We take the mystery out of buying an HDMI cable for your home theater. There are only a few important features to look for and we cover them all. It is easy to select a good quality HDMI cable if you follow these tips.
There is a lot of confusion about the different specification or versions for HDMI cables. Should you select an HDMI 1.3 or can you use a 2.1 cable? Do you need to upgrade your HDMI cables when you buy new home theater components?
The answer to the first question is that the HDMI version does not really matter. The cables are the same for versions 1.1 through 1.3b. Up until version 1.4, there are only two HDMI cable types: standard and high speed. Always choose a high speed cable. Just about every cable made today is a high speed cable and it will say so on the package.
The HDMI version numbers are for the components in your system. It basically tells you which features the component is likely to have. As the standards have progressed, more and more features have been built into HDMI compatible devices. The version shown on the cable or its package simply tells you that the cable is compatible with the current standard. There are some differences with some cables when you reach the HDMI 1.4 standard, but any high speed cable will work with any HDMI home theater component.
The answer to the second question is that you do not need to upgrade your HDMI cable as long as it is a high speed cable. An HDMI 1.1 cable should work just fine as long as it is a high speed cable. The cable standards have not changed and the pin configurations have not changed. Wire is wire and the connector configuration is the same. Once again, the standards for features built into the home theater components have evolved to meet the new HDMI standards. So if your local electronics retailer tells you that you have to upgrade your cables when you buy a new HDTV, he is either misinformed or is just trying to boost the total price of the sale.
HDMI Cable Buying Tips
There are two basic types of HDMI cables: standard speed and high speed. The problem is that most cable packages and cables themselves do not designate anywhere that the cable is a high speed cable. Cables will tell you if they are certified to meet the most current HDMI standards for components.
Here are some things to look for when buying a cable.
- Price does not necessarily determine quality. You do not meed to spend a $100 for a cable and it will not work any better than a cable for which you spend $20. I would not really trust the cables from China sold on eBay for $1.99, but any $10+ cable purchased from a reputable retailer such as Amazon.com or Walmart should work just fine.
- Look for gold-plated contacts on the connectors. Gold does not tarnish and it does a very good job of transferring electrical signals with very little degradation in signal strength.
- Look for a cable with shielding. Shielding protects the signals being passed from electrical interference (called ingress), especially from AC interference from power cables. It also prevents signal loss (called egress). I typically use Philips branded cables found at Walmart because they have clear jackets and you can see very heavy braided shielding protecting the wiring. I’ve seen very expensive cables that do not look like they have any shielding. Also, when you install an HDMI cable, keep it away from all power cords. As a general rule, power cables should be routed down one site of a component cabinet and speaker wires and other cabling on the other side.
- Do not buy cables that are any longer than what you need. The shorter the cable, the more likely it is to pass a clear signal and the less likely it is to pick up interference.
- Make sure that the packaging states that it is a high speed HDMI cable.
- If you have home theater components that have the new HDMI Ethernet Channel inter-connectivity feature and you want to connect your home theater components to the Internet using this features, then select a cable that states that is is a High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet. This is really the only situation where you may need a version other than the normal high speed cable.
Stick to these basic rules when selecting an HDMI cable and you should not have any problems.