HDMI has been touted as one of the best things to happen to the digital entertainment center. The ability to carry video and audio over a high bandwidth cable means less clutter and higher quality. The pace at which these things develop though can be a dizzying prospect, and with the addition of the HDMI 1.4 spec… it seems we add one more bit of confusion… or clarity, depending on if you read far enough through this article to get to the 4K section!
HDMI 1.4 introduces a slurry of new features, one of which is an integrated Ethernet channel. The integrated Ethernet channel allows high speed internet sharing / networking of your home theater devices through your HDMI cable bidirectionally at 100 Mb/s. This eliminates the need for a separate Ethernet port and cable required for enhanced devices.
The new specification also allows for an audio return channel which allows a television to send audio upstream to a receiver. This means that audio sources from your television can be sent right back to the receiver eliminating the need for another cable.
If your TV is accepting the source for audio either by way of a built in TV tuner or some other means, you would typically have to send a cable back to the receiver through SPDIF or COAX, with bidirectional audio by means of the return channel, all this can be accomplished by the single HDMI cable eliminating wire clutter and cable confusion.