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Ultimate Guide to 4K TV and Device Connectivity: HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0 Cables, HEVC, HDCP, and VP9

 

Overview: The Cables you need for the rich 4K experience

4K TV connectivity is pretty straightforward for the most part. As long as you know the essential technologies at work inside your particular TV, you should be able to get it up and running in no time for a rich entertainment media experience that includes streaming 4K and non-4K content sources from the web (mostly through your TVs smart apps or those of an external set-top device), 4K content from external streaming media devices via HDMI and 4K content from hard media boxes like 4K Blu-ray players and media players with preloaded content in their hard drives.

For these essentials to work on your UHD TV, you mainly need to have a model that’s compatible with a few essential connectivity-related technologies which include HDMI, internet connectivity, WiFi, possibly DisplayPort and some essential specs for 4K video compression and content copy protection. Luckily, the vast majority of modern 4K televisionss, particularly all late 2014, 2015 and existing 2016 television models, offer all of the core connectivity specs for top-shelf content access and compatibility with other devices and media sources.

We’re now going to cover all of these connectivity essentials and guide you through the main methods of getting the 4K entertainment flowing to your TV display, gaming connectivity, audio and what associated technologies are essential for all of the above to function smoothly.

Typical connectivity layout in a 4K TV

Typical connectivity layout in a 4K TV

HDMI

The first and most fundamental connectivity spec in any 4K TV is HDMI. Most models on sale today offer at least three HDMI ports and some 4K TVs even include as many as four or five HDMI ports. In older 4K TVs the majority of HDMI ports were of the older, weaker HDMI 1.4 variety with only one or two and in some cases no HDMI 2.0 ports available. Now however, this is changing and most newer 4K televisions offer full HDMI 2.0 connectivity with many models even offering a newer variant called HDMI 2.0a.

  • HDM 1.4 vs. HDMI 2.0

hdmi_pic2

If these different numbers for HDMI seem confusing, not to worry, they break down simply like this as far as your 4K needs are concerned. HDMI 1.4, the older and steadily less common spec in name brand 4K TVs is designed more for support of Full HD content at high refresh rates (high frame rates). 4K UHD content at 3840 x 2160 pixels can only be supported up to a speed of 30 frames per second via HDMI 1.4 cables and thus for 4K UHD content connectivity, this spec is not ideal or much use for 4K content from external devices like media players for another reason we’ll go into shortly, involving HDCP 2.2 content copy protection.

Thus, for any modern 4K TV that’s going to connect to any modern 4K UHD media streaming or playing device, the spec you’re really after is HDMI 2.0. This newer version of HDMI offers 4K video resolution at a smooth, decently fast 60 frames per second (60Hz refresh).

Furthermore, HDMI 2.0 offers a bandwidth of 18GBps and thus also supports 60fps 4K video with 12-bit 4:2:2 color, 4:2:0 chroma subsampling and up to 32 channels of audio. Other features of HDMI 2.0 also include Rec.2020 color, improved 3D display functionality and a 21:9 aspect ratio for content display. Also, all HDMI 2.0 ports can be used with older HDMI 1.4 cables. If all of these additionally details look a bit complicated, just keep in mind this basic fact: HDMI 2.0 is what will allow your 4K TV to receive 4K UHD content from external sources at 60 frames per second instead of just 30. This is the most important spec for the standard as it related to ultra HD.

  • HDMI 2.0a

Finally, we also come down to HDMI 2.0a, which is the latest firmware addition to HDMI 2.0 and is now also appearing in a growing list of newer 4K UHD TV models. Most premium name brand 2015 and 2016 4K televisions already come with HDMI 2.0a and if they don’t, you should buy a model that does. Why? Because HDMI 2.0, while mostly identical to conventional HDMI 2.0, also happens to support high dynamic range content from external media sources. This is its largest attraction and utility.

HDR content encoding creates a major difference in 4K video quality

HDR content encoding creates a major difference in 4K video quality

As far as what brand of HDMI cable to go for, the general rule is that there is little if any difference between cables from one manufacturer vs another. As long as the base specs of any given cable are what you need for your particular TV and 4K video resolution needs, one brand is pretty much as good as another as far as performance goes.

