Buyer's guide to HDMI cables

Buyer's guide to HDMI cables

There are lots of different HDMI cables, so what should you be looking for? Darien Graham-Smith explains

If you're not certain what sort of HDMI cable you need, it's easy to be bamboozled by the many different models on offer. In reality, all HDMI cables can be divided into two types: "standard" cables are rated only for basic HDMI features and resolutions up to 720p or 1080i, while "high-speed" cables support the full range of resolutions and features. As you'd expect, there isn't much demand for standard cables these days, so almost every cable you'll see on sale is a high-speed model.

It's worth reiterating this point: almost every cable on sale, whether it costs £5 or £150, supports the full range of HDMI resolutions and features. This means you can safely ignore almost everything manufacturers and retailers claim about their cables. If you see operating frequencies quoted in megahertz, or bandwidths in gigabits per second, ignore them: the bandwidth must be sufficient for all HDMI features to work perfectly, or the cable wouldn't be certified.

Almost every cable on sale supports the full range of HDMI resolutions and features

You can also ignore any mention of different revisions of the HDMI standard, such as 1.3a or 1.4: a high-speed cable will work with all current HDMI equipment, and there's no new standard planned for the foreseeable future. In fact, the latest HDMI marketing guidelines state that cables must not refer to particular HDMI revisions. So long as you see the magic words "high speed", you're good to go. Failing that, look for a reference to 1080p video: if the cable supports this, it will support everything else as well.

There is one specification that's worth checking for, however. Both standard and high-speed cables are offered in variants that include an integrated 100Mbits/sec Ethernet channel. This isn't widely used at present, but for future devices such as smart TVs it could be useful, so it's worth checking for. Don't pay through the nose for this feature, however: Ethernet support just means the cable contains one extra strand of wire. There's no reason why this should add more than a few pounds to the price.

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