If you've finally got your hands on that Xbox Series X|S that you've had your eye on, you may be wondering if the Xbox Series X|S needs HDMI 2.1. There's a lot to unpack. Do you need Xbox Series X HDMI 2.1 to run the console? Will it work with an older television? What are the benefits of 2.1 over 2.0? We'll cover the essential points, so you can decide where you need to put your money, to get the best from your gaming experience.
Does Xbox Series X|S Need HDMI 2.1?
Let's clear this up straight away. HDMI 2.1 isn't essential to play the Xbox Series X|S. It will work with an older HDMI cable. However, it is HDMI 2.1 which gives you access to all the features of the new generation of consoles. This includes many of the most celebrated features. Things like 4K at 120fps (and even 8K at 60fps).
You can though, use an HDMI 2.0 cable and your Xbox will work just fine. In fact, The Series S comes with an HDMI 2.0 cable in the box, rather than the HDMI 2.1 which comes with the Series X. Microsoft are practically screaming that HDMI 2.0 is fine. It will just limit you to 60fps at 4K.
Even if your television doesn't support HDMI 2.1, both consoles will still work. You'll just be restricted to whatever the HDMI port is capable of on your television. So for instance, you could plug an HDMI 2.1 cable into an HDMI 1.6 television, but you'll only get the HDMI 1.6 feature set.
HDMI 2.0 vs Xbox Series X HDMI 2.1
The main differences come down to the amount of data the cables are capable of transmitting. HDMI 2.1 can transmit data at 48Gbps, while HDMI 2.0 manages 18Gbps. This, therefore, allows HDMI 2.1 to produce higher quality audio and video.
Whether it makes a significant difference will depend on you as an individual. Some people will notice the differences in frame rate more than others. HDMI can support 4K at 120fps, while HDMI 2.0 can only offer 4K at 60fps. For many people, this won't matter.
HDMI 2.1 can also support 8K at 60fps. While this is great in principle, at the moment there are very few 8K televisions. Those that do exist will be very expensive. And the reality is that 8K gaming is still a ways off at this point.
Should I Upgrade My Television?
So the next question is whether or not you should upgrade your television. This is obviously a very personal decision. But as a general principle, if you already have a 4K television with an HDMI 2.0 connection, the benefits you will see from upgrading will be relatively small. On the other hand, if you still have a 1080p television or worse, then upgrading to a new television will be an enormous jump in picture quality. In that situation, an upgrade may well be worth it.