Do I Really Need HDMI 2.1 for PS5 and Xbox Series X?

So you’re looking to buy a PS5 or an Xbox Series X and you want to know if you need a display that supports HDMI 2.1. Do you need to buy a TV that supports HDMI 2.1 or can you use an older TV? What are the pros and cons of HDMI 2.1? In this article, I’ll cover exactly what you need to upgrade to the next-gen gaming experience.

Here’s what you need to know:

Do I Really Need HDMI 2.1 for PS5 and Xbox Series X?

You don’t need HDMI 2.1 for PS5 or Xbox Series X but it does unlock advanced features such as 4K at 12o Hz, HDR, and low latency mode (ALLM).

HDMI 2.1 is backwards-compatible with HDMI 2.0 and other versions, so you can use a PS5 and Xbox Series X without HDMI 2.1. The downside is you will only see the features that your display’s HDMI version can support.

Every HDMI port is the same, the only difference is the hardware specifications and bandwidth. In other words, you can plug an HDMI 2.1 device into an HDMI 1.4 display at it will work but you will only get HDMI 1.4 features.

HDMI 2.0 vs HDMI 2.1:

If you already have an HDMI 2.0 TV, you might be wondering if you need to upgrade to a TV that has HDMI 2.1.

In most cases, it’s not worth upgrading from HDMI 2.0 to HDMI 2.1. The main advantage of HDMI 2.1 is 4K at 120 Hz. Another feature of HDMI 2.1 is 8K at 60 Hz, but there are only a few 8 TVs on the market, and they’re extremely expensive.

Not to mention even the best PC or console can output games at 8K. It’s simply not worth worrying about 8K at the moment. HDMI 2.0 can support 4K at 60 Hz with no issues. For most people, 4K at 60 Hz is more than enough. HDMI 2.1 also supports dynamic HDR, variable refresh rate, and auto low latency mode.

With HDMI 2.0, the TV can display 4K at 60 Hz, 12-bit colours, HDR, and decent audio. Upgrading from HDMI 2.0 to HDMI 2.1 won’t unlock much more besides the possibility of a higher refresh rate at 4K. It’s not worth spending $1,000 or more for such a small upgrade.

To put it another way, if you already have a 4K HDMI 2.0 TV, I wouldn’t worry about buying a TV that has HDMI 2.1 at the moment.

When Should You Upgrade to HDMI 2.1?

You should upgrade to HDMI 2.1 if the jump in features is worth it. For example, if you have an old 1080P TV, I would buy an HDMI 2.1 compatible TV because moving from 1080P to 4K at 120 Hz is worth it.

Here are some recommended HDMI 2.1 TVs. 

Do You Need a New HDMI Cable for HDMI 2.1?

The PS5 and the Xbox Series X include a high-speed HDMI 2.1 cable. The HDMI ports are the same, but you should buy a high-speed HDMI cable because it can support the bandwidth needed for the new HDMI features. Here are some good HDMI 2.1 cables. 

But there are some things you need to know.

Can Ps5 and Xbox Series X Run Games at 4K at 120 FPS?

While both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are marketed as having the ability to output 4K at 120 Hz, the claim is mostly referring to the HDMI 2.1 bandwidth capabilities.

In other words, while the HDMI version can technically support it, the console still has to render the frames. HDMI 2.1 technically has enough bandwidth to support 8K at 60 Hz but for that, you not only need an 8K TV but also a very powerful graphics card (consoles don’t even come close to the FPS target).

Bear in mind, 120 Hz means the display can refresh 120 times a second. To make the most of it, your games need to run at 120 frames a second. If you’re running a 120 Hz display, but your games are running at 60 frames a second, you won’t see any of the benefits of the 120 Hz display.

Unfortunately, even the latest consoles don’t have enough hardware power to render graphics in 4K at 120 frames a second. Even if they did, game developers have to optimize their games for it. Most developers are just now patching their games to include a performance mode.

What is Performance Mode?

You might have heard that performance mode on consoles can output games at 4K at 120 Hz (120 frames a second) but that’s not entirely true.

Performance Mode prioritises frame rate over graphics. With performance mode, games usually use dynamic resolution, which decreases the resolution (as well as other graphics settings) to keep the frame rate high, depending on the graphic requirements of the game. Generally, performance mode targets 60 frames a second. Very few games can run at 120 FPS, and the ones that do are at 1080P or lower.

The Bottom Line:

To summarize, if you already have a 4K TV, you don’t need HDMI 2.1 for the PS5 and Xbox Series X. It adds some extra features, but the features aren’t worth the cost of an entirely new TV. And some of those features aren’t even possible on this version of the consoles. The exception to that is if you have a really old TV, in which case I do recommend moving to an HDMI 2.1 TV.

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About Tim Gagnon

Timothy Gagnon is a tech blogger and writer. When he's not dissembling computers, he's researching the latest tech gadgets and trends.

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