What Is HDMI and What Is It Useful For

A commonplace cable found used in many modern consumer electronics is HDMI – anything from PCs, Macs, desktop monitors, consoles, and BluRay players. But, what does it do? And why has it become so popular?

HDMI vs. Analog

HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia interface, and it is capable of sending higher quality information to a device than its analog counterparts. The information sent over HDMI is uncompressed digital data. A mainly adopted cable for displaying video has been HDMI. 4K video couldn’t otherwise be sent through analog cables, so HDMI is paving the way for better quality.

HDMI Carries Sound Data

Furthermore, HDMI cables have the capability to send sound information as well. Not just audio but surround sound audio at that. Speakers are built into most modern TVs and monitors due to this. There is no need to plug in an additional auxiliary cable to carry audio when the HDMI cable can do so.


HDMI Carries Control Data

When you power on an Xbox, the monitor or TV wakes up. When you change the volume on a DVD or BluRay player, the display responds. This is known as control data.

HDMI Is Cheaply Available

Also, they are super cheap to get ahold of. This again makes them great for the masses. I personally have seen some for as low as $5 USD. Do not overpay for these cables – rarely ever are advertised benefits of more expensive cables conclusive and worthwhile. The differences between version types of HDMI is all that will truly matter.

What Is the Difference Between HDMI 1.4, 2.0, and 2.1?

All versions of HDMI are backwards compatible; it is just that newer versions will have more capabilities and be able to carry more data. For instance, HDMI 1.4 is able to carry 1080p at 60Hz, and 2160p 4K ultra HD at 30Hz.

On the other hand, the newer version of HDMI – HDMI 2.0 – is able to carry 1080p at up to 120Hz rather than 60Hz, and 2160p 4K at a whopping 60Hz. A subtle but very welcome change is the support for HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR expands the available color range and darkens darks as well as lightens lights. In doing so, the visible image will appear to be more realistic.

Most recently HDMI 2.1 has been released. HDMI 2.1 offers 2160p 4K at 120Hz and 4320p 8K at 60Hz. Due to the small number of 8K displays on the market and consumer-grade equipment capable of handling it, 2.1 will be a bit too much for the average consumer.

What Is Mini and Micro HDMI?

Mini and Micro HDMI cables are simply smaller versions of the larger, regular counterpart. Over the years we have seen Mini HDMI used in tablets and DSLR cameras. Similarly, Micro HDMI – an even smaller cable to mini HDMI – has also been used in smartphones and tablets to connect them to displays.

Using HDMI Cables with PCs

An HDMI port is usually present with currently released PCs, graphics cards (GPU), and monitors. Just plug one end of the HDMI cable into the port on the back of the PC, and the other end into the monitor.

If you have an older PC that only has DVI and analog ports, you will need a graphics card upgrade to use HDMI and therefore carry higher quality video data to an HDMI compatible monitor.


If the monitor only has DVI and analog ports and you would like to use an HDMI cable with the monitor, you will need a converter. Do note that with a converter in place, you will not be able to display full HD on an otherwise HD monitor.

HDMI to DVI will be one of the more common conversions needed for a PC; however, there are options for a VGA connection as well.



HDMI is ultimately one of the best cables for displaying video and sound, which is part of why its use has become widespread over the years of the HD era. It certainly isn’t going away anytime soon, but with newer cables such as USB-C, there’s no telling what the future will hold.

Corbin Telligman Corbin Telligman

I'm a junior at UT Dallas, a tech enthusiast, an adreneline junkie, and a coffee fanatic.