Blinking HDMI

IMG_20160109_112334275Does your HDMI-fed TV go black for a second or two and then come back on?

If so, you may have what I’m calling HDMI Blink.

Ending a multi-year, on-and-off quest, I think I understand the cause and, with it, I’ve found and verified a solution for, at least, the equipment I have. Sadly, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

But before we dig into one possible solution, let me characterize the problem a little more because not all our TV watching suffers from the problem. In fact, only one specific combination of equipment and mode-of-use with that equipment does it.

Here’s the low-down on my hook-ups and when it does, and does not, fail.

First, our TV set up includes service from DirecTv with many of their HD as well as normal channels — I record a lot of old movies on the TCM channel while my wife records a lot of HD from Fox News — and a DirecTv-branded DVR, a Samsung TV connected to the DVR via a 6′ HDMI cable, and a Toshiba DVD player, also connected by 6′ HDMI to the TV via its HDMI-2 connector.

Here’s an important observation: It only blinks when we’re watching a DVR’d show recorded earlier from one of the DirecTv channels. DVDs from the player are fine. And “live” watching of DirecTv programming is fine, too.

Only the DVR-recorded shows blink.

Sometimes, the blinking is no more than once or twice per movie. Other times it is much, much worse, and it seems to come in waves every few seconds, over and over again. In those cases, the show simply becomes unwatchable. We have noticed that if we “STOP” the playback, take a bathroom break and then “PLAY” from the interrupted point, the blink seems to go away for a little while.

But it will eventually come back.

So the problem, at least in our household, seems to be between the DVR and TV, and only when playing back a recorded program.

Let’s look at what I think is the cause of the blink.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is supposed to be an industry-wide standard for devices like televisions, DVRs (Digital Video Recorders), DVDs (Digital Video Discs) and so forth. Manufacturers who build equipment and adhere to the standard are supposed to be able to interconnect with equipment from other manufacturers who have done the same.

But here’s a hint: That standard, at the time of this writing, has 14 different versions. They were released over time to add capabilities and, occasionally firm up requirements.

It’s that latter part where they “occasionally firm up requirements” that is, in my opinion, the source of the problem.

While none of the manufacturers who’ve paid to join the HDMI consortium has said it, it appears that compatibility of devices from different manufacturers may be the source of the HDMI blink, and those issues exist because the standard, all standards in fact, always seem to have some wiggle room. And occasionally, they’ll have more than they should which can cause problems. When that happens, standards firm things up in later versions to fix what has turned out to be a compatibility defect.

A Google search for “HDMI blink” will turn up dozens of discussions and, reading through them, you’ll find many suggested solutions which, when filtered for credibility, boil down to a relatively number of small answers. They include:

  1. Buy a better quality HDMI cable,
  2. Turn the power cord over (reverse the wires),
  3. Make sure all the equipment is powered by the same circuit,
  4. Power the equipment on different circuits,
  5. Pull the power cord, count to five and then plug it back in,
  6. Unplug the TV, press and hold its manual power on/off button (on the back) for 60 seconds and then try again,
  7. Unplug the DVR, wait 30 seconds and then plug it back in,
  8. Make sure the HDMI cable is well away from any power cords or other signal cables,
  9. Make sure the HDMI connector is clean,
  10. And finally, there were many conversations where things just kind of petered out without ever being resolved — in those cases, people just gave up.

I’ve spent many dollars trying alternative (and expensive) HDMI cables. While the quality of the cable may make a difference — the prevalence of the blink may be less often with better cabling — it never went away completely.

I did all the variants of power connections and cable routes.

I made a lot of effort with #9. The HDMI cable contains nineteen (19) signal wires plus the outer shell which I presume provides a shield or 20th wire through the cable. That’s a lot. If some of those 20 connections are intermittent, all sorts of problems could result. But this is rarely a problem because most everyone’s cable just sits there and either those wires are connected or they’re not. They don’t jiggle around by themselves. While some action might occur from heating and cooling effects, those problems would last more than a second or two. The bottom line is that the blink is probably not caused by intermittent signals (unless you’re bouncing down the highway in a pickup truck).

A few days ago, I gave up. I bought a “component” — R, G, B video, with Left and Right audio — 5 shielded pair cable and connected DVR to TV with it, and told the TV to display the “component” input.

No blink!

