What is HDCP 2.2?

If it’s been a while since you’ve bought a new TV, home theater system or speakers, you might have a bit confused about the requirements for newer devices. An important thing to consider when building your home theater system is HDCP 2.2 compatibility.

It may seem like just another acronym to worry about. But, in this case, it matters a lot.

In this article, we’re going to explain what HDCP 2.2 is, and why it’s essential to making all the different components of your home theater system work together correctly.

You’ll also learn some of the issues and errors that can occur with the different versions of HDCP. You’ll also discover how to avoid some of the pitfalls many consumers run into when shopping for new gear. 


What is HDCP 2.2?

High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, or HDCP, is the current method of copy protection for devices and content.

Although the most recent version of HDCP (version 2.3) came out in 2018, manufacturers have been hesitant to move off the popular HDCP 2.2 standard. (pdf source)

In a nutshell, HDCP was created to combat the copying of Blu-ray and 4K UHD content, preventing pirating and illegal ownership of copyrighted movies and shows.

Although copy protection has been around for decades, it wasn’t until 2013 that devices began to offer more secure 4K HD Ultra protection with HDCP version 2.2.

Unfortunately, HDCP has caused more issues for regular consumers than it has for pirates.

We’ll cover some potential HDCP errors in a later section.


Why We Need HDCP 2.2

Let me clear:

Consumers don’t need HDCP. Content creators and manufacturers do, and unfortunately we’re along for the ride.

Copy protection goes way back to VHS tapes at the beginning of watching movies at home. HDCP is simply the latest implementation of it.

Although the implementation has changed with each version, HDCP uses a “digital handshake.”

This ensured that each device in your chain, from your TV to the receiver to the Blu-ray all had access to encryption keys needed to play a certain piece of content.

If any device in the chain did NOT have they correct encryption key, all you’d see is a black screen or digital snow.  

Like most copy-protection schemes, however, version 1.4 and 2.0 were quickly hacked, rendering their encryption obsolete. After each failure, Intel, one of the main companies behind HDCP encryption, upgraded the algorithm. This forced hardware manufacturers to keep pace, releasing newer TV’s, receivers, Blu-ray players and soundbars with the upgraded algorithm.

Each manufacturer needed to agree to the licensing agreement for HDCP, which had several requirements:

  • It cannot be compatible with non-HDCP HD receivers
  • The device has to “frustrate” attempts to bypass the protocol
  • Only CD-audio quality for non-HDCP outputs when playing Audio and DVD
  • It must not be designed to record content
  • It cannot send HD video that is protected to no-HDCP receivers

How Does HDCP 2.2 Work?

Just like the version before it, 2.2 initiates a ‘handshake’ by using a secure system There are three phases involved in the process of allowing a device to access the content.

The first is the authentication phase, which through authentication and key exchange, locality check, session key exchange, and authentication with the repeater, confirms an authorized receiver.

After a system is authorized, the data goes to be decrypted with the exchanged keys. If an authorized device contains suspicious activity, the third phase will then identify the device and stop the transmission through the HDCP.

In simple terms, the process is meant to ensure that any secure and authorized device that is compatible with version 2.2 of HDCP can receive content freely.

If at any point the protocol senses that the agreed-upon requirements become compromised, the connection is cut, making it hard for pirates to copy content.

In some cases, it also makes it harder on regular customers as well.


Common HDCP Errors

HDCP 2.0 and 2.1 had some additional problems early on.

One of the most common was an issue during the pairing process which caused the encryption and decryption processes not to match up. Occasionally, issues with the input parameters could allow someone to repeat the pairing protocol and extract the key, leaving it exposed.

Version 2.2 was developed to solve that issue.

However, the remedy to the problem meant that this new version could not be compatible with previous versions’ receivers. Unfortunately, many earlier 4K TVs don’t support HDCP 2.2, and needed a hardware upgrade to do so.

This caused a lot of consumer backlash when their new 4K TVs were suddenly incompatible with other devices.

Gamers may also notice lag due to the frequent key exchange and encoding/decoding of devices. Personally, I noticed this during screen recording and streaming gameplay.

If you plan to connect multiple devices at the same time, there have also been problems found with that. Several devices could cause the HDCP to create multiple keys that can sometimes struggle to establish a connection. 


Is My Device HDCP 2.2 Compatible?

If you’re not sure if your device’s HDMI inputs support HDCP 2.2, there are a few easy ways to find out. 

The best place to look is in your model’s owner’s guide or online specs. Occasionally, the HDMI inputs on your TV will have a label indicating support for the HDCP 2.2 protocol. In some instances, the label is on a box connected to the device via cable. 

There are three typical setups you will typically see when looking for the HDCP label:

  • Single HDMI input – You’ll usually see the label across the top of the input. 
  • Multiple inputs – You either see the label on each input or spread across all compatible inputs.
  • All are compatible – It may or may not be stated; consult the owner’s guide to ensure compatibility.

How to Shop for HDCP Compliant Devices

Because HDCP changes the way content is allowed to be shared through brands, there was bound to be compatibility issues.

Consumers now have to be careful about choosing which brand and model, making sure that it’s compatible with their current home theater system.

Here are a few tips to help you stay sane when searching for our next upgrade.

Always do your research and check the merchandise before buying to make sure it’s compatible with the HDCP version you need.

I recommend shopping at a dedicated electronics store, rather than a general “big-box” store like Walmart or Target. Their associates are usually more knowledgeable and will provide more accurate information.

Stick to major manufacturers when possible. HDCP certification is handled by a license agreement, which, unfortunately, makes it less cost-effective for smaller companies. Many choose to bypass HDCP certification, and save the additional cost.


The Verdict

When shopping for your next home theater upgrade, it’s critical to check that your devices are HDCP compatible, especially if you plan to view 4K content. If not, you could end up staring at a blank screen instead of seeing your favorite movie.

Although there are some potential setbacks to HDCP, it’s not much of a hassle if you do a little research before purchasing your devices.

Even though it’s not the latest version, the industry has settled on HDCP 2.2 as the standard. As long as all your devices are compatible, you’ll be able to enjoy 4K content for the foreseeable future.  


FAQs

Below are some of the most common questions other users have about HDCP 2.2:

What’s the difference between HDCP 2.0 vs. HDCP 2.2?

The earlier versions of HDCP were flawed, therefore leading to the creation of version 2.2. The main difference is that 2.2 is more secure against illegal activity. and 4k support. locality check

How do I know if my TV supports HDCP?

Check the input area of your TV for the HDCP 2.2 label. If you do not find it there, consult the owner’s manual or search the make and model of your TV.

Do you need HDCP 2.2 for 4K? 

It depends. it may come through in bits on some compatible devices. However, any fully 4K content must come through a device with HDCP 2.2.

Does HDCP 2.2 require a special HDMI cable?

No, it’s the hardware of the device that matters.

Does HDCP 2.2 support eARC?

Yes, HDCP 2.2 supports eARC.

Tim Wells

Tim Wells got his first computer at the age of ten and hasn't stopped tinkering ever since. After discovering Android TV boxes in 2013, he created a popular Android PC Review website and guided it to over 8 million pageviews before stepping away in 2018. After a brief hiatus from the industry he's back at the helm of AndroidTVNews.com to bring Android TV and TV boxes to the forefront of the streaming world. When he's not writing, he spends as much time as he can with his beautiful wife and his bulldog.

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