HDMI 2.1a with New SBTM Feature to Be Unveiled at CES 2022

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Since the HDMI Forum, an organization responsible for upholding the HDMI standard, introduced HDMI 2.1 in 2019 it has been a bit of a mess for the past few years. Now, according to reports, the HDMI forum wants to update it further by introducing a new HDMI standard called HDMI 2.1a at CES2022.

According to a report by The edge, the HDMI Forum will introduce the new HDMI 2.1a standard, which will bring a new feature called Source-Based Tone Mapping or SBTM. It sounds a bit complicated (because it is), but let me explain what this means for TV and set-top box manufacturers and customers.

HDMI 2.1a with New SBTM Feature to Be Unveiled at CES 2022


Source-Based Tone Mapping in HDMI 2.1a: What Does It Mean?

SBTM is primarily a new HDR feature that takes some of the tone-mapping load from the TV or monitor and loads it to the content source, such as a console, set-top box, or PC. While SBTM is not a new HDR standard but a feature that would allow a better mix of HDR and SDR content on the same device.

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The HDMI Licensing Administrator, another organization that handles the licensing portion of the HDMI standards, recently detailed the new SBTM technology on its official website. The organization says that SBTM allows a source to take full advantage of a display’s HDR capabilities to send a video signal.

“Source-Based Tone Mapping (SBTM) allows the source to transmit a video signal that takes full advantage of a specific display’s HDR capabilities by adjusting the output to better take advantage of each display’s potential. As with other HDR technologies, SBTM allows the Source to adapt to a specific display, rather than adopting a fixed set of color and brightness ranges. SBTM can also be used by PCs and gaming devices to eliminate manual user optimization for HDR,” the official blog on the HDMI forum.

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However, there is a big problem. if The edge notes, just like any other unique HDMI 2.1 feature like low-latency automatic connections and variable refresh rates, SBTM will also be an optional feature that manufacturers can support, but are not mandatory. Hence, as usually happens, once the HDMI license manager releases the 2.1a standard, all ports in TVs and monitors are labeled as HDMI 2.1a ports, even though they don’t support HDMI 2.0 or even HDMI 2.1 functions.

This would likely create a confusing situation for customers as they would not be able to determine which ports support HDMI 2.1a or HDMI 2.1 functions and whether or not they support the new SBTM function of the HDMI 2.1a standard. The HDMI forum says that standards have always worked this way and that the optional features allow manufacturers to have flexibility in whatever features they want to offer with their devices. However, it creates a complicated situation for the end users.

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According to the report, the HDMI Forum will unveil the new HDMI 2.1a standard along with the new SBTM feature at CES 2022, which kicks off on January 5. It turns from a physical event in Las Vegas to an online-only event if many companies withdraw of the physical exhibit, citing health concerns.

We’ll be covering the event as companies unveil their new, latest and greatest innovations at the CES 2022 event. So stay tuned for more information.

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