When it comes to setting up your home media center, be it modest TV with a sound bar or a 60″ 4K HDTV monster with premium surround sound, splash all the cash you want on the TV and speakers—but don’t spend a dollar more than necessary on HDMI cables.
The HDMI standard has been out since 2002, and while a lot has changed—HDMI cables can now carry more data, display higher resolution video, and even control devices over HDMI-CEC—there’s one thing that hasn’t: cable manufacturers and electronics retailers are more than happy to fleece the hell out of you with high price cables. The same big box stores that were selling $50 HDMI cables ten years ago are happy to sell $50 cables today to any sucker willing to pay for them.
You absolutely should not pay those kind of inflated pseudo-premium prices, however, because in 99.99% of the cases, a $9 cable is just as good as a $19, $99, or $299 cable. Dubious? Let’s pick apart exactly why that premium cable is a rip off and then highlight the very few and far between cases where you might actually want to pay more than a few bucks for a cable.
When HDMI first came out, it was easy to forgive people for being duped by some of the claims surrounding early HDMI cables. Way back in the technological Middle Ages of 2002, we were all still a tribe of largely analog people, and cable manufacturers latched onto the concepts and superstitions surrounding analog cabling to sell their HDMI wares. For years, people had (mostly erroneously) bought the idea that you need super fancy speaker cables that were oxygen sealed, gold plated, dipped in unicorn blood, and air dried in the pure air of Scandinavian mountaintops to achieve the best sound.
With that in mind, when HDMI manufacturers (and the salespeople in blue and red polo shirts selling those cables) said the gold plating and other pseudo-premium features mattered, most people believed it. Clearly there was a reason all the HDMI cables at the store were $30+ (and every extra few feet was another $10+, naturally).
Here’s the thing, though: none of that matters. HDMI is a completely digital standard, with a multitude of error checking and corrective measures built right in. When it comes to HDMI, the cables either it works or it doesn’t. Either the bitstream is flowing correctly or its not. It’s not like the days of analog TV, where it was possible to get a partial, crappy signal with fuzz, static, and so on. With digital signals, you either get a picture, or you don’t get a picture. No amount of gold plating or unicorn blood will make it any better or worse.
For almost every situation, your best bet is to simply buy the cheapest cables from a reliable company like the dirt cheap AmazonBasics cables or those from Monoprice. They will perform just as well as the $40 cables they’re selling at Best Buy.
If you buy an HDMI cable and it doesn’t work, barring some serious problem with the hardware you’re linking together with the cable, then the cable is defective. Return it or replace it.Read More...
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