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Slaying the Cable Monster: What You Need to Know About HDMI Cables

tagsCat5 Cable Extender

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Resolution 

 Start to heat up (please rest assured, it will take at least one or two years

For most viewers). High dynamic range (HDR) is not even considered. Because of the wider range of light and color, more information can be processed on each pixel. Large amounts of data sent to you from media streams, Blu-ray players, game consoles or PCs

, You will need to use a cable.

HDMI is an established standard for sending video and sound from home entertainment equipment to the TV through a cable. This is the best way to connect DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray players. Electronic game consoles; and 

. If you are going to use something less than ten years on your TV, then HDMI is the way to achieve this goal. If you don’t have an HDMI cable yet (if your new device does not include an HDMI cable), or you just want to rearrange your home theater settings and find that you lack the required slack, you must buy a new one.

Buying an HDMI cable should be a simple process, but there are too many choices, a wide range of prices, and some potential troubles that may make it seem confusing and difficult. You need the right cable to do the job, and ideally, you want to spend the least amount of money. After all, this is just a cable. correct?

This is where we come in. This is all you should know about HDMI cables, including the meaning of the different types, the different brands available, and how to make the most of the attention that the TV brings.

Many news about HDMI in the past few years have focused on different versions of the cable standard. These are the basic specifications that all HDMI cables and devices based on the functions supported and defined by HDMI cables and devices must follow. 

 with 

. Broadly speaking, they are very important. However, you can effectively ignore them.

Basically, the HDMI 1.4 specification was released 10 years ago, and all HDMI cables comply with at least this specification. HDMI 1.4 was developed to look forward to 4K and set certain standards to support it in the future (starting in 2009) by providing sufficient 4K video bandwidth at 24 frames per second. Since then, it has been iterated and upgraded to HDMI 1.4a and HDMI 1.4b, but this is again a long history in the video field.

The HDMI 2.0 specification was released in 2013 and revised to HDMI 2.0a in 2015, and then revised to HDMI 2.0b in 2016. The specification increases the maximum bandwidth of the HDMI cable from 10.2Gbps to 18Gbps. This further consolidates 4K support, capable of processing 4K video at 60 frames per second, and has various forms of 

, And laid the foundation for 8K.

Launched in 2018, it aims to support 8K and higher resolutions with a maximum bandwidth of 48Gbps. The HDMI 2.1 specification can handle 4K and 8K video at 120 frames per second, and there is room for it. If you don't plan to buy an 8K TV yet, the 2.1 standard is the most important for high-end gaming, because gaming PCs and the latest consoles have the potential to be higher than 60fps in 4K.

The vast majority of TVs manufactured in the past few years have HDMI 2.0. Most 2021 TV models (and many 2020 high-end models) should support HDMI 2.1.

These specifications are very important to ensure that media streams and other devices can transmit and that the TV can receive enough data to perform what they need to do, but for the cable itself, they are not that important. Yes, some HDMI cables may be manufactured below 1.4, and some may be manufactured below 2.0, but these are not the key details to pay attention to when shopping. The most important thing to note is not the HDMI specification, but the speed class.

HDMI 1.4 and 2.0 have nothing to do with their speed grades. Their speed grades are also defined by the HDMI Forum and HDMI License Administrators. These specifications touch speed with maximum bandwidth, but do not clearly define every cable. This is why HDMI cables are classified as one of the following four speed categories: Standard, High Speed, Advanced High Speed, and Ultra High Speed.

Each category has its own subcategories, which are based on additional features, such as Ethernet channels built into cables or stronger signals for cars, but the main label you should worry about is whether the cable is standard cable, high-speed cable, advanced The cable is still a super cable. high speed.

The standard is the most basic and slowest HDMI cable you can get. Its bandwidth is 4.95Gbps, enough to send a 1080p signal to your TV, but nothing more. Standard HDMI cables are rarely found in stores, but if you find an unmarked cable in a bucket somewhere, or a home theater system that has not been upgraded for five years, it may be a standard cable. These simply cannot support 4K video.

