Despite delays in high-end TV, computer and gaming device releases as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, HDMI 2.1 remains the next big trend. In the HDMI interconnects sector, makers in China are confident the shift to the latest specification will happen. Gearing up for this, more are expected to emphasize the development of compliant connectors and cable assemblies in the next two years.
First announced in 2017 at the Consumer Electronics Show, HDMI 2.1 supports video resolutions and refresh rates of 8K and 60Hz, and 4K and 120Hz. It offers an enhanced Audio Return Channel, variable refresh rate, quick media switching and frame transport, and auto low-latency mode. Compared with previous specifications but backward-compatible with them, this updated specification ensures more vivid images, wider color gamut and reduced latency.
The ultrahigh-speed cables that go with it can handle up to 48Gbps and exhibit superlow EMI. To support this speed, optical fiber instead of copper wire is used in those more than 5m in length. As such, HDMI 2.1 cable assemblies are more expensive and, currently, found only in high-end TVs and other consumer electronics.
Citing limited demand, the few Chinese suppliers of HDMI 2.1 interconnects produce them in small volume at present. For the majority, products based on HDMI 1.4 and 2.0 continue to lead shipments.
Ningbo Fulman Communication Technology Co. Ltd is one of the manufacturers offering HDMI 2.1 cable assemblies, which represent less than 10 percent of its shipments. The company looks forward to duplicating the 50 percent increase in consignments of these products in 2019 in the years ahead. Shenzhen Koteksun Technology Co. Ltd has HDMI 2.1 cable assemblies, in addition to HDMI 1.4 and 2.0 models. It will boost output for the first by 20 percent next year.
Spurring this optimism is the introduction of 8K TVs equipped with HDMI 2.1 by Sony, Samsung and LG, with others including Philips and Panasonic expected to jump on the bandwagon. Innolux has a 100in 16K or SUHD display module for the commercial market.
Over a hundred companies in China, including homegrown and foreign-invested operations, produce HDMI 2.1 connectors and cable assemblies. All also manufacture USB and DisplayPort interconnects. HDMI 2.1 products make up 5 to 20 percent of total shipments. More than half of these suppliers are based in Guangdong province, mainly in the cities of Shenzhen, Dongguan and Zhongshan. The rest are in the coastal provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang. This manufacturing pool is expected to grow in the years ahead.