May 12, 2017

HDMI Cable Facts

So, you bought a new 4k TV and the salesperson is trying to sell you new whizbang goochi goochi 4k, or Ultra HDMI, or HDMI-2 cables to handle the new high speeds. Do not listen. It is a scam to increase store profit.

It is important to understand that HDMI cables are pipes, just like water pipes. Liquid goes in liquid comes out. The pipe does not care whether it is water or soda or rum. In HDMI cables, data goes in and data comes out. No decisions are made, nothing is done to the data, it simply passes through the cable. The cable does not care what type of data it is.

A quote from "Version 2.0 of the HDMI Specification does not define new cables or new connectors. Current High Speed cables (category 2 cables) are capable of carrying the increased bandwidth."

By definition, HDMI supports standard, enhanced, or high-definition video, plus multi-channel digital audio on a single cable. There have been two HDMI cable standards, standard and high speed. Standard HDMI cables have been out of date since about 2010, but still support devices up to 1080. High speed cables support everything, including 4k, etc. They do not care whether the signal is standard, HDR, 4K, ULTRA, HDMI1, or HDMI2. HDMI cables are marked on the package and on the cable, so just avoid cables marked "standard" and you will be fine for 4K.

Gold ends, fancy cord wrapping, etc., are pretty, but not important for delivering signals to the TV. Manufacturing quality may have some slight affect and might not last long if abused. Of course, when was the last time you abused your cables. You plug them in, hide them behind the TV and forget about them.

The difference in cable quality does matter when you buy longer lengths. Usually HDMI cables are less than about 9 feet in length. If you want to string a 50 foot HDMI cable to a different part of the house, then quality is important, so the signal is not lost along the length. It still has nothing to do HDR, 4K, etc., it is simply manufacturing quality and potential signal loss.

Incidentally, there is a new standard coming out toward the end of 2017 called HDBaseT. The HDBaseT cable combines audio and video signals, USB, network, and even power into one single cable and is set to replace HDMI in the long run. It will be in the next generation devices, but that will likely take years.