HDCP 2.2

Whenever HDMI 2.0 connectivity is mentioned in the context of 4K ultra HD content, a word that commonly gets mentioned is HDCP, and more specifically, HDCP 2.2. This acronym stands for “High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection” and the 2.2 version is the one specifically built for the protection of 4K ultra HD content from any source, be it streaming, download or hard drive media box, against unauthorized copying of the content in question for the sake of piracy.

Conversely, your 4K TV won’t be able to receive 4K content from commercial consumer sources if it doesn’t have HDCP 2.2 content protection enabled in it, mainly through its internal HDMI 2.0 ports. Luckily however, pretty much all current 4K TVs offer up HDCP 2.2 and all current set-top 4K streaming devices and 4K Blu-ray player models do as well, usually via their HDMI 2.0 ports.

HDMI with HDCP 2.2 content copy protection

HDMI with HDCP 2.2 content copy protection

As we’d said above, HDMI 1.4 is not much use for connecting consumer 4K content to your 4K TV and aside from its weakness at handling ultra HD video at high frame rates, the main reason why is that HDMI 1.4 does not usually include HDCP 2.2 compatibility.

Users who plan on only viewing 1080p HD content don’t need to worry about HDCP 2.2 for now but if you own a 4K TV, you’re naturally going to want to enjoy 4K content on it and for this, HDCP 2.2 is a crucial spec. non-HDCP 2.2 compliant 4K TVs won’t display HDCP 2.2 protected 4K content from any source. It’s mostly that simple.

Once again however, this shouldn’t be a problem. Every name brand 4K TV from late 2014 onward includes HDCP 2.2 integration through its HDMI ports.

Internet Connectivity, Media apps and WiFi

As we’d covered in our previous guide on 4K TV smart platforms, smart functionality in a 4K TV is the core of its truly rich streaming media value. This applies for 4K media and for non-4K media of all types. Now, while pretty much all 4K TVs on sale today already come with their own built in smart TV platforms with access to hundreds or even thousands of media apps, A 4K TV can also make use of the streaming media apps and smart platform interfaces built into external set top boxes, thus letting a user switch between their 4K TV’s smart interface and an external smart media interface like that found in the Roku 4 4K set-top box, or the Amazon Fire 4K TV box.

internet connectivity is essential for accessing smart TV streaming media content

internet connectivity is essential for accessing smart TV streaming media content

Whichever of these smart platforms you’re going to use, you will absolutely have to have internet connectivity running to either your 4K TV itself or at least to your external set-top box if you want to access all those diverse sources of streaming movies, shows, music and other entertainment. For users who want to also access streaming 4K content from apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video or Hulu and YouTube, they will not only need to have internet connectivity going to their 4K TV but that internet connectivity will also have to of the high speed type that offers at least 15Mbps and more ideally 20 to 25Mbps.

This is where your 4K TVs Ethernet port comes into the picture. In simple terms, it connects your 4K TV to your household internet at maximum velocity for the fastest possible online media and web browsing connectivity.

Most current 4K TVs from name brands like Sony, Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Vizio also come with built-in WiFi connectivity. So even if you don’t connect the TVs to the web via Ethernet, you can use their smart interfaces and browsing through WiFi. This is workable but it won’t allow for 4K UHD streaming since existing consumer wireless connections aren’t capable of the bandwidth needed for smoothly transmitting ultra HD content.

Gaming Connectivity

4K TV used for gaming

4K TV used for gaming

For the most part, 4K UHD gaming is done only via PC games and UHD-compatible GPUs since none of the existing major console systems like the PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Nintendo Wii offer 4K game support quite yet. With this in mind, you can use your 4K TV as a sort of giant 4K PC monitor that connects to your GPU and PC rig but with a couple of caveats kept in mind.

First of all, very few 4K TVs offer DisplayPort 1.2 connectivity. This is the connection standard most used in current 4K gaming between GPU and 4K PC monitor (most 4K PC monitors do offer DisplayPort 1.2 connectivity). Thus, in order to connect your PC GPU to your 4K TV, you’ll either have to do so via HDMI 2.0. This can either be done by buying a GPU with HDMI connectivity —like one of NVIDIA’s newer graphics cards—or by getting your hands on a DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 adapter. These are now available from brands like Club-3D.

Also bear in mind that you will likely need to adjust your TV’s settings so that it recognizes the connected device type of the new HDMI input as a PC. Furthermore, the input lag times on 4K TVs can be a bit slower than they are in gaming-oriented PC monitors. This can affect how smoothly your gameplay responds to keyboard or controller commands.

