There’s a reason why High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cables and ports can work well with Ethernet cables and ports and vice-versa. They’re both high-bandwidth delivery formats that are compatible with each to the point that using Cat5/Cat6/Cat7 cables and HDMI to Ethernet conversion kits are so popular in extending the maximum usable length of an HDMI cable by hundreds of feet more. Ethernet cables have long ago been used for extending HDMI connections, so using HDMI with Ethernet isn’t that big of a leap of the imagination.
With that in mind, here’s the deal with the topic of “Just what is HDMI with ethernet and how to use HDMI cable with ethernet?” It has something to do with the HDMI 1.4 standard update. With HDMI 1.4, users are able to use HDMI with Ethernet. It’s one of the many special features available with that update, allowing for simplified network management.
What Is HDMI with Ethernet?
HDMI 1.4 cables have Ethernet functionality in them, which promises to remove the need for extra cables in order to deliver a home theater experience that’s interactive and high-quality to many a user out there. To wit:
- IP-Based Devices Running on an HDMI Cable: You don’t need converters, adapters, extractors, or splitters in order to have your HDMI connection and cable work with network data delivery from IP-based devices. It’s all thanks to the HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC) that has been included to all HDMI 1.4 hardware and ports. This has resulted in a number of Ethernet and computer linkage benefits that deserve closer inspection when push comes to shove. Ethernet-based HDMI connectivity truly is a match made in heaven.
- Availability of The HDMI Ethernet Channel: This HDMI functionality is available with both the standard cable with Ethernet and high-speed cable with Ethernet. The so-called Ethernet channel for HDMI opens a door of new opportunities when it comes to networking with your home entertainment system. The Worldwide Web is now at your fingertips as far as net-based streaming of a multitude of content that rivals any DVD or BD library as well as any videotape rental store from the 1980s to 2000s.
- What Does the HEC Do? Home entertainment devices tend to have a dedicated port for a standalone Ethernet cable connection, which allows them to network with other IP-based devices along with modems and routers that offer online accessibility. The HEC introduced by HDMI 1.4 and remains in use in the latest HDMI versions simply fuses the benefits of an ordinary Ethernet cable into an HDMI cable. In turn, data streams that were once handled only by Ethernet cables can now be included with the single, solitary HDMI cable.
- Cable Consolidation: Cable consolidation is the biggest benefit of the HDMI Ethernet Channel. With it, an HDMI cable can work with your Ethernet cable the same way it combined audio and video signals together. You no longer have to use separate cables for Ethernet connections and HDMI signals for your AV devices. Your home theater can use the same cable for everything. Your home theater only needs one Ethernet-enabled HDMI cable linked to a receiver or TV.
How to Use HDMI Cable with Ethernet
The HDMI 1.4 format’s HDMI Ethernet Channel and its unique cabling requirements essentially combine the features of the Ethernet cable into an HDMI cable, making it a 2-in-1 kind of deal in Ethernet connectivity with HDMI audio-visual transmissions. It incorporates into a single HDMI cable data streams that used to be handled by a separate cable.
- How Is High-Speed Data Transmission Possible with HDMI Cables? HDMI cables have a connection with 19 pins. Many of the wires connecting these spins are twisted together into a double helix and shielded with a third pin. This creates what’s called a “shielded twisted pair”. Meanwhile, the high-speed signals within this cable type—Red, Blue, Green, and Clock—are individually built in such a way inside the cable, with three pins on each one. It’s this setup allows it to transmit gigabits of data per second.
- The HDMI with Ethernet Cable Difference: A special cable is used with HEC known as the HDMI with Ethernet cable. With it, the two pins that are typical of the straight-through variety are also twisted together then shielded with a third pin. This is why HDMI with Ethernet cables cost a slightly small amount more than the old HDMI cable standard. This is also the reason why most modern cables include Ethernet connectivity. It has become the new standard of transmission.
