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Why You Should Back Away From the $100 HDMI Cable

Maybe you’ve seen these fancy cables at your local big-box retailer. They go for $50, $100, or even $1,000. They offer cool sounding features like oxygen free-copper, gold plating, thicker gauge wires, special twisted conductors, carbon-fibre plugins, braided sleeving, and more. But here’s the thing: none of that really matters. Your $10 HDMI cable will provide the exact same picture quality as the fanciest of overpriced fancy cables.

The truth is that lots of independent investigators, such as PC World Magazine and CNET have tested plenty of HDMI cables on the market to see if the more expensive ones can make a big difference in sound and picture quality. The results are always the same: no difference, except in the dent in your wallet.

What to Know About HDMI

HDMI cables have been around for over a decade, but these days you’re most likely to see HDMI 2.0, which have been the standard since 2013. If you have a TV manufactured after 2013, it likely needs an HDMI 2.0 cable.

Next year, the new standard will be HDMI 2.1. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to run out and get new cables. This new update takes into account formats that won’t be widely available for years.

Without getting into too much technical detail, the main difference between the two standards is that HDMI 2.0 cables can easily handle 4K video resolution and HDMI 2.1 can handle up to 10K.

That is a very high resolution. An amazing, inordinately high resolution. Even though TVs that offer that kind of high resolution can cost thousands of dollars, your simple $10 HDMI 2.0 cable is completely sufficient for the job of providing stunning picture and video for years to come.

HDMI Buying Tips

Don’t get talked into “special” HDMI cables. Maybe the kid at your big box store thinks you need a “4K cable” for your TV. Or maybe he tries to throw technical jargon at you, saying your TV needs something that can handle 4:2:0 chroma subsampling, 60 Hz, or 3D support. Don’t listen; standard HDMI cables already do these things.

Versions matter more than brands. As we’ve mentioned, HDMI 2.0 is the current standard and has been since 2013. If brand X promises “ultra-clarity”, brand Y “supports 48-bit colour depth” and brand Z says that their cables have “very low interference”, but all three brands are offering HDMI 2.0 cables, their claims don’t matter much because the cables they’re offering are essentially the same, from a technical perspective.

Newer HDMI cables will still work on older TVs. Say you have a pre-2013 TV that used the older standard, HDMI 1.4. If that’s the case, you can still use a newer HDMI 2.0 cable to connect your TV to your favourite over-the-top-content box and it’ll work just fine.

Pay for length. The one real difference worth paying for when comparing cables is length. Obviously, a twelve-foot cable will cost more than a six-foot cable, but not by much.

Shop online. An easy way to compare cables and easily see that you’re getting the right version is to shop online. Brands such as Monoprice, Belkin, Coboc, and Link Depot sell inexpensive cables without a lot of inflated advertising. Also worth considering is AmazonBasics, Amazon’s in-house brand.