Every consumer item in the market has its own unique features and pros. Purchasing the right one, needless to say, is the key for guaranteed satisfaction. This concept is especially true when it comes to HDMI cables. How people choose between various cable types among several brands are naturally dictated by different factors. There’s no absolute, fixed guide for cable selection, but here’s a list of basic things to consider prior cable hunting.
1. Cable Application
We don’t just buy HDMI cables out of pure whim – we buy because we need them for specific purposes. In fact, firmly knowing where you’ll use a cable is the first step in the cable selection process.
While eight HDMI cable types currently exist, all were basically derived from only two certification standards – Standard and High-Speed. Your viewing preference will ultimately dictate which among these cables is best-suited for your needs.
If you’re perfectly content with High-Definition (HD) viewing (720p to 1080i resolution), the Standard HDMI cable is best for you. Cable and satellite televisions, projectors, digital broadcast HD, DVD players, and other common displays work perfectly fine using this cord. If having the former capabilities and performance, plus an Ethernet feature is what you need, perhaps the Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet is the right choice. Else, if robust, internal cabling for audio/video-equipped vehicles is what you require, the Standard HDMI Automotive cable becomes the proper choice.
Generally, High-Speed HDMI cables offer greater data transfer speeds and support higher resolution than that of the Standard HDMI. So if a viewing experience with far better image clarity, color, and overall quality is desired, opt for these cables. They support resolutions of 1080p to 4K with add-on display features including 3D viewing and richer color palettes. If Ethernet is required or if it’s for automobiles, then choose high-speed cables designed for Ethernet and for automobiles, respectively. It’s that simple.
There are premium-certified Ethernet and -Ethernet High-Speed HDMI cables, which are far more reliable than their non-certified counterparts. However, as will be shortly discussed, these cables are optional. Meanwhile, for even higher resolutions (5K, 8K and 10K) with Ethernet features, the Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable is the best option. These cables will definitely provide you with unsurpassed cinematic experience you need.
To assist us in determining which is which, all HDMI cable products are required to be labeled with Cable Name Logos. These logos are strictly enforced by HDMI Licensing Administrator Inc. among cable manufacturers and retailers. To pick out the right cable, it’s highly recommended that consumers look for these logos whenever purchasing.
Cable Name Logos for HDMI Cable Types
2. Connector Type
We know that an HDMI cable is a single-cable solution for transmitting high-quality videos and audios between two electronic devices. Hence, compatibility with both devices is a must. In other words, the cable’s connectors should structurally fit with both the media source’s and the display device’s HDMI ports.
Be sure to check first both devices to be linked together as they may not have the same HDMI ports. Once verified, only then you can decide which HDMI cable to buy. There are five connector types for an HDMI cable – Types A, B, C, D, and E. Below is a rough guide that will aid us in visualizing these connector types by physical configuration.
Types of Connectors for HDMI Cables
Rest assured that for the majority of home and workplace applications, HDMI connector Types A, C, and D are the general versions you need. Type B (Dual-Link) connectors currently are not used in mainstream commercial products. Type E (Automotive Connection System) meanwhile, as the name suggests, is specifically designed for automotive applications.
Type A (Standard) connectors by far are the most familiar of the five types and are found on almost every brand of modern TV, monitor, game consoles and desktop computers.
Type C (Mini) connectors are smaller, slimmed-down versions of Type A. It’s commonly found on various sorts of portable equipment. Typical examples include DSLR cameras, camcorders, larger tablets, and sat nav (satellite navigation) systems.
Type D (Micro) connectors are the smallest connector type currently available. They were developed specifically for audio-video connectivity in very small, highly-portable devices such as mobile phones.
Types C and D connectors both have the same functionality as Type A connectors but at a more compact package. HDMI cables with Type C and D formats are usually sold with Type C or D connectors (respectively) at one end, and a Type A at the other. Although, cables with Type C and Type D connectors at both ends are as well available if preferred.
In some cases, media source devices (some laptops for instance) have USB or other types of port. To connect these non-HDMI equipped gadgets to HDMI-supported display devices, adapters or converter boxes are used as additional, intermediate connections.
3. Cable Length
Cable length entirely depends on you, particularly on where the HDMI cable is to be installed. Purchase only as much cable length as you need. Also, remember that the longer distance the signal needs to go, the more likely that some won’t reach the end destination without external help (i.e. signal amplification). These points, though helpful, are still vague inclinations. So how then can we decide on the cable length?
To determine the most feasible length, start by measuring the distance from the media source to the display device. Keep in mind that if you go too short and need to relocate one device farther later on, you’ll have to buy another cable. Unlike cat cables, HDMI cables are not easily changed if you need them to be longer or shorter. Cat cabling allows you to cut the cable at the appropriate length and add the appropriate end, with the right tools. HDMI cables, meanwhile, do not.
Allow for a little slack, or extra length, as well. If ever you’ll need to pull a component out, there should be enough cable as allowance. Otherwise, you’ll have to disconnect your HDMI cable every time a device is pulled out.
Let’s explore the cable length concept further. The general rule of thumb is that for lengths of six feet or less, a passive cable (cables that work on their own) is more than adequate. Between 6 to 25 feet is negotiable, while above 25 feet, most people will opt for fiber optic hdmi cable. These cables employ signal amplification to help signals travel longer distances.
Other sources state that Standard HDMI cabling can transmit a 1080i signal for at least 49 feet (15 meters) while High-Speed cables transmit 1080p signal for at least 25 feet (7.5 meters). Most probably, cables referred here are of the active kind. Note that longer cable lengths and active cable types are pricey compared to shorter and passive ones.
Salespeople, retailers, and manufacturers want us to believe that expensive HDMI cables bring better pictures and audio/visual quality. Many disreputable companies market HDMI cables and outright lie to consumers about their advantages over the cheap ones. Others use fancy words and version numbers with extensive technical explanations to purposely confuse consumers into buying. The bottom line here is that price does not guarantee cable performance and hence should not be used as a cable-purchasing basis.
But is there really a difference between expensive HDMI cables and budget-priced ones? “In terms of picture quality there’s no difference,” explains Jeff Park, Senior Technical Manager for HDMI Licensing LLC. “Price is not really indicative of signal quality; they’re not related at all. What determines quality is your source material.” So the short answer is no. From a technical point of view, a $3- and a $100-cable meeting the same specification requirements are exactly the same.
Furthermore, not all HDMI cables are created the same. Some brands maybe were fabricated and tested at stricter performance and quality standards than the others. Subsequently, a batch of HDMI cables within that high-quality brand may have lower performance test results than the other batches. There’s just no way of knowing which is better than the other, so forth, and so on. Hence, be cautious of buying unreasonably high-priced cables as you might be ripped off.
Some cable manufacturers offer an extended or lifetime warranty. So if you want a cable that is guaranteed to last, or one that you can get easily replaced should anything go wrong, then opt for these cables. Nevertheless, cables with a warranty may have higher prices than those without, so it entirely depends on your preference.
One of the HDMI cable types is Premium High-Speed HDMI Cables (with and without Ethernet features). These premium certifications encompass additional and more rigorous cable performance and capabilities tests, including a comprehensive anti-counterfeiting label program. That is, these cables are guaranteed to give more reliable UHD and 4K performance, with the latest feature-rich content than their non-certified cable counterparts.
True, these certified cables are surefire performers. But it doesn’t mean that their non-certified counterparts are not. This makes certified versions optional. If you’re that person who doesn’t want to worry and doesn’t mind spending slightly more, then consider these premium cables.