The high speed is more than twice the standard bandwidth, and the minimum bandwidth is 10.2Gbps. The vast majority of new HDMI cables you buy will be "high speed" or higher, which means they can transmit 4K signals. The difficulty is that the bandwidth only supports 4K24 or 24 frames per second 4K video. If you want to watch movies in Ultra HD Blu-ray, it's fine, but if you have streaming TV shows or gaming hardware, they can push 4K at 30 or 60 frames per second, and it won't be able to handle it. The high-speed HDMI cable also supports HDR and wide color gamut.

Advanced high speed increases the bandwidth to 18Gbps, which can cover any consumer-level video source you deal with. They are also very common now. The advanced high-speed cable supports 4K60 or 4K video at a rate of 60 frames per second, with the BT.2020 color space and the ability to sample 4:4:4 chroma. Basically, they can handle any 4K video you throw at them. These are future-oriented cables that allow you to run 24/7 at 4K, and can even support 8K and higher resolutions with certain frame rates and features.

Ultra-high-speed cables are the most extreme home theater solutions for the future, and they are becoming more and more common. The ultra-high-speed cable has a bandwidth of up to 48Gbps and can carry out all trimmed uncompressed 8K video. For most 4K users (especially gamers), more importantly, they can support 4K at 120Hz. This means that if you have a gaming PC or game console and can push 4K speeds at speeds greater than 60 frames per second, this cable can handle it.

If you keep counting, there are at least three different types of cables, the name of which is "high-speed", and many cable companies don't care about other qualifiers when packaging them. If you want to be absolutely sure that the cable can handle 4K60 video, look for the cable with the Premium High Speed ​​QR code on the package. If you want 4K120 or 8K60, look for "Ultra High Speed". This is the most formal method that can be determined without personal testing.

Otherwise, if you only see "High Speed" on the cable packaging, look for any associated numbers. Specifically, bandwidth and video resolution. According to the grade, 18Gbps or 48Gbps should be clearly stated, and possibly 4K60 or 4K120 or 8K somewhere on the box, bag or list. If these numbers do not exist, you may be able to watch 4K24 video, nothing more. If "High Speed" is not displayed anywhere on the package, save it in your old DVD player.

The HDMI cable is a digital cable, so if the signal becomes weak, you will not feel fuzzy or stand still. It may show some strange artifacts, but then it will be cut off. Therefore, "signal fidelity" and the importance of gold-plated connectors are completely irrelevant at the time of purchase. At least to one point, which is between 25 and 75 feet.

All signals, whether digital or analog, will be attenuated over a long distance. How they are reduced depends on the strength of the transmitter, the sensitivity of the receiver, and the degree of interference the carrier receives between them. The last part is where the cable is inserted. The longer the cable you plan to lay, the better the insulation needs to be. Even so, at some point it still needs an active element to amplify or repeat the signal to make it reach its destination all the time. Typically, this point is about 50 feet. You can get longer cables without active components, but they will not be able to handle the full 4K60 HDR signal.

If your components are three, six, or even 15 feet away from each other, using regular cables should be fine. If you use a long cable between the projector throughout the house and the closet that houses the home theater components, you need to make sure that the cable can withstand the cable. For long-lived commercial and high-end home installations, you should seriously consider an extender system that can send signals through Ethernet over most distances, and once it is easier to manage through Ethernet, it will switch back to shorter HDMI cable. Your wall or ceiling.

On paper, if you have a 4K TV or plan to upgrade to a 4K TV, you should get Premium High Speed ​​or equivalent cables. The HDMI Forum may suggest that you use a certified Premium High Speed ​​cable with a QR code to ensure safety, but after reviewing various cable options, we are not sure yet.

Many available "high-speed" cables claim to support 4K60 video, deep color, 4:4:4 sampling, and other features without the need to declare advanced high-speed status or certification. These cables are required to have the same 18Gbps bandwidth as advanced high-speed cables. In fact, the vast majority of HDMI cables you buy in stores will say they have these features and bandwidth. You will have to look for 10.2Gbps or 4.95Gbps HDMI cables that haven't been in the drawer for years. They just don't have a QR code on the packaging, and they are not certified by the HDMI License Manager and the HDMI Forum.

