The HDMI cable has significantly changed the way people enjoy entertainment. If you have shopped for a high definition television, a game console or a Blu-ray player then you have probably heard about them. For the unfamiliar, it may seem just like any of those wires used to connect televisions to video players – but it goes beyond that.
The HDMI port is more than just a simple “port” but employs a mechanism that allows high-definition electronic devices to communicate with each other, sending excellent quality image and sound through one single cable.
This single, yet powerful device is always met with complication, especially for consumers who plan to purchase them. If you do your research, read articles or ask other people, you will come across tips and instructions telling you to buy high-quality HDMI cables. More than likely, if you shop a big box store, the salesperson will guide you to the pricier cable options, citing them as a necessity. When we talk about “high quality” HDMI cables, it’s often the expensive and branded ones, but does it make sense to buy an HDMI cable that costs $300 when you can buy the same product for much less? Does the time-old adage of “price equals quality” ring true in this case? Let’s find out.
What are HDMI cables and how do they work?
HDMI is short for High Definition Multimedia Interface, which is transmitted through cables that carry high amounts of high-definition videos and uncompressed audio. The cable itself is composed of copious amounts of internal conductors, which carry audiovisual content, controls, copy protection and communication data. To make use of an HDMI cable, your devices must have HDMI ports. You can connect virtually anything with the use of HDMI cables – televisions, home theater systems, computers, projectors, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, satellite receivers and even your smartphone.
How does it compare to televisions with standard definition? In the past, we’ve mainly used televisions with standard definition, but that was before the rise of high-definition televisions. Televisions with standard definition relied on analog signals, which were dependent on electrical currents. The standard resolution of these televisions was 640×480, an ordinary reality before that leaves much to be desired now, even for small-screen smartphones. The pictures produced by these televisions were interlaced, moving quickly enough for the human brain not to realize that each piece of the moving picture was only half of a picture. Our HDTVs nowadays use digital technology, where information is in the form of ones and zeros. In contrast with analog signals, which travel on electricity, the digital information goes through the cables as distinct electrical pulses; the pictures produced are also progressive, which means that such pictures are composed of whole moving images.
Let’s connect this to HDMI, which has a set of rules that create high-bandwidth connections between the connected digital devices. It makes your home theater system a whole lot better since it produces up to 4Kx2K HD signals, supports at least eight channels of uncompressed audio, and lessens the need for more than one set of cables lying around the system.
Is there a difference between expensive HDMI cables and cheap ones?
There are cheap HDMI cables that cost around $10, and there are ones that cost up to $3,800. With that price difference in mind, is there a huge difference in performance between a product that costs ten dollars as opposed to one that costs thousands?
This leads us to an interesting question. If they’re all the same, then why is Brand A more expensive than Brand B?
This is due to marketing, mostly, and the materials used to make them. Expensive HDMI cables are priced that way because of aesthetics, the amount of copper found in the internal wirings, and especially the brand that produced it. As mentioned above, digital signals are the “senders” of information through the wires and not necessarily the wire itself. So if the wire is intact, digital signals can pass from one port to another effortlessly. The only reasons that you may look to when your HDMI cable seems to be lacking in performance are factory defects or breaks in the cable, or if you are using a very long amount of cable more than 50 feet.
However, you may still need to look to more specialized cables if you need to connect it to objects that are physically far apart from each other. The quality and performance of HDMI cables are affected by length, thus if you need longer cables, look for active cables like those with RedMere technology, which are a bit more specialized. But, if you’re planning to connect devices less than 50 feet apart, any regular HDMI cable will do.
Many people consider buying expensive cables because they want to buy it once in their lives and never again. Thus, they look into the future where screen resolutions will continue to increase, and anticipate such high resolutions by buying more expensive cables. 4K resolutions require more features than those with lower resolutions, and the common belief is that lesser quality cables may not be able to handle the information transmitted by the higher-quality resolution. Many companies are also quick to pick up on this inevitable transition to 4K and have started marketing cables specifically for these devices. However, 4K HDMI cables are not necessary, and you can still get the same results with regular cables.
If you factor out the quality and cost of HDMI cables, you may want to check out the capacities of the devices to which you are connecting. The sending/receiving capability of your HDMI cable varies with each device.
The issue that you should primarily consider is if your cable works fine with the devices that you plan to use it with. You will get the better appearance and brand recognition with an expensive HDMI cable, but it does not necessarily translate to better engineering – something that you should be taking into consideration.