Now that the question of “What is a HDMI Cable” is answered, it is now time to address the question of “How to buy a HDMI Cable” and “Where to buy them”. The truth is, the process can be very simple but, there are many variables that complicates it. The first issue is that there are many non-genuine HDMI cables on the market. The second is that there are many different flavors of HDMI devices because the standards does not require a manufacture to implement all of the functionality of any specific version. The third is that the price range for the cables are all over the map – from very expensive (greater than $400) to very cheap (less than $5). The fourth is, HDMI Cables are available from almost all electronic Brick-and-Mortar store. But, the selection is even greater online. Finally, the number of HDTVs, Computers, Tablets, Blue-Ray Players and all type of Consumer Electronic products that has a HDMI port is staggering. As of just last year, it is estimated that more than 3 billion HDMI out-fitted devices were shipped. Considering that some of these devices have multiple HDMI ports should give you a sense of all the possibilities. Also, add to that, the fact that you have a Micro (Type D), Mini (Type C) and a Standard (Type A) version of this connector plug and the possibilities grows exponentially. I should point out that although Type A, C and D plugs are all different sizes, the pin count for each connector remains the same at 19.
So, what is a non-techie to do? As I said, you can make the process very simple by buying a HDMI Cable with all of the functions of the latest standard (currently V1.4a) to fit the type of HDMI port that is on your Electronic Device. Obviously, that might be an over-kill and cost more than you need to spend for functions that you might not use.
For a more deliberate and informed process, this is what I would recommend. First, from what I have seen, prices are better online than what you would find in a Brick-and-Mortar (unless it is a discount/surplus store like Ollies). That make sense since big online operations like Amazon or even volume sellers like Walmart tend to have lower over-head cost. They also don’t need to pay an online sales associate. So, shop at your preferred online store – one that has good name recognition and a brand name to protect is even better. This way, you can return the product if you are not satisfied.
I do still suggest that you go and speak to the “techie” at the Best Buy (or where ever), to get some guidance on what they consider to be a good HDMI brand. As well as, which features your cable should have based on the specification of the devices that you are trying to connect together. This leads me to probably one of the most important guidance in your buying decision “think features and functions instead of simply HDMI version.” This is important because, again, manufacturers are not mandated to implement all functions in a specific version. The standard is backwards compatible so even though the emphasis shouldn’t be version number, try to stick with the newer versions. Here are some of the questions that one might ask as they are trying to decide which cable to buy:
- What are the features of the devices I am trying to connect together ? Do I want to share Ethernet connectivity between the HDMI enabled devices that I am connecting ? The functionality of the HDMI Cable will be limited by the device with the lease amount of HDMI features.
- What will be the distance between the devices ? This will determine the length of the cable you will need to purchase. The longer the cable, the more expensive it will be. In extreme cases, you might also need to add a repeater, extender or some type of amplification if the cable needs to cover long distances (over 10 meters), as is the case for some home theater. Alternatively, long distance routing might force you to buy an “active” cable (has built-in electronic to maintain the quality of the digital signals) vs. the passive one that is primarily used in most situations.
- What type of ports are on the devices that I am trying to connect ? Is it a Mini-to-Standard (Type C to Type A), Micro-to-Standard (Type D to Type A) or Standard-to-Standard (Type A to Type A) HDMI connection ? In some case, you might need to buy a conversion connector. Or, a cable with two different types of plugs at each end. By-the-way, HDMI port on a device will always be female. The plugs at the end of the cables will always be male.
- Is this a genuine HDMI cable ? There are a lot of non-compliant cables on the market. You can find information about registered (official) vendors and manufactures on the HDMI organization website. The link is on the “additional HDMI resource” page of this site.
- What is a reasonable price for the cable I need ? This is tricky to answer since there are so many factors that affect the price of a HDMI cable. As mentioned before, the features (such as bandwidth and 3D) and the length is just a couple of them. However, it is very reasonable to get a high quality 6-ft cable with a lot of the V1.4a functions for $10 – $25 online.
HDMI Licensing, LLC has also done things to simplify and improve the consumer buying experience. As of V1.4, there are specific labeling requirements. The cables are described as Standard (Category 1) or High Speed (Category 2). So, for newer cables they are required to be labeled by cable types. These are the different labels and what they mean:
Standard HDMI® Cable – is designed for most home applications, and is tested (@ 74.25 MHZ) to reliably transmit 1080i or 720p video. This is also the HD resolutions that are commonly associated with cable and satellite television, digital broadcast HD, and upscaling DVD players.
Standard HDMI® Cable with Ethernet – has the same functionality as the standard cable plus an additional dedicated data channel for HDMI Ethernet device networking. All of the devices that needs to be networked must be HDMI Ethernet enabled.
Standard Automotive HDMI® Cable – The automobile is a hostile environment, therefore the Automotive HDMI cable is designed with that in mind. It has similar technical characteristics as the Standard HDMI Cable with support for 1080i/720p video. The two important distinction of this cable is that the signals have stronger strength and it also has a latching system to secure the connection. This is to prevent the vibration in the car from leading to a break in connection.
High Speed HDMI® Cable – Is designed and tested (@340 MHZ) to operate at data speeds of up to 10.2gbits and handle video resolutions of 1080p and beyond, including future display capabilities such as 4K, 3D, and Deep Color. If your HDMI devices (such as a Blu-ray player) support these features, this is the recommended cable to get.
High Speed HDMI® Cable with Ethernet – has the same functionality as the High Speed cable plus an additional dedicated data channel for HDMI Ethernet device networking. All of the devices that needs to be networked must be HDMI Ethernet enabled.
Hopefully, I was able to provide you with some useful information to help make your HDMI buying decision a little bit easier. So, now you know “How to and where to buy the ideal HDMI cable” for your situation. In my next posting, I will cover the “Monster” cable. It is on the higher end of the cost scale but, it is a very well respected and recognized brand.