What Is the HDMI Alt Mode?

Tipe-C aluminum multiport adapter

About two years ago, a type of cable was released so people can already connect their ultrabooks, smartphones, and tablets to an external TV or monitor simply by using a USB port.

HDMI Licensing, the company that licenses and controls the HDMI specifications, launched the HDMI Alternate Mode, simply known to many as the Alt Mode. This enables any device that has a USB-C port to produce pictures to any HDMI display. There’s no need to use adapters or dongles, as long as the appropriate cable is being used.

Surprisingly, the company did not provide enough details on how this feature works. The cable itself doesn’t use any hardware to change the signals transmitted over the connectors. This means that this technology must encrypt the signal before routing it to the display.

It could be that the HDMI Alt Mode can be implemented in firmware; but, may also need further hardware to work.


What Does This Mean?

The development of the HDMI Alt Mode is expected to provide laptops and other mobile devices the choice of producing an HDMI video over a USB-C port, rather than using a different HDMI port.

This will save space and can make the process easy of setting up an HDMI display. This is useful as many devices continue to become thinner, and USB-C ports become more well-known.

The development of the Alt Mode signifies that manufacturers, when technologies are properly designed, can now provide a direct HDMI connection over a USB-C port with a single cable.


What is USB-C?

USB Type-C Cable zoom-in


Formally known as the USB Type-C, it is the industry-standard connector for routing both power and data. It was made by the USB Implementers Forum. This group was responsible for the development and certification of the USB standard. It has more than 700 members, including giant companies, such as Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, HP, and Dell.

The HDMI Alt Mode needs a wire that has an HDMI connector on one end and a USB-C connector on the other.

You will connect the USB-C end to the port on your laptop, phone, or tablet. Then, you will connect it to the HDMI end of your TV or monitor. And, just like that, you can already stream your screen from your laptop or phone to your TV.

The USB-C plug is symmetrical. This means that you can insert it either way, removing the frustrations of the old versions of USB.

Many USB-C ports are developed on the USB 3.1 data transfer standard. The 2nd generation protocol of USB 3.1 can apparently transmit data speeds of 10Gbps. This is twice as fast as the USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 1st gen, which can only transmit up to 5Gbps of data speed.


What Are the Features of the HDMI Alt Mode?

The Alt Mode can only support up to HDMI 1.4b. It does not include the standard HDMI 2.0. This signifies that people can enjoy some of the features of HDMI; however, they have to sacrifice some.

Here’s a brief summary of the Alt Mode’s features:

Aside from streaming basic video and audio, the recent USB-C to HDMI adapter doesn’t offer the benefits mentioned above. This is the reason why the HDMI Alt Mode is so pleasing – it gives you the confidence that everything will turn out the way you expect them to.

Simultaneously, due to the absence of support for the HDMI 2.0, some of the added features will not be available. For instance, the HDMI 2.0 enhances the frame rate of 4K videos from 30FPS to 60FPS. Also, it supports HDR (High Dynamic Range) video technology, which is one of the most useful television features to be released in recent years.


Can Existing Cables, TVs, and Phones be Used?

The existing device that you can use for this feature is the television. Your recent flat-screen TV is likely compatible with HDMI 1.x, which is certified to work with the new features.

However, not all smartphones will work with this innovation. Several mobile devices have built-in HDMI chips to enable the production of their displays to televisions. Unfortunately, not all tablets and phones have it. Also, the ones with the HDMI feature usually have mini-HDMI ports.

Contrarily, if your device comes with both an HDMI port and a USB-C port, then consider yourself lucky. All you need is a USB-C-to-HDMI cable.


Commonly Asked Questions

Is the cable an HDMI cable?

Yes, it’s still an HDMI cable. However, in this case, it will be referred to as the USB-C to HDMI cable. It will retain the current cable terms, such as the Standard HDMI Cable.

What products could use the HDMI Alt Mode?

HDMI port icon

Sources that can be HDMI-enabled and use the USB-C connectors will include smartphones, tablets, laptops, and PCs. These devices can then directly connect to any HDMI display, such as 4K and HD televisions, digital signages, PC monitors, and projectors.

What’s the most effective way to determine a device that supports HDMI Alt Mode over USB-C?

Typically, devices that support HDMI technology will have the HDMI logo on the device or box. Otherwise, you’ll have to communicate with the manufacturer or review their materials. This is to confirm if their products support the HDMI Alt Mode over USB-C.


The Bottom Line

So, what do all these mentioned have to do with regular users?

  1. The USB-C-to-HDMI cable will let people stream both video and audio from mobile devices, like laptops, tablets, and phones, directly to their televisions.
  2. Current televisions, those that were released at least in 2011 and beyond, should be compatible with this feature.
  3. Mobile devices with the USB-C feature will likely require an HDMI chip for them to be compatible with the Alt Mode.
  4. Because of this, we can expect that technologies that will still be released will already support the Alt Mode specification.


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