- How Ethernet Networking Works with HDMI: The HDMI link makes use of the dedicated data channel known as the HEC in order to acquire bi-directional or two-way networking with speeds of up to 100 megabytes per second (Mbps). This gives the user a reliable and fast method by which IP-based devices could communicate together in a signal network, just like in WAN or wide area networks, MAN or metropolitan area networks, and (most famously) LAN or local area networks.
- Home Entertainment System Networking: HDMI cables with Ethernet can carry data transmission from the main source to other IP-based home entertainment devices. You can get to enjoy this sort of AV and online setup without losing anything incapacity or quality. That is the essence of home entertainment system networking. It allows your devices to share or pool their resources while at the same time maintaining a consistent online connection for all their video streaming, podcasting, online gaming, and web surfing needs.
- A Shared Internet Connection and Home Theater Network: Not only does the Ethernet-enabled HDMI running on HDMI 1.4 and above hardware capable of allowing multiple devices to share an Internet connection together instead of having them individually link up to a modem or Wi-Fi router. These cables and their HDMI ports have also simplified connecting these HDMI-enabled devices to one another as an alternative to High-Definition Multimedia Interface—Consumer Electronics Control (HDMI-CEC).
- Sharing Digital Content in HDMI Made Easy: Usually, you need something like a matrix switcher or a wireless AV receiver kit in order to make your collection of HDMI-enabled devices to act like computers linked to each other via LAN and Ethernet cables. Thanks to HDMI 1.4 cables and their Ethernet channel, your interlinked devices can now share their digital content natively along with your Internet. They can share settings and other files, like the ability to backup your PS4 memory card, saves unto your PC and the like.
- Encryption Is Unaffected by The HEC: This feature doesn’t change unencrypted or encrypted data in any way. It’s strictly about sharing and accessing data through the channel. If copyrighted content from the satellite box or the DVD/BD player comes with HDCP encryption, it will remain encrypted when accessed by devices that are HDCP compliant. It will also not alter the integrity of unprotected content lacking of programmed content protection. This network sharing won’t compromise any device’s data.
- Requirements for Using The HEC: Only IP-based devices with HEC functionality can reap the benefits of such a feature. Most of the things provided with HDMI 1.4 are unavailable for legacy systems and devices using older standards. Such systems require a completely new HDMI processing chip based on HDMI 1.4 and later, all the way up to HDMI 2.1. All the same, cables for HDMI 1.4 and so forth remain backward compatible with these legacy systems sans the HDMI with Ethernet connectivity feature.
- Look for Ports and Cables with HEC Support: Ports for HDMI 1.4 should have the HDMI Ethernet Channel included by default. Check the label for the ports, since they usually have the letters “HEC” emblazoned on them. Otherwise, check if they’re HDMI version 1.4 and above. Check the owner’s manual of your IP-based device with HDMI connectivity for more information on its HDMI Ethernet Channel support (or lack thereof if it instead uses the HDMI 1.3 chipset and below). HDMI cables compatible with HDMI 1.4 will also clearly state whether they offer HEC support or not.
- The HEC and The ARC: IP-based devices with the HEC feature aren’t exactly ubiquitous since most users mainly use HDMI for AV connection purposes rather than WAN, MAN, and LAN purposes. However, HDMI with Ethernet cables remains commonplace for up to HDMI 2.1 because the signal pin used for HEC is also used for the HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) feature. In turn, HDMI-ARC is needed for home entertainment centers looking to improve the operation of AVRs and soundbars by leaps and bounds.
Nowadays, the only use for Ethernet cables in an HDMI system is for transmission extension for faraway areas like in buildings or a whole condominium unit with one shared HDMI satellite or cable box. A typical HDMI cable couldn’t reach beyond 25 feet for 1080p streams or longer for low-resolution streams. The reason why Ethernet is now mostly used as an extension is that the HDMI Ethernet Channel has consolidated cables into just HDMI cables alone for any home theater.
This has all been made possible thanks to the HEC that became a reality way back in HDMI 1.4 and continues to be a potential benefit to later versions of HDMI and their cumulative evolution of 4K and 8K excellence. One Ethernet-enabled cable is all it takes to add networking connectivity to your home entertainment system package as well as ARC connectivity to improve your sound system quality to boot.