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5 Factors to Remember About Different HDMI Cables

Updated on April 19, 2016
What's the difference in HDMI cables except for the price?
What's the difference in HDMI cables except for the price?

Which difference in HDMI cables does truly exist? This question pops up when looking at the big price gap between the super cheap and the super expensive HDMI cables, that are considered "high end". But where in fact lies the difference in HDMI cables? What should you consider when buying these cables?

HDMI Cables Difference

In this guide we will answer the following question:

What's the difference between HDMI cables?

In fact, there are 5 differentiating factors for HDMI cables that need to be considered:

No difference in picture or sound quality

Don't be fooled by high prices for HDMI cables. There is absolutely no video or audio quality difference between a $5 HDMI cable and a $500 HDMI cable.

Difference 1: Price

Whether it's $1 for a cheap cable or $50 for a premium cable - you can get nearly everything. It seems that there must be a huge difference in quality between these HDMI cables.

Let's get into detail here: HDMI cables transmit digital video and audio data using the so called TMDS technology. With TMDS two versions of the same data stream are sent over two separate wires. Using this method transmission errors or signal interferences can be eliminated efficiently.

All HDMI cables - cheap or expensive, new or old - are working with this technology. This leads to the fact that in the end of the signal transmission process there will be either a perfect signal or no signal at all.

Or - as our colleagues from CNET point out:

The image cannot have more noise, or less resolution, worse color, or any other picture-quality difference. The pixels can't change. They can either be there (perfect, yay!) or not (nothing, errors, boo!).

So should everyone take the cheapest HDMI cable? Not exactly - well-made, medium priced HDMI Highspeed cables are the better choice. Because besides the signal transmission there are other factors you should consider:

HDMI Cables Price Overview

Cable Version
Cable Length
Average Price
HDMI High Speed with Ethernet
3 Feet / 0.9 Meters
$5
HDMI High Speed with Ethernet
9.8 Feet / 3.0 Meters
$7
HDMI High Speed with Ethernet
25 Feet / 7.62 Meters
$15
HDMI High Speed with Ethernet
> 32.8 Feet / 10 Meters
Use HDMI Repeater
Price ranges for HDMI cables

So should everyone take the cheapest HDMI cable? Not exactly - well-made, medium priced HDMI Highspeed cables are the better choice. Because besides the signal transmission there are other factors you should consider:

Look for the HDMI High Speed Logo (with or without ethernet channel)
Look for the HDMI High Speed Logo (with or without ethernet channel)

Difference 2: HDMI Cable Versions and Features

For quite some time HDMI cables were sold with version numbering such as "HDMI 1.3, HDMI 1.4", etc. That led to confusion for consumers, because nobody could say what the difference in these HDMI cables actually was. Since 2010 the HDMI Licensing Organisation claims that HDMI cables are only to be sold being called either HDMI Standard or HDMI High-Speed (each with or without ethernet channel).

Thanks to his decision, finally the version numberings have disappeared. Today, every HDMI cable branded with the "High Speed HDMI" Logo is able to transmit the required transmission rate of 10.2 Gpbs (which is enough bandwidth for new extra functionalities such as Deep Color, 3D, HD-Audio or the "HD successor" 4K) Tip: Check if the functionality that you need in particular is explicitly listed on the HDMI cable product description.

Tip: HDMI High speed cables are often cheaper than Standard cables because they are produced in a much larger scale. It's worth taking them!

Some extended features such as Deep Color can only be used with certain HDMI cable Versions
Some extended features such as Deep Color can only be used with certain HDMI cable Versions

HDMI Cables Comparison

HDMI Label
Ethernet
Throughput
HDCP
3D
Audio Return
4K
Deep Color
HDMI Standard
-
4.95 Gbit/s
-
-
-
-
HDMI Standard w/ Ethernet
4.95 Gbit/s
-
-
-
-
HDMI Highspeed
-
10.2 Gbit/s
HDMI Highspeed w/ Ethernet
10.2 Gbit/s

Difference 3: Manufacturing Quality

There are differences in HDMI cables, of course, concerning the manufacturing / build quality. Especially the connection between the connector and the cable harness is a weak spot for most cheap cables. At this intersection cheap cables would often break when they are bend to much or too often.

Also the shielding plays an important role. HDMI cables with bad shielding are vulnerable to signal interferences caused by electricity for example. In the worst case this will cause errors in the audio and/or video data stream.

Normally, two up to four times shielded HDMI cables with a good build quality are good enough for consumers. Take care that cables provide extra shielding when they are installed in close proximity to electricity cables.

Build quality makes the difference between cheap and good HDMI cables
Build quality makes the difference between cheap and good HDMI cables

Difference 4: HDMI Cable Length

HDMI Highspeed cables that come in the standard length of 1m - 3m are mass production and therefore very affordable. From 5m and more cable become much more expensive normally, because the demand for the material and manufacturing quality is higher. In contrast to for example fibre optic cables HDMI cables work with copper wires that cause higher resistance depending on their length.

Therefore check the needed length before buying HDMI cables. By choosing an HDMI cable with the exact length you will both save money and minimize the risk of signal errors.

Same same, but different: HDMI connectors
Same same, but different: HDMI connectors

Difference 5: HDMI Connector Types

Last not least: the connector type. 90% of all HDMI connectors in the hifi sector are working with HDMI conenctor type A. In some rare cases, however, you will find other connector types such as HDMI type D (Micro HDMI). These connectors are used where every inch counts, such as in mobile phones or tables. There are corresponding HDMI to Micro HDMI adapters that will fill the gap between both connectors. However, make sure you choose the right connector type for your purpose right away.

Conclusion: There are differences in HDMI Cables

A medium-priced, well-made High Speed HDMI cable is the best choice for most users. However, HDMI cables differ in features, manufacturing quality, length and connector type. Be sure to consider these points when looking for the best HDMI cable.

What's your experience with HDMI cables? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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    • ChadCrouch profile image

      Chad Crouch 2 months ago from South Africa

      Very useful article.

    • thranax profile image

      Andrew 4 months ago from Rep Boston MA

      Very informative! Its true that all you need in an HDMI cable is the correct version and of course the correct length required for what your usage would be. Its easily a trick for most people and it upsets me that some people would pay up to $25 dollars for a 3 foot HDMI cable that the exact same specs and length exist at Dollar Tree for 1 dollar! (When I found Dollar Tree HDMI cables for that cheap I bought a bunch!) Thanks for sharing and showing the truth about these cables!

    • profile image

      jade 16 months ago

      does sky hdmi work

    • Zubair Ahmed profile image

      Zubair Ahmed 17 months ago

      Hi,

      Thank you for sharing very useful hub. So many different varieties of HDMI cables, I find the cheaper ones don't generally give a good picture.

    • profile image

      geoge 2 years ago

      hunda

    • hdmiguru profile image
      Author

      Tobias 2 years ago from Germany

      @TTGReviews: Practically you will find almost no hardware that makes use of the ethernet channel at the moment. Its good to have an HDMI cable with ethernet channel but it's not an important buying criteria

    • TTGReviews profile image

      TTGReviews 2 years ago

      I forgot that HDMI has the capability to carry Ethernet. Do many devices take this into consideration?

    • electronician profile image

      Dean Walsh 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Excellent advice and useful comparisons!

    • toptenluxury profile image

      Adrian Cloute 4 years ago from Cedartown, GA

      I think that HDMI cables are great. I also think that there is a point when you spend too much on a cable and your just throwing away money. Great hub!