I left the HDMI cable connected also and, after watching several DVR’d movies through the component connection, I found that if I switch back to the HDMI cable, it eventually blinks (after several hours) but if I then switch to the component connection again, it doesn’t. I can go back and forth between the two, backing up the video and re-playing a 15 second chunk and HDMI blinks, while “component” doesn’t, both showing the same 15 second chunk of recording.

Not once via the component connection.

To summarize, then, the problem is in the HDMI connection. I’ve seen this with two different televisions. Both of those TVs were from Samsung — possibly they have a multi-model compatibility problem?

But I’m guessing the blink is due to one or more flaws in the standard itself. Whether it’s an incompatibility of different versions of the standard or a laxity of technical requirements across the board, the only solution I’ve found that works is to stop using the HDMI connection.

I’ll repeat that: the solution, at least for my configuration, seems to be to simply abandon HDMI.

A more expensive cable doesn’t gonna fix it. Re-routing the cables, unplugging and re-plugging the equipment, pausing to make a bowl of popcorn and then resuming, … none of these fix the blink.

The blink is intermittent enough that you may think you’ve fixed it but, days or weeks later, it’ll come back.

I conclude that HDMI is broken.

If possible, simply don’t use it.

My equipment allowed me to switch to the “component” connection and the blink is gone.

While HDMI has some very nice features and adds a lot of flexibility, when Laura first appears in Dr. Zhivago but the screen then blacks out (and the audio stops, too) for several seconds, then starts flashing on only to blink out again over and over for 30 seconds — Aargh! — I’ll gladly give up flexibility just to see her face.

HDMI – Hype-filled, Drop-out prone Maddening Interface.

Forget it!


Six Month Update

I’ve had no blinks using the component connection for six months. Not one.

IMHO, If your TV blinks, HDMI is definitely the culprit.

I think it’s a problem with the standard itself stemming from different interpretations and/or compatibility issues across multiple vendors. The bottom line is you can’t fix it.

Banish the blink: Don’t use HDMI. If your configuration allows it, use the component connection as I did. If not, then the culprit is likely an incompatibility in the HDMI implementation between two manufacturers. Short of updates from one or both, you may be stuck. If possible, return one or both and try different combinations of equipment. But sadly, I’ve gone several months with no blinking only to have some long set of odds suddenly rear its ugly head and the blink will hit big time.

The only permanent, guaranteed solution seems to be to avoid HDMI.

(This article was edited on 15 May, 2017.)

33 thoughts on “Blinking HDMI

  1. Thanks Ed. While I don’t currently see this issue, I am the “go to guy” for a lot of my local friends and their technology issues and needs. So this will be kept in my “vault of technology wonders.”

  2. My 55″ Toshiba smart tv was doing this over this past weekend, every 2 seconds it would black out for about a half to one second. I picked up a new dvr from charter today. Same thing after about a half hour of being on. I changed to the HDMI 2 output, and it has been working fine for about 5 hours now.

    • Mine would sometimes go for many days without blinking but, ultimately, it would return. It stopped only when I stopped using HDMI.

      I’m convinced the problem is how manufacturers implement the standard (HDMI Specification) in each of their products.

  3. I am experiencing the same blinks when I connect my HDTV cable to play games on my LG TV. It first plays on well for the first 3-5 minutes then eventually it starts blinking. When Ii disconnect and reconnect the cable,it will work for for a few minutes. I think there is a big issue here that the makers of HDMI cables have fix.

  4. When I connect my laptop by HDMI, my Samsung Smart TV blinks each ten or fifteen minutes.
    I called to the Samsung support and they changed the mainboard, however the issue is still.

  5. I use a firestick and have for months with no issues and all of a sudden I started getting the blink. It is a Samsung television. Frustrating because there is no component option for the firestick

    • Have you found a solution? I have 2 firesticks for 2 years, both purchased at the same time. Recently, one started the blinking every 2 seconds on 2 different Samsung TVs. The other one still works fine. Any solution?

  6. Congratulations on solving this annoying problem, man.
    I’m having the same issue but in my case I have a PC and a monitor connected by HDMI.
    And you know what, my case is even worse – it blinks for a second (or maybe even less) so you can see your stuff on the screen and then screen turns black right away. It remains black for 2 seconds and then blinks again. And so on, over and over and over. So I basically can’t use my PC at all.
    HDMI really is broken. Buying a DVI-DVI cable tommorow, I hope the problem will go away.
    Thanks for the read once more, you’re a real hero.

