As HDMI progresses into the 2.0 specification, balun technology—the extending of HDMI beyond its normal limits through the use of Cat5e/6 cables—has run into some snags. For one, the current crop of HDMI Baluns aren’t exactly up to spec when it comes to HDMI 2.0. The chips and technology simply don’t support the bandwidths introduced with HDMI 2.0. That means that if you want to run 4K at up to 4:4:4 resolution, you’re pretty much out of luck. The chips for HDMI 2.0 balun technology aren’t yet on the market and existing technology isn’t equipped to handle the latest needs and requirements of sending these big bandwidth signals over Cat5e and Cat6.
When you get into an HDMI extension device or balun, not a lot of units deal with anything over 10.2 Gbps (HDMI 1.3 and 1.4). That means they can handle just about anything pre-HDMI 2.0, but until the new silicon comes out for them, Cat 5e extension baluns are more than likely to fail with 4K/60 above 4:2:0 color.
HDMI 2.0 Balun Technology
HDCP 2.2 (high definition copy protection version 2.2) is specifically made for 4K, and all HDMI Revision 2.0 product will have 2.2, but older chips don’t support it. That means that when a Revision 2.0 (HDMI 2.0) product is use, you’ll want to make sure all of the electronics in the chain will also carry the same Revision 2.0 spec (and thus HDCP 2.2). The HDMI cable actually won’t affect this whatsoever beyond its ability to transfer the required bandwidth. What will happen, however, is that you could get into a situation whereby you get new HDCP 2.2-protected content playing back on HDMI 2.0 hardware, and it won’t play back on your system because something in your electronics chain (perhaps your display) isn’t up to date with HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0.
If you’re looking to use an HDMI balun in the near future, we recommend waiting for the new HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 chipsets to come to market so that you’ll be compatible with the newest 4K content, increased bandwidth, and copy protection. Unless you hold out, that balun you use now will almost certainly be obsolete in the next year. These should begin hitting the scene as early as Q1 of 2014, but be sure to check the specifications—and pay particular attention to two things: bandwidth (you want at least 11.1 Gbps) and HDCP 2.2 support. If you have those you’ll be in pretty good shape when running your HDMI cables over longer distances.