HDCP 2.2 copy protection and 4K Ultra HD TV
What you need to know if you're buying a TV, home theater receiver, or sound bar
Steve Kindig has been an electronics enthusiast for over 30 years. He has written extensively about home and car A/V gear for Crutchfield since 1985. Steve is also a volunteer DJ at community radio station WTJU, where he is a regular host of the American folk show "Atlantic Weekly," as well as the world music program "Radio Tropicale."
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Nearly all 2014 and later 4K TVs from the major brands feature at least one HDMI input that is HDCP 2.2-compliant, to connect to 4K video sources like Ultra HD Blu-ray players.
In a Nutshell
HDCP 2.2 is a technology designed to prevent illegal copying of 4K Ultra HD content.
Every link in your video chain must support HDCP 2.2 — your TV, video source, and any component the video signal passes through. If one does not, you won't see a 4K picture.
HDMI 2.0 is also required for TVs and components to be able to pass 4K video. But you can't assume that every device that has HDMI 2.0 will also support HDCP 2.2.
See our growing selection of receivers that support HDCP 2.2. There are also several 4K-compatible sound bars that support HDCP 2.2. Nearly all name-brand 2014 and newer 4K TVs have at least one HDMI input that’s compatible with HDCP 2.2.
If you're in the market for a 4K Ultra High Definition TV, you may have run across references to "HDCP 2.2." Devices that support HDCP 2.2 are more likely to be compatible with current and future 4K content, so it's worth taking a few minutes to understand it.
HDCP stands for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, a copy prevention technology that’s been used on HDMI connections for over ten years. Version 2.2 is the latest, designed specifically to prevent illegal copying of 4K Ultra HD content. Like earlier versions, HDCP 2.2 creates a secure connection between a source and display via a “digital handshake.”
Lots of 4K TVs and 4K media players have been sold since the first models arrived in mid-2013, and many of those products — especially from 2013 — lack support for HDCP 2.2. Worse, these products cannot be upgraded because HDCP 2.2 requires a “hardware” update — it’s not fixable with a firmware update.
With the popularity of 4K TVs, you'll be seeing loads of new 4K source components in the next few years: 4K Blu-ray players and media players for sure, and eventually, 4K-capable satellite and cable TV receivers, too. Every one of those components will have HDCP 2.2 copy prevention. If you attempt to connect one of them to a 4K TV that doesn’t support HDCP 2.2, you won’t see a 4K picture. That's the sad truth whether the content is streamed or downloaded from the web, or played from a disc.
No weak links allowed in the signal chain
The HDCP 2.2 issue doesn’t just apply to Ultra High Definition TVs and video sources — it affects any other components in the signal chain. If you run your HDMI connection through a home theater receiver or sound bar, it’ll need to be HDCP 2.2 compliant, as well. Any device in the chain that prevents the HDCP digital handshake from happening will prevent you from seeing a 4K image.
HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0
When you read about 4K TVs, you’ll often see references to both HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0, which can be a little confusing. HDMI 2.0 is also required for TVs and components to be able to pass 4K video. The big difference is that HDMI 2.0 is backward-compatible with previous HDMI versions, while HDCP 2.2 is not backward-compatible when it comes to 4K video. That means you can connect older sources, like a regular Blu-ray player or cable box to a new 4K TV and enjoy an HD picture. But if a 4K TV senses a 4K video source, it's going to look for the HDCP authentication in order to complete the digital handshake. If it doesn't see it, no 4K picture.
Tips to help you avoid nasty surprises
HDCP 2.2 is all about protecting 4K Ultra HD content. If you’re perfectly happy with the 1080p picture you’re getting from your current HDTV and Blu-ray player, and have no plans to upgrade to 4K, there’s no reason to be concerned about HDCP 2.2 right now.
Play it safe and stick with name-brand TVs and components
If you are shopping for a 4K TV, you should definitely look for HDCP 2.2 compatibility. Nearly all name-brand 2014 and newer 4K TVs have at least one HDMI input that’s compatible with HDCP 2.2. We have confirmed it on the 2014 and 2015 Samsung, Sony, and LG 4K models that we carry. On the other hand, some non-name-brand 4K TVs carried by Wal-Mart and warehouse clubs do not support HDCP 2.2.
If you plan to complement your new 4K TV by also upgrading your A/V receiver or sound bar, you'll want to check to see if their inputs/outputs are HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 enabled.
Samsung's UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player has two HDMI outputs. The “main” output is HDCP 2.2-compliant, so you can enjoy a 4K picture with your compatible Ultra HD TV. Connect the audio output to your non-2.2 receiver or sound bar for clean, clear sound.
One clever workaround is to choose a 4K video source with dual HDMI outputs, which makes it possible for the video signal to bypass the receiver. Samsung's UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player has this feature (see photo, above). We're hoping that all UHD Blu-ray players will offer dual HDMI outs, for maximum compatibility with connected equipment.
The transition to Ultra High Definition will certainly frustrate some early adopters who, at some point, won’t be able to watch some types of 4K content on their non-HDCP-2.2-capable TVs. But overall, the widespread adoption of HDCP 2.2 should help the entire 4K ecosystem grow and thrive by making Hollywood studios and other content providers feel confident about making more premium 4K material available.