HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cables are the easiest way of transferring high-definition audio and video from one device to another. Everything from computer monitors and laptops to HD TVs and game consoles uses HDMI.
Most of us have HDMI cables lying around which got us wondering if all HDMI cables are the same. Is an expensive HDMI cable going to make any difference at all?
Shopping for HDMI cables should be an easy process. But with the host of choices available, from silver-plated and gold-plated to 4K and 8K, it’s not always obvious knowing which one to choose.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered, you may just be surprised at how uncomplicated it actually is!
Are all HDMI cables the same
There are different HDMI standards with HDMI 2.1 being the most recent version. This simply refers to the specifications all HDMI cables and devices have to follow based on the various features they support.
The HDMI 1.4 specification was released over 10 years ago, followed by the HDMI 2.0 specification in 2013. This specification saw the maximum bandwidth of HDMI cables increase from 10.2Gbps to 18Gbps and successfully supported 4K video. In 2018 HDMI 2.1 was launched and it was designed to support 8K and higher resolutions with a maximum bandwidth of up to 48Gbps.
All these specifications sound impressive and they are important but when it comes to cables your focus needs to be on the speed rating. HDMI cables are categorized according to 4 different speeds: Standard, High Speed, Premium High Speed, and Ultra High Speed.
What cable speed do you need
Standard speed cables are the most basic and the slowest and they don’t support 4K. Most stores no longer stock standard speed cables, you’re more likely to find these cables at a garage sale than on any store shelf.
High-Speed cables are significantly faster than standard speed cables as they have a minimum bandwidth of 10.2Gbps and can carry a 4K signal. The challenge with high-speed cables is that they only support 4K video at 24 frames per second which is not a problem if you are wanting to watch movies on Ultra HD Blu-ray. But streaming and gaming hardware pushes 4K at 30 or 60 frames per second, your high-speed cable won’t be able to handle it.
Premium High-Speed takes the bandwidth up to 18Gbps and supports 4K at 60 frames per second. These cables will successfully support any 4K video you’re looking at and they can even support 8K and higher resolutions depending on their frame rates and other features.
Ultra-High-Speed is for the gamers and those of you looking at 8K. These cables have up to 48Gbps bandwidth and for the 4K users and gamers who are looking at pushing 4K speeds above 60 frames per second, this cable is the ultimate choice. These cables can handle 4K up to 120 frames per second and 60 frames per second for 8K.
Which cable do you need for 4K
Although a standard high-speed cable will support 4K, it is only at 24 frames per second. If you’re looking at a 4K 60 frames per second video then you should rather go for a Premium High-Speed cable and for anything above that, you need to look for an Ultra High-Speed cable.
How can you tell if HDMI cable is high speed
According to HDMI Licensing Administrator, “To help consumers and to clarify cable types further, all HDMI® cable products are required to be labeled with Cable Name Logos provided by HDMI Licensing Administrator, Inc. Look for these logos when choosing the HDMI cable that is best for your needs.”
All cables should have the relevant logos displayed but if you only see the words high speed look out for the specifications around bandwidth and video resolution. The package should indicate 18Gbps or 48Gbps and from a resolution perspective, you are wanting to see 4K60 (60 frames per second), 4K120, or 8K. If you aren’t picking up any resolution numbers, you are more than likely looking at a 4K24.
If high speed is not mentioned at all, it’s probably a standard speed cable and definitely not worthwhile taking home, well unless you’re just looking to replace a cable from your old DVD player.
Are high-quality HDMI cables worth it
If you think buying an expensive HDMI cable is going to provide you with a superior picture, you are in a for a surprise. Your cable is either transmitting a signal or it isn’t. There simply isn’t an in-between version. Digital means 1s and 0s and nothing is going to change that.
From a technical perspective, if the HDMI cable specifications are the same, there is absolutely no difference. Buying a high-quality HDMI cable has more to do with the quality of the materials and manufacturing process. Cheap cables can be problematic as they have not been manufactured to high standards.
If you’re going to be plugging and unplugging your HDMI cable on a regular basis you may want to look at a more durable product that will cost a bit more. Some manufacturers even offer some form of warranty.
Gold-plated HDMI cables won’t improve your picture quality, but they are more durable and will most probably last longer. Gold’s biggest advantage is that it doesn’t corrode as quickly as other metals. If you live near water or in a humid area, metal corrosion can be a problem, and then gold HDMI cables may not be a bad idea as your connectors will have additional protection. But on the upside, they do look fabulous!
So, unless you live in a humid area and want to look stylish, the regular silver-plated HDMI cables will work just fine!!
What should you look for in a HDMI cable
Your number one priority has to be cable speed and as we mentioned it really depends on what you are looking for. If you require anything above a 4K24, you’re going to have to go up a level and look at Premium High-Speed or Ultra-High-Speed cable.
The next consideration is the cable length. Believe it or not, this does make a difference as HDMI cables are digital and if the signal is weak, you’re going to get fuzzy pictures or static. Any signal will weaken over a longer distance and is impacted by the strength of the transmitter, the receiver’s
sensitivity and in the case of our cable, how much interference it picks up between the transmitter and the receiver. You’re pretty safe up to around 15 to 20 feet but beyond that, you will most likely need a component that can amplify the signal.
If durability is a concern, then it’s best to go for a higher-quality product – yes, the gold-plated cable is definitely an option.
We promised it wasn’t that complicated – all you need to remember is nothing is going to change your picture quality. It’s all about cable speed, signal strength, and durability.