Packaging can be deceptive, but cable prices can also increase. In order to determine whether you should be cautious or frugal, we decided to run our own tests, and the results were somewhat surprising.

We tested a dozen HDMI cables from various sources. Monoprice provides us with a series of its own HDMI cables, including commercial-grade extra-long cables. We also tested AmazonBasics HDMI cables, several unmarked cables that can also be purchased from Amazon, and even several unmarked cables that we simply found in the storage bucket of the test lab.

To test these cables, we used each cable to connect one 

 To a TV that can display 4K and HDR 10 content. Murideo can output test signals of various resolutions, frame rates and color depths, so we can confirm whether each cable can actually carry each type of signal. We display full-color test patterns in 1080p60, 4K24 with and without HDR, 4K60 with and without HDR, and 4K60 with HDR and 4:4:4 uncompressed color sampling. Although we used seven different signal types, for each combination of resolution and frame rate, the signal fidelity between non-HDR and HDR signals did not change at different color depths and sample rates. The graph here has been truncated to reflect this.

It should be noted that these are tests for 4K60 videos, not for 8K or 4K120 videos. It covers everything you need to watch any content on a 4K TV, but since 8K TVs and 4K120 sources are still rare, we have not tested higher rates.

To our surprise, every cable we tested is suitable for every test signal, with two exceptions. Monoprice's 75-foot commercial series standard speed HDMI cable can transmit 4K24 signals with and without HDR, but once we move to 4K60, the signal will fail. The Zosi HDMI cable we ordered from Amazon (a brand that mainly sells home security cameras) clearly stated on the product page that the cable is only suitable for 1080p, but when we tried to send a 4:4 4K60 HDR signal, it finally failed. : Use it to sample 4 colors. Even so, the cable can still handle 4K60 HDR signals with compressed colors well; only when we increase the color sampling, the screen will flicker and turn black.

These are the only faults caused by a bunch of HDMI cables. Even the completely unknown HDMI cable we are trying to use can also be 4K60 HDR with 4:4:4 color sampling.

If you have a 4K TV, do not have a game system that supports 4K120, and do not plan to move the home theater components too far away, then almost all the new HDMI cables you buy can be used for video content. In fact, although you should test by ensuring that Blu-ray players, media streaming or gaming systems output at the highest possible resolution and display HDR where possible, some of the cables you have already used may still be jobs.

Gamers, especially those looking for 4K120 or 8K performance on the latest game consoles or gaming PCs, should pay special attention to ultra-high-speed cables. Higher bandwidth means smoother graphics, TV shows and movies usually do not rely on these graphics, but high-end games can take advantage.

Ultimately, if you don't need a cable now and can wait a few days for delivery, we recommend that you use Monoprice for all the HDMI cables you need. It offers six-foot HDMI cables, each for only a few dollars, even if you want to spend a lot of money to buy particularly fancy, colorful, heavy-duty or ultra-thin cables.

Monoprice also always offers the widest selection of cable lengths and types. For example, the basic high-speed cable has 12 different lengths between 1.5 feet and 30 feet, and there are 8 different color options. There are many options for Premium High Speed ​​(seven lengths and two colors) and Ultra High Speed ​​(four lengths), which existed before variants such as slim cables.

Most HDMI cable options on Amazon have far fewer incremental length options, and flexibility is very useful if you know that the distances between home theater components are very close and want to minimize the number of dangling cables. The company also provides a lifetime warranty for all cables.

This does not mean that you should laugh at cables from Amazon or Best Buy, or even at most unknown brands that you can order online. Amazon's AmazonBasics cables are slightly more expensive, and Best Buy's Insignia and Rocketfish cables are significantly more expensive, but they are still very functional. And, if you are new and pay attention to the packaging, cheap, unnamed HDMI cables may also work with any video signals you throw at them. However, for high-end games, make sure you take a closer look at the packaging.

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