HEVC and VP9

Along with HDCP 2.2, video compression technology is another crucial internal spec of 4K UHD TV connectivity. The majority of today’s 4K UHD content from streaming sources, 4K Blu-ray players and other devices is compressed via a codec called HEVC in the form of its 4K-oriented H.265 version for maximum transmission efficiency. In order to playback HEVC compressed content, your 4K TV will need to have HEVC compatibility. Luckily, pretty much every 4K TV on today’s market comes with HEVC built into it and thus has no problem decoding content from the vast majority of consumer market ultra HD content sources, like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, Ultraflix, 4K Blu-ray and other media sources. On the other hand, if you have an older 2013 or early 2014 4K TV which never came with H.265 decoding built into it and never got a firmware update for the codec, your TV won’t be able to playback 4K content from most major streaming media or 4K Blu-ray sources. Luckily, such cases are very rare and only apply to some of the oldest ultra HD television models.

H.265 4K video compression at work

H.265 4K video compression at work compared to older H.264 for HD content

VP9 is the Google-designed alternative compression codec to HEVC and it’s used in far fewer 4K media sources. The most well-known 4K content source which uses VP9 compression is in fact Google’s own YouTube, which is home to a rapidly growing body of awesome ultra HD video collections of all types. Luckily, most premium 4K TVs, such as major new models from Sony, Samsung or LG do support VP9 compression as well. However, some name brand 4K models from brands like Vizio don’t and can thus only access YouTube 4K video in Full HD resolution.

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  • Cecilia Schermaul
    July 24, 2016 at 5:48 am

    I have a 4K – R box I need to know how to connect the wire/cables. I connected the hdmi cable and the electric… Please give me a simple diagram.
    We charged the key board on the computer all night but found the little switch on the back had not been turned to on. Would that make a difference?
    Sicerely, Celia Schermaul

    Reply

  • Nigel
    August 23, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    I have an lg 65la9700’4k TVs and reading this I don’t think I can see any 4K material.
    It has hdmi1.4, so an external device won’t work. I wonders that if I used netfliks app which is built in that it would work ?

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Thanks.

    Reply

  • BC
    September 23, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Can HDMI 1.4 support HDR? looking at the chart i see that HDMI 1.4 supports a wide color gamut and deep color. So could it support HDR?

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      September 27, 2016 at 2:44 am

      Hey there BC. I suppose it could technically support HDR but we’ve never heard of the standard being applied to HDMI 1.4 on any device or 4K TV. You are however right that it supports wide color gamut, though it offers no BT.2020 support, which is reserved for HDMI 2.0(a). Bear in mind also that It’s not just about HDMI support for HDR, the content and the entire system, not just the connection, need to be compatible with HDR for the full benefits of the technology to be visible on a screen. Most devices and TVs with the 1.4 version of HDMI are older models which don’t support HDR anyhow.

      Reply

  • Bahadur
    September 28, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Hello i have 1.4 hdmi cable i can’t connect to my lg tv with it. When i connect it says no signal please help.

    Reply

    • Jason Anderson
      November 9, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      Bahadur, what model # is your TV? What is your source? If you have a late model set (2015-16) then get an HDMI 2.0 or 2.0a that is 18Gb rated. Amazon basics or a Mono Price cable is all you need but they can be a crap shoot. Do not fall for the $50 and up priced cables but I do recommend something of very good quality, anything in the $10-20 range. I recommend the Media Bridge- Flex or Ultra Series, they have high quality connectors and jackets. Stay under 10 feet if possible, the shorter the better.

      Reply

  • Lee
    October 4, 2016 at 2:29 am

    Do you know if Samsung KU series TVs from 2016 have HDR on via all HDMI ports? Currently can only get HDR via HDMI1, seems odd. Thanks for the info and helpful guide.

    Reply

  • bouaziz reda
    October 10, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    hello i just got 50″ UHD 4K Flat Smart TV HU7000 Series 7 but when i connect it with my laptop and i try to play a bluray movie 1080p i can see that the video is not very smooth its like its lagging the resolution i have is 3840 * 2160 / 30p i was so so scared because even with my ps4 the game is lagging a bit i was scared that i need to change the tv ! after i read this i see that i need an HDMI 2.0 cable and everything will be fine ? does my HP laptop i5 8gb ram 1 to hardrive 4gb NVIDEA CARD can support the hdmi 2.0 cable and everything will work fine please reply as soon as possible i live in afriqua to get that cable its very hard please reply as soon as possible thank you in advance !

