If you’re lucky enough to own one, you may be wondering what HDMI cable you need for your PS5 or Xbox Series X. In ages gone past, you didn’t have to worry about the cables that connected your video games console to your TV - you just plugged it in with the cable that came in the box and off you went. But with each console capable of outstanding 4K gaming, you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out with a substandard cable.
You see, the latest generation of video games consoles - the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 (PS5) come with a whole host of new features that only work with HDMI 2.1. Now, before you panic, we should say that your shiny new console will still display beautifully on your current TV with a standard HDMI cable. But with the advent of HDMI 2.1, there have been some advances in technology and new features that only the newest TVs can display, and even then, only when you’re using a HDMI 2.1 cable.
What’s all this about HDMI 2.1?
HDMI 2.1 is the latest version of the ubiquitous video cable. HDMI cables are used to connect TVs to devices like Blu-ray players, DVD players, and games consoles, but they’re also used to hook up monitors to home computers.
HDMI 2.1 is the new, shiny version of this cable. The connection itself hasn’t changed, so HDMI 2.0 (the previous version) and HDMI 2.1 cables will both plug into the same sockets interchangeably. What has changed is some of the internal hardware, which means that HDMI 2.1 is capable of some new and exciting things.
What’s new with HDMI 2.1?
HDMI 2.1 brings with it a bunch of new features and capabilities, though some of them are more theoretical and designed with the future in mind. HDMI 2.1 supports higher resolutions, with support for up to 10K images at 120Hz. There is no such thing as a 10K TV, and an 8K TV is going to set you back something in the region of $5000. There is also basically no 8K content out there when it comes to TV and movies. Xbox claims that the Xbox Series X supports 8K but we’d love to see it run anything more demanding than Pac-Man at that resolution.
So, why should gamers care about HDMI 2.1 then? Well we’ve got three words for you - variable refresh rate. Variable refresh rate support means that your TV can adjust its refresh rate on the fly to match the input from your video games console. In practice this means you get a smoother image with less tearing and screen artifacts.
There are some other neat features that HDMI 2.1 offers which will improve both your visual and audio experience when playing games. HDMI 2.1 supports enhanced audio return channel (eARC) which will result in better support for enhanced audio formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, etc. Auto low latency mode (ALLM) helps your Tv automatically find the ideal latency settings when you’re playing games, reducing input lag without the need for custom settings. Likewise, Quick Frame Transport (QFT) helps to reduce input lag too.
And if you do have both a PS5 and Xbox Series X, then the Quick media Switching (QMS) will let you instantly hop between signals without that awkward pause you get switching between HDMI channels on normal TVs.
Do you need a HDMI 2.1 cable for your PS5 or Xbox Series X/S?
The short answer is no. The longer answer is that even if you did need one, both the Xbox Series X/S and the PS5 come with a HDMI 2.1 cable in the box as standard, so you only need to think about this if you lose that cable or it breaks.
Do I need a new TV to benefit from HDMI 2.1?
Now this is where you might run into a few issues. You see, the new consoles come ready and willing to play ball with HDMI 2.1, but if your TV isn’t an up to date model then chances are that it’s not capable of using some or all of the benefits of this new technology.
Most of the screens in our best TVs guide are recent models and therefore have HDMI 2.1 ports, including the LG CX, Sony A9G, and Samsung Q90T. Some models only have a limited number of HDMI 2.1 ports though, like the Q90T we just mentioned which only has a single HDMI 2.1 port. That’s fine for some users, but if you have both a PS5 and Xbox Series X, then only one device can take the HDMI 2.1 slot unless you’re willing to swap the cable each time you boot up the other console.
Out top picks for a HDMI 2.1 ready TV?
The easy recommendation here is the LG CX, the OLED TV that has been setting the world on fire. It offers stunning picture quality at an incredibly reasonable price. It also has four HDMI 2.1 ports which is more than enough to hook up your games consoles with room to spare.
While the LG CX is well priced for what it offers, it’s still not what we’d call cheap. If you want a truly budget TV that can make the most of your shiny new games console and its HDMI 2.1 abilities then we’d like to direct your attention to the latest TVs in the Vizio M-Series. You can pick up the 55” Vizio M-Series 4K Smart TV for just $499. It even supports AMD Freesync for fluid gameplay with variable refresh rates. If you need a budget gaming TV that’s future proofed, this is our top pick.