Gaming Console 101

Do You Really Need HDMI 2.1 for Xbox Series X?

Do You Really Need HDMI 2.1 for Xbox Series X featured

So you’ve finally upgraded to the Xbox Series X, but there is so much new tech jargon to wrap around your head. Things were quite simpler with the older-gen consoles, but with this, just the HDMI interface itself can be pretty confusing to the uninitiated.

One of the most common questions asked in regards to this is whether do you really need HDMI 2.1 for Xbox Series X? Well, the short answer to the question is a NO. You don’t ABSOLUTELY need to have an HDMI 2.1 port on your monitor/TV or an HDMI 2.1 compliant cable.

Unless you have a monitor or a TV with specs rated at 4K@120Hz, you will not need to have an HDMI 2.1 cable.

But would using an inferior or an older HDMI port or cable make a difference? Absolutely! It is kind of like swapping out your old bike for a new motorcycle. Both will get you from point A to B, but you will obviously feel the difference with the latter.

In the following text, I will answer this question specifically, but to do that, I will try to thoroughly explain the different HDMI port and cable versions and what they entail for gaming on Xbox Series X.

Resolution and Frame Rate Demand Higher Bandwidth

One of the key concepts that you need to understand is that there is only a limited amount of bandwidth a certain multimedia port like an HDMI can carry.

The bandwidth being used by the interface is determined by two main characteristics of the display:

  1. Resolution
  2. Frame Rate

The higher the resolution and the higher the frame rate the higher would be the data that needs to be carried, which in turn means the higher would be the bandwidth required by the multimedia interface.

With this in mind, it’ll be easier for you to now understand the different versions of the HDMI ports.

HDMI Ports and Their Different Versions

Now in order to cater to ever-increasing resolution and frame rate for gamers particularly, HDMI standard keeps on upgrading its interface.

The most current version of the HDMI port conforms to version 2.1, which fortunately the Xbox Series X has.

The following table explains the different versions of the HDMI port and the resolution and frame rate they can carry:

HDMI VersionMax ResolutionRefresh RateHDR
1.21440P1080P = 60Hz
1440P = 30Hz
1.3-1.44K (4096 x 2160)1080P = 120Hz
1440P = 60Hz
4K = 30Hz
2.04K (4096 x 2160)1080P = 240Hz
1440P = 144Hz
4K = 60Hz
2.18K (7680 x 4320)1440P = 240Hz
4K = 144Hz
4K = 240Hz (DSC)
8K = 120Hz (DSC)

So looking at the 4K resolution alone, we can see that

  • HDMI 2.1 can carry up to 4K @ 120 FPS
  • HDMI 2.0 can carry up to 4K @ 60 FPS
  • HDMI 1.4 can carry up to 4K @ 30 FPS

It should be noted that Xbox Series X does NOT support 8K resolution or frame rates higher than 120 FPS.

The thing about HDMI ports is that they all look the same.

As such, it can be hard to tell from the physical looks what version the HDMI port belongs to. Unless it clear states physically on the product, you will need to refer to its spec sheet in order to check what version the HDMI port belongs to

HDMI Ports are Backward and Forward Compatible

xbox series X back
Xbox Series X offers HDMI 2.1 port

Now the important aspect of HDMI ports is that they are ALL backward and forward-compatible.

Meaning the HDMI 2.1 port on the Xbox Series X CAN connect to a TV or a monitor with an HDMI 2.0 or even an HDMI 1.4 port.

However, know that in doing so, the interface will work at the bandwidth of the lowest denominator.

In other words, if you were to connect Xbox Series X to a monitor or a TV with an HDMI 2.0 or a 1.4 port, the maximum display mode supported will be 4K@60FPS and 4K@30 FPS respectively.

In order for Xbox Series X to work at its rated 4K @ 120 FPS max display mode, you will need a TV or a monitor that also has an HDMI 2.1 port.

But What About the HDMI Cables?

The same principle applies to HDMI cables.

While all HDMI cables may look the same, they differ tremendously in terms of how much bandwidth they can carry.

The following table shows the different HDMI cables and their versions.

HDMI Cable CertificationSupported SpecsIntended HDMI
Port Version
Standard1080P @ 60Hz1.0-1.3
High SpeedFHD @ 144Hz
QHD @ 60Hz
4K @ 30hz
Premium High SpeedFHD @ 240Hz
QHD @ 144Hz
4K @ 60Hz
Ultra High SpeedFHD @ > 240Hz
1440P @ > 240Hz
4K @ 144Hz (240Hz with DSC)
8K @ 120Hz (DSC)
10K @ 120Hz (DSC)

So like the ports, the cable of choice also matters.

While the cables are backward compatible with the ports, if you use an inferior cable with superior ports, the entire bandwidth will conform to that of the inferior cable.

In other words, if you have a monitor or a TV with an HDMI 2.1 port, and we know that Xbox Series X also has an HDMI 2.1 port, but if you were to connect these both with a Premium High-Speed HDMI Cable (aka HDMI 2.0), then you will NOT be able to achieve the rated 4K @ 120 FPS display mode.

Fortunately, though, Xbox Series X comes with an HDMI 2.1 Ultra High-Speed cable measuring around 1.5m (5 ft).

So Do You Really Need HDMI 2.1 for Xbox Series X?

No, you don’t absolutely need to have an HDMI 2.1 cable for Xbox Series X.

As mentioned earlier, you would need an HDMI 2.1 cable or port if you want to enjoy 4K @ 120 FPS gameplay mode.

If you have a 4K @ 60Hz or 1440 @ 120Hz monitor, then there is a high chance that it would only feature an HDMI 2.0 port.

In that case, the Premium High-Speed HDMI cable would do just fine.

Having an HDMI 2.1 cable or port would ONLY matter if the display is rated at 4K @ 120Hz.

VRR and ALLM Only Supported Over HDMI 2.1 Interface

If your monitor or TV does NOT conform to the HDMI 2.1 interface, it is not just the resolution and frame rate that would get affected, you would also lose out on some other goodies particularly the Variable Refresh Rates (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) features.

These two only work over an HDMI 2.1 interface.

Atif Qazi

Atif Qazi is the founder of and a huge gaming nerd. Thanks to the vast gaming experience under his belt, you can often find him writing detailed pieces of content on gaming hardware and console. But in all honesty, nothing gives him more pleasure than 'one-shotting' everyone as a stealth archer in ESO: Skyrim.

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