The frantic race to the latest version

car radio
Your Bluetooth-enabled devices, now the standard for connecting to everything from cars to TVs, “may not be performing at their best” writes Jordan News columnist Jean-Claude Elias. (Photo: NYTimes)
If you think that you are up to date with technology and trendy simply because you use Bluetooth, HDMI cables, and other similar, fashionable tech goodies, think twice. Unless you happen to have the latest version, or at least a reasonably recent one, these devices, cables, software apps, and tools, may not be performing at their best. What really hurts is that the difference between versions, in terms of convenience, performance, and functionality, may be huge.اضافة اعلان

Bluetooth is an amazing invention. From letting you connect to your car audio system to make calls, to connecting headphones, or streaming your phone or laptop’s audio-visual content to your smart TV — all of that wirelessly of course — the scope of application is wide and most of us have become accustomed to it. Who does not use Bluetooth at least once a day?  

There are; however, significant differences between Bluetooth version 4, which goes back to 2010 and is the most commonly found, and the very latest version 5 (2016). In between you find versions 4.1 and 4.2.

The obvious differences involve speed of transmission and coverage range. These have been increased tenfold — not a minor improvement. Just as important to the user, if not more, are functionalities like better two-way communication, indication of the battery level of a connected device, the ability to connect multiple devices, (especially speakers), an acknowledgement of the connected device name, brand, and model, the ability to remember past devices and their settings, and so forth.

If smartphones are the devices that get updated with the newer versions of Bluetooth faster than other devices, then other, usually more expensive equipment, move slowly towards new versions. Cars, smart TV sets, and audio amplifiers for example, are often a little behind. Your new phone may support Bluetooth 5 but not your not-so-old car that could still be on Bluetooth 4. Understandably, you would get yourself a new smartphone more often than a new car. At least this applies to most common mortals!

As is always the case with technology, to make full use of the latest version of Bluetooth, both connected devices must have the same version; it is the time-honored principle of compatibility. If your car audio is still on Bluetooth 4 and your smartphone has Bluetooth 5, Bluetooth 4 functionality is what you will get.

An example of a problem that users encounter: when connecting a pair of Bluetooth 4 headphones to a smart TV also fitted with Bluetooth 4 to listen to the audio track while simultaneously watching a program on the screen, you will probably experience a lack of synchronization between the sound and the image. You will see the lips on the screen moving slightly before you hear the words through the headphones. Solve the problem by moving to Bluetooth 5 equipped headphones and TV and enjoy perfect sync.   

It is a painful and expensive operation to keep racing to be sure you have the latest version for all your devices. Most of us are unable to keep up with the trend 100 percent. We just settle for a compromise.

HDMI cables, now the most widely used standard to interconnect digital devices for sound and image, are following down the same path. Whereas the standard version 2 and its sub-versions, which date back to 2013-2016, are still commonly found, HDMI 2.1 cables ensure proper transmission of 4K images, can manage repeated connections and disconnection in a smarter way, and ensure better latency, which is the time required for signals to synchronize. It is expressed in milliseconds; the lower the better.

HDMI 2.1 cables have been around for three years already but strangely are not found in all retail shops in Amman. And yet, they matter a lot, not only to watch 4K movies, but also to enjoy quality high-definition computer screen images when you connect your laptop to a large TV, something that most people do these days for work and meeting remotely. Small font text and Excel sheets, in particular, become sharper and easier to read when using HDMI 2.1.

Contrary to Bluetooth, where buying newer equipment may be expensive, getting an HDMI 2.1 cable is not, for all you have is to buy, well … cables.

Keeping up is a frantic race that hardly lets you catch your breath.

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