  7. Thanks for the interesting article!
    My laptop has only an HDMI output, and I’m having this very problem connecting it to my digital TV screen. The TV has a range of different inputs however – would buying a converter, and converting HDMI to something else (USB, SDI, 3 RCA), fix this problem? What do you think?

    On a related note, if HDMI requires this ‘handshake’ thing, how can you even use a converter and plug it into a different input (eg. VGA, Mini Display Port etc.)? I mean, wouldn’t this make the ‘handshake’ impossible?

    Thanks!

    • There are quite a few “HDMI to Component” converters at Amazon — if your TV has Component input and you can buy the converter locally (not via AMAZON) but then later return it (if this doesn’t work), that’s what I’d try.
      Good luck!

    • I have the exact same problem – laptop with only HDMI output, and the monitor is a Samsung monitor (seems to be a recurring theme here…), which has VGA and HDMI inputs. The problem persists even when connecting a VGA cable to a VGA_HDMI adapter and connecting that to the screen.
      I know the adapter isn’t the issue, because it works with other laptops.

  8. Hi. I have the same issue. I would say this is a problem with the Full HD stream as the TV’s processor is not able to convert so much data (perhaps it is faulty). When you use Component, the flow is much less and TV’s processor (or HDMI unit) is able to service it. You just reduce video quality thus you do not use your Full HD TV as a Full HD.

  9. Our house has 2 Amazon Firesticks, which worked fine for a couple years. Recently, one of the sticks started the blinking every 2 seconds. Even when using it in 2 different TVs, the problem is the same. However, the other Firestick works fine. So, I am assuming that the problem may be in the stick, itself. Although, I suspect that the problem is somehow related to the HDMI.

  10. I too had to battle with this annoying HDMI blink issue with my Windows 7 HTPC connected to a HDTV. At first, my TV blinked when I am displaying the Windows desktop but is not blinking when playing movies using Kodi. But lately the blinking is more frequent and also happened when playing my videos which makes my HTPC setup basically not usable. My setup is the following.

    1) ASRock Q1900-ITX with pre-installed Intel J1900 processor using integrated HDMI output configured as 1080p 60Hz with latest Intel HD Graphics driver;

    2) Good quality HDMI cable (tried many ones with no difference);

    3) Sharp Aquos LCD TV Model LC-40E67UN with latest (but quite dated) driver (no newer one was released by Sharp) on HDMI Port 6 (Tried different HDMI ports with the same blinking problem).

    Today I resolved my issue by plugging a cheap HDMI 5-to-1 switch between my HTPC and my TV. I bought this a while on Aliexpress.com (you are able to find a similar one on Amazon). You should able to find by searching for 5 to 1 HDMI switch. The one I use, is actually the cheapest model. I do not even have to plug it to a 5V power supply. So you only need a HDMI cable and this HDMI switch. I am using this setup for a few hours and from blinking every few minutes to none!

    Not sure this will resolve all the issues that we all are encountering. Hope this may help some of you.

    I posted the links for the switch but not sure if this is working or not.

    https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?catId=0&initiative_id=SB_20170611075106&isPremium=y&SearchText=hdmi+5+input+to+1+switch+remote+control

    https://www.aliexpress.com/item/3-Input-to-1-Out-HDMI-Switcher-Switch-Matrix-HDMI-Splitter-Hub-Box-With-IR-Remote/32712912716.html?spm=2114.01020208.3.11.343nsz&btsid=b312f232-7e3e-4e9b-a4e2-134dac55c37c&algo_expid=b784cfe9-9054-4b02-a9e5-88d37a41ff30-1&algo_pvid=b784cfe9-9054-4b02-a9e5-88d37a41ff30

  11. Hope you have suggestion. Have 3 Samsung TVs, accessing one directv receiver with NextGen Remote Extender. This works fine for my husband and me, except I watch HGTV at night before I go to sleep and this one channel blinks off and on for a second many times while trying to watch. None of the other channels do this.

