Which HDMI Cable Should You Buy?
CREDIT: HDMI LLC
High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cables are the essential connections between HD devices, but not all HDMI cables are created equal. The HDMI Licensing organization that set the global standard for HDMI has recently launched a product labeling program to help consumers identify compliant cables that offer the benefits of the newest standards.
HDMI cables transmit all formats of digital audio and video through a single cable, as well as data from an Internet connection, replacing as many as thirteen older cables to eliminate that tangle of cords behind your TV.
To play HD content, every component in the home entertainment chain, including the TV, Blu-ray player, game console, cable box and the cables that connect one with the other must all be HD capable. The HDMI product label assures shoppers that what's in the box has been fully tested and is compliant with the HDMI specification.
Devices connected with HDMI have the ability to scan each other’s capabilities and automatically configure certain settings to simplify the process of setting up a home theater. An HDTV and a 3-D Blu-ray player, for example, can auto-negotiate settings such as resolution and aspect ratio to correctly match the format of the incoming content to the highest capabilities of the TV.
Focus on features, not version numbers
HDMI specifications have evolved since their introduction in 2002.
"With the launch of 1.3 in 2006 and 1.4 in 2009, the HDMI specification added a suite of new features with each new version," Steve Venuti, president of HDMI Licensing, told TechNewsDaily. "However, since the specification is driven by options and does not mandate any features, it became problematic to associate any single feature to a version number."
The new specification added features as options for electronics manufacturers to build into their products: 3-D, 4K (displays capable of about four times today's 1080p HD), audio return channel, and HDMI ethernet channel.
"A simple and arbitrary example might be a TV that has audio return channel and advertises itself as 1.4 capable," Venuti said. "A consumer, seeing this, might assume that the TV has 3-D since 3-D is a feature associated with 1.4., but that would not be the case."
The HDMI Licensing group has prohibited cable manufacturers from using version numbers because they can be misleading to consumers. Device manufacturers may use version numbers until Jan. 1, 2012, but the numbers must be paired with specific features.
"So, we encourage consumers to focus on the feature set and NOT on the version number. This way, the consumer is driven to buy the technology for the feature and not for the technology itself," Venuti said.
Shopping for cables
"Consumers should remember that the vast majority of cables on the market (especially those 10 feet and shorter) are capable of transmitting the entire set of features in the HDMI specification," Venuti said.
If you see "high speed" on the packaging, you've found cables and equipment that conform to the latest specification.
High speed rated HDMI cables offer up to 10.2 gigabits per second of bandwidth capacity ― twice the capacity needed to transmit an uncompressed 1080p signal. High speed with ethernet channel HDMI cables are also available.
The ethernet channel is built into the cable and transfers Internet data at up to 100 megabits per second, a must for so-called smart TVs and other media devices that stream content from the Web.
New specifications are "backward compatible" with older HD devices, so you won't have to worry about new cables not working with your current home theater components.