I’ve been asked a fair bit about the art of purchasing a really good HDMI cable lately, and being well aware some would happily pay anywhere between £20 - £30 for a standard 1 meter cable (I admit, in times of desperate need, I have!). I decided to brush up on my old HDMI research and discover why prices really do fluctuate so much.
The golden rule with HDMI is that if you’re sending the signal less then a meter, almost any cheap cable will do. HDMI supported full HD (including Blu-Ray) 1080p from the outset (version 1.0), and little has changed with HD since. Therefore any cheap store cable will give you equally excellent audio\video. So why do some branded cables charge a lot more?
It’s all about the logo. HDMI branded cables require licensing, and with that comes a strict testing process. As a result, you’ll likely get a cable that’s been through far more quality control, but the build quality is essentially the same, you’re not paying for superior materials.
If however you plan on running a HDMI cable through the house, then you’re going to want something that has a slightly better build quality. Over 5 meters and little things like the plating, connectors, and shielding become important. A cheaper 5 meter cable won’t provide any less audio\video quality by design, but it may loose the signal faster due to interference. A better build quality ensures more shielding.
Finally, don’t let the marketing hype consume you. the latest and greatest HDMI specification (1.4) boasts Ethernet and 3D support, but if you need evidence that people will pay anything for this, check out this one at Amazon! (Link dead, it was about $9,000!) The truth is that no single device takes advantage of Ethernet over HDMI yet, and the extra 3D capabilities are really not something the human eye can pick up on (in fact, testing shows HDMI 1.3 handles typical 3D just fine and is unnoticeable to the majority).
So don’t feel bad about picking up a cable from Tesco for a tenner after spending thousands on your home entertainment set-up, you’d be making the smarter choice.