    • On my equipment, I would only see the “blink” with one source, the DirecTV DVR (recorder). My blue-ray player was fine; never blinked. And even with the DirecTV DVR, the blink was intermittent. It might go weeks or months before showing up. My guess is, if you watch *enough* other channels, you’ll eventually see the blink on them too. The blink has to do with the two pieces of equipment that are communicating through HDMI. Unfortunately, the only solution I found is to not use HDMI between those two pieces of equipment. I’ve tried dozens of solutions as listed in the main article but, eventually, they all blinked when connected by HDMI. In my set-up, I connect the DirecTV DVR to the television by the Component Video cables. Everything else uses HDMI. With that, I haven’t seen any blinking for a very, very long time. Hope you find a solution that works for you!

  12. Think I have some progress on this
    My setup

    Laptop Dell Studio1555 Windows 7 Ultimate
    CPU :Intel Core 2 Duo
    Ram:3 GB DDR2
    HDD:500GB
    Graphics: ATI Radeon HD4570 -215mb on board
    I was facing same HDMI blink issue on Samsung LED .

    What I did is extended my display to tv and lowered down the display settings on tv to 1024×768 color quality to 16 bit. seems working for now :D will update …

    • think the issue is being caused by the Graphics card as it needs reballing time and again. The HDMI works with other devices like different laptops Chromecast etc.

  13. I had a problem just yesterday with a Directv H10 box that I use strictly for the off air program guide and off air TV watching and I think I’ve fixed it by spraying a cleaner into all the HDMI ports and cable endings. I used a Mass Air Flow Sensor Cleaner by CRC that I had in the garage. Whatever you spray, make sure it is safe for plastics. So far it’s having no blinking problems. I also hooked up component wires as a backup until I’m sure the problem is permanently fixed.

  14. I spoke too soon. I still get blinking even when switching cables. I did notice something peculiar. There is no blinking on HD programs, only non HD programs. I next try switching the two boxes from the kitchen, where there is no blinking, to the TV room where the blinking occurs.

  15. This morning I switched the boxes’ location between kitchen and TV room and I am not getting any blinking at all where there was blinking. And I am also getting all of the off air programming guide information so I am in good shape. I use the H10 only for the off air programming guide and watching off air TV.
    Maybe someone with only one box can disconnect all cables except the power cable and turn it on and let it stay on for a while and maybe that would clear things up. Just a thought. If the blinking resumes I’ll get back.

    • Thanks for the updates.
      My guess is the problem only shows up with certain combinations of brands, models and revision numbers. I have a Samsung TV and an H10 DVR that suffers the blink. I switched to the Component connection and haven’t had any blinks for a very long time. (I blame the HDMI standard for what I think is a compatibility problem.)
      Best of luck in your experimentation!

  16. The HDMI signals are too weak LVDS, that’s what they advertize to be good but the facts!
    The design engineers of HDMI, in search of speeding up the signals have chosen LVDS (Low Voltage Differential signaling).
    As lower voltages can be switched more frequently but are more prone to pickup noise. The solution obviously was to use differential signals as they are more robust in presence of electric noise (Quote from WIKIPEDIA LVDS: “LVDS operates at low power and can run at very high speeds using inexpensive twisted-pair copper cables. “)
    Fact is that you use HDMI even a small length and start switching electric appliances (even in next room) the synch pulse will get missed now the display device will take its time to re-synch. That’s what the blink is all about.
    It’s not compatibility its bad design.
    So yeah get rid of the HDMI right away and sue the companies delivering it if your countries have such a privilege (mine does not).

  17. Dear readers if you have this problem, try a SONY PlayStation 4 Original HDMI Cable, my PC is connected to my old SAMSUNG TV has blinks all over it making me CRAZY, but when I *USE* my PS4 cable Its all Cool.

    • How long have you used the PS4 cable with the Samsung TV?

      Not to disagree but I’ve seen periods with “no blink” of several weeks with different configurations but, eventually, the blink always seemed to return. It was only *after* I stopped using HDMI completely, and many months went by, that I felt confident of the solution. Now, after 22 months, and still no blinks (using the Component Video connection instead of HDMI), I still contend the failure is in the HDMI standard and how vendors implement it. Changing cables didn’t seem to work for me.

      How long have you seen “no blink” with your PS4 cable with the old Samsung TV? That’s the question.

  18. After two weeks, I haven’t experienced any blinking. I have a LG55LW5700 55″ TV and I periodically get software updates. I have in the past noticed blinking when watching videos from my computer TV card as well as my Directv H10 box but lately there has been no further problems. I’m not sure if the updates helped. I’m not really sure what is going on with blinking or no blinking. It might be just some kind of aberration.

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