TVs manufactured within the last year and a half have the latest copy protection standard in them. Unluckily, many name brand 4K sets from before 2014 or mid-2013 and many modern off-brand 4K TVs don’t have HDCP 2.2 yet.
Even more unfortunately, retailers often don’t bother to mention this little detail as part of their TVs’ specifications. Thus in order to be sure if the TV you want has the protocol, you have to check the back of the TV where the HDMI connections are (HDCP is supported through HDMI ports) or you’ll have to visit the manufacturers website itself and check your model’s spec there if you can find them.
And doing this truly is crucial, as we already mentioned above, a 4K TV without HDCP 2.2 will soon be useless for anything but Full HD content from any major source and what good is that when you’ve spent the money to get some 4K resolution into your house?
Furthermore, HDCP isn’t just something you need to be conscious of for you TV. The security standard also applies to video cards for those of you who want to try out your new ultra HD PC in full 4K resolution. Thus, again, if you’re moving in this direction, you absolutely need to get your hands on a HDCP 2.2 compliant video card to either watch 4K content on your PC monitor or a TV connected to the PC.
Likewise, the new 4K Blu-ray players that are on the way won’t work in 4K on a PC whose video card isn’t 2.2 compliant. In essence, every device through which 4K content from a major source passes to reach your screen has to have compliance with the HDCP 2.2 protocol. For the video cards in your UHD PC, just about the only model that does support the copy protection standard right now is the GTX 960 from Nvidia and it costs roughly $200, though it does offer excellent performance for that price.
Other devices, besides PC video cards and 4K TVs themselves are also affected by all this security around keeping ultra HD content safe from pirates.
Audio/Video receivers, sound systems and set-top boxes above all must have the protocol enabled if they’re going to manage 4K video streams. Furthermore, we’re also going to start seeing the 2.2 standard start appearing in streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV and the upcoming Roku 4 streaming stick. All of these devices will have to include the standard as 4K content becomes more in-demand and in any case, you shouldn’t get any content delivery device that doesn’t include the HDCP 2.2 protocol.
Once again, the bottom line here is that, as 4K content becomes more popular, any device that passes TV from a streaming source to a TV or PC screen will have to include HDCP 2.2 in order for you to see anything on your screen.
And while this protocol will eventually become so standard in all devices that viewing 4K content in your home won’t be a problem, for the time being at least, a lot of consumers who are happy with their new 4K TV will find themselves frustrated by the need for additional upgrades.
Arriving with a new ultra HD television in their home, they’ll realize that the older, pre-2.2 media devices they have lying around have to be replaced if they want to watch the latest new TV shows from Netflix in full 4K. This is where HDCP 2.2 is now causing a lot of headaches as it slowly becomes more common but doesn’t quite reach into every commonly used home entertainment delivery device.
Story by 4k.com