    Reply

  • Steffen
    October 23, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Hi, is it possible to get better bandwith in 1080p by streaming 4k netflix material through the new chromecast ultra and downscale to my 1.4 hdmi 1080p projector even though it does not support hdmi 2.0 or hdcp 2.2 ?

    Reply

  • Chris
    November 6, 2016 at 1:38 am

    If your TV only has one HDMI 2.0 port, is there a selector that can give more 2.0 ports?

    Reply

  • Rob
    November 11, 2016 at 12:20 am

    Hi. If you use a displayport to hdmi adapter do you keep displayport connectivity or drop to hdmi??

    Reply

  • Raul
    November 14, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Hello,

    I need some help with my PS4 Pro. I have this monitor: http://www.samsung.com/us/support/owners/product/LU28D590DS/ZA

    The problem is that i cannot enable the 4K resolution, only 1080p. I use the HDMI cable from the package.

    What is the problem and what i have to do, to enable 4K resolution?

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      November 15, 2016 at 9:21 am

      Hello Raul. Quite possibly your problem is due to the fact that this monitor only offers HDMI 1.4 while the PS4 Pro’s HDMI ports are high-speed HDMI 2.0a compatible. This may be causing the difficulties with 4K resolution you experience.

      Reply

  • Mohannad
    November 20, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    What if I have a TV that doesnt support HDR and currently has HDCP 1.4. What benefits would I get if I upgrade its board (as manufacturer promised to do) to HDCP 2.2…. is it only the FPS improvement to 60fps? Or would i naturally recieve the HDR out of this?

    Looking forward for an answer!

    Reply

  • Eric
    November 29, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Hello,

    So I have just bought an LG 43″ 4K LED. The model is 43UH603V. It’s a European model that was bought in Spain. My question is how to get the best possible picture from downloaded sources. If I were to have a file such as a torrent that was considered 4K, what is the best way to play it on the TV. The USB port is 2.0 and I recently played a 4K movie from my a USB 3.0 drive. The quality was good, thought definitely didn’t look as good as when I have streamed 4K videos from youtube or I imagine Netflix once I upgrade to the premium tier. The other option of playing the files would be through my laptop’s HDMI. The TV ports are 2.0, but my laptop is a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. The port is 1.4 I believe. What do I lose from the laptop’s port not being 2.0?

    Reply

    • Eric
      November 29, 2016 at 8:40 am

      I forgot to add, usually I save all large media files to a 3.0 External HD. When I play 4K movies off of the external, is it better to transfer them over to the internal SSD or is playing the file off of the external still fast enough?

      Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      December 5, 2016 at 6:10 am

      Hey there Eric. If you transmit the 4K movie through your laptops HDMI 1.4 port to the TVs HDMI 2.0 port, the lower powered HDMI connection is the one which will decide frame refresh for the content. Thus, the 4K movie you refer to will be viewable on your TV at only 30Hz since this is the limit of HDMI 1.4 for a 4K video. Things will be even worse through USB transmission. Your best bet is to upload the movie to another external device with HDMI 2.0, like a set-top box or an Xbox One S (for example) which has its own internal storage that’s large enough for a 4K video file and then watch it on your TV from this device at smoother frame rate.

      Reply

  • jessendeen
    December 8, 2016 at 1:12 am

    You can also use iDealshare VideoGo to convert VP9 to other normally used video formats, like MP4, AVI, etc

    Reply

  • cheesdown
    December 8, 2016 at 1:13 am

    You can also use iDealshare VideoGo to convert VP9 to other normally used video formats, like MP4, AVI, etc

    Reply

  • Ishan
    December 14, 2016 at 6:45 am

    hi-
    kust bought a OLED LG B6- and wanted to know hwat would be the best way to watch downloaded 4k contect on an USB-should i connect it to a WDTV LIVE and then connect that to the TV via hdmi- or directly to the tv via USB or download it to an older IOMEga Screenplay direcotor that has internal storage and then to the tv via hdmi (2 ) i believe..dazed. glaezed and confused…do let me know..thanks
    Ishan

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      December 14, 2016 at 11:27 am

      Hello Ishan, your best choice would be the one which offers the lowest quantity of connectivity barriers and offers the best bandwidth from the content source to the B6 TV you have. Thus, i’d suggest going for the last option you mention for a direct HDMI connection between the content and the TV. If the connection is of the high-speed HDMI type, you should be able to get the content at 60Hz.

