Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: San Leandro, CA, USA
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OK, now I understand.
Yes, HDMI 2.1 will be an incremental list of new features. Any HDMI device can choose to implement any new features, or not. Because of this, HDMI shys away from calling devices by version number, and instead want manufacturers to use the actual feature names. Like "HDMI 3D" or "DeepColor" or 18 GBit/s.
So, yes, there will be devices that can, and will, implement some of the new features specified in HDMI 2.1, on existing hardware, with just a firmware upgrade. These devices would technically be "HDMI 2.1" devices, even though you are not supposed to call them that.
I think we'll likely see stuff like 2160p120 4:2:0 on 18 Gbit/s hardware (if that turns out to be a mode now allowed), or some other of the new CTA-861-G video timings that fall within the realm of the possible.
It will be less likely to see advanced features, like 48 Gbit/s, Dynamic HDR, or eARC, on existing hardware, imo.