You just bought a brand new TV and want to watch your favorite movie or play your favorite video game with one of your friends. Unfortunately, you can’t, because you need an HDMI® cable. There are so many out there, how to choose? Buying an HDMI