      Reply

      • Ishan
        December 15, 2016 at 10:49 am

        the Iomega certainly has a direct HDMI connect to the tv but its HDMI 2 I think…and the tv from what i hear has HDMI2 a..does this matter for normal 4k stuff..or does it matter only watching hdr stuff…? Not so worried if its just for the HDR stuff as am pretty broke after the TV buy to be investing in any uhd 4k player..and my bandwith wont allow me to stream 4k hdr/dolby vision…pls do clarify..also i think my wdtv and Iomega are pretty much a thing of the past..could you recomeened a media box to play contect/downloadable stuff, etc with all the new bells and whistles..hevs, hdcp, hdmi 2a..etx…would be much appreciated. Thanks
        Ishan

        Reply

  • Chris
    December 23, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Hello. Please o please help me!!!! Trying to connect my samsung 4k player to my samsung 65 hu8200. When I play a 4k disc its say the port doesn’t support 4k so it will be played in high def. the tv is a 4k tv and I’ve tried all the ports. I’m starting to loose my head here. Please help,me. Any advice would be greatly appreciated . Thanks, merry Christmas

    Reply

  • Bob Green
    February 4, 2017 at 4:04 am

    Hi Stephen – Thanks for the guide….very useful. I’m having a strange problem which I hope you might have some insight on. Trying to transmit HDR content through an HDMI extender but I get no picture. If I hook the device directly to the TV it works fine. Here’s what I have:
    Roku Premiere +
    Sony XBR-65x850c (Enhanced video set on HDMI ports and all software upgrades done)
    HDMI extender (HDCP 2.2, HDMI 2.0)
    HDMI cables are high speed w/ Ethernet (18Gbps)

    Any thoughts would be helpful. Thanks
    Bob

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      February 6, 2017 at 10:48 pm

      Hey there Bob Green This is a bit of a tricky problem because you say that your device connects and shows HDR content fine if used directly with the TV, so i’m ruling out the possibility that you’re using the wrong HDMI port on the TV or setting either TV or Roku device to the wrong settings in some way that blocks the HDR. A couple suggestions. First, barring any resolution, call tech support for either your Roku, your TV or the extender manufacturer. Secondly, have you considered that the extender doesn’t support HDR10? This seems unlikely but it’s a loose possiblity. Then, there is the possibility that it’s simply defective and doesn’t offer what it claims to (HDR support or maybe HDCP 2.2).

      Also, your cables are HDMI Premium certified cables? Maybe try those if not.

      Finally, have you checked to make sure that the HDMI port settings in the TV stay set to an HDR supporting mode when it’s connected via the extender to your Roku?

      Reply

  • Rahil
    April 6, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Heyyy I need help with my tv or ps4 pro ….I have a 4k uhd smart tv although in my ps4 pro it says that it does not support HDCP 2.2 ….can anybody plss help me with this problem ..

    Reply

  • Apple
    May 30, 2017 at 5:20 am

    Helow How can I Apply the HDMI uhd color? Everytime when I turn on the voice disappear. I used the HDMI port from My tv Samsung smart hub UE 8000 series frm 2011. Could you Pls.help me to install or give the necessary info fr the details that I needed to knw. I hve Ks 9000 series
    Thank you very much in advance

    With My kind regards and Thanks
    Apple

    Reply

  • Beverley Farrer
    July 11, 2017 at 2:45 am

    Hello, I have a 55″ Lg 4K HDCP with a 1.4 port. I bought the tv because they told me it was capable of receiving the upcoming Netflix and Skyq. I have my Skyq and I cannot connect to the 4K programs. Please can you help.

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      July 12, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      Hey there Beverley. Unfortunately, HDMI 1.4 does not come with HDCP 2.2 and because of this your TV probably lacks HDCP 2.2 as a result. It thus won’t get 4K UHD content from any formal source. This is my best guess here.

      Reply

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