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HDMI Alt Mode standard provides native output via USB Type-C

by Mark Tyson on 5 September 2016, 11:31

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Late last week the HDMI Licensing organisation announced that it is releasing a new standard to utilise compact reversible USB Type-C connections to connect to HDMI displays. The so called HDMI Alt Mode requires no protocol and connector adapters or dongles, just a simple cable is required. Previous USB Type-C 'Alt Modes' include; DisplayPort, MHL, and Thunderbolt.

The HDMI organisation gushes that the new standard "enables two of the most popular solutions for connectivity to come together". Indeed it will allow many smartphones, tablets, cameras, and PC products to output to HDMI displays – manufacturers willing. HDMI is a popular standard with 290 million displays equipped with the interface expected to ship before the year is out. The HDMI Licensing organisation works with 1,600 adopters worldwide.

HDMI Alt Mode offers the full HDMI 1.4b feature set but not the expanded new HDMI 2.0b features (like HDR). Ultimately it's up to manufacturers to decide if their devices support HDMI Alt Mode or which features they implement. The full range of features it will be possible to implement are as follows:

  • Resolutions up to 4K
  • Surround sound
  • Audio Return Channel (ARC)
  • 3D (4K and HD)
  • HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC)
  • Consumer Electronic Control (CEC)
  • Deep Colour, x.v.Colour, and content types
  • High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP 1.4 and HDCP 2.2)

USB Type-C to HDMI cables will start to appear when the first products supporting the new standard launch. It is estimated that the first new products supporting HDMI Alt Mode will launch at CES 2017 – early next year.

HEXUS Forums :: 3 Comments

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This is definitely going to replace most HDMI ports in products next year as long as the cables aren't prohibitively expensive, though it's odd they couldn't push HDMI 2.0 through when DisplayPort can manage 8K@60Hz over usb-c.
This is definitely going to replace most HDMI ports in products next year …

For mobile devices, maybe, although my concern there is that we'll end up with devices that have a single USB C port that can do everything, but only does one thing at a time…

Can't really see laptops or desktop GPUs going for USB-C over HDMI, particularly if it can't support full HDMI 2.0 (maybe a deliberate decision to differentiate the ports for different markets…?). So I don't think those HDMI cables are going to be obsolete for a while yet…
Surely this was one of the ideas of having different connectors in the first place? So people wouldn't plug in and expect something to work when it wasn't compatible.

Now we have USB-C connectors, that may, or may not be able to output to your HDMI screen. If it doesn't work, you then have to try and dig out some documentation to try and find out if it was supported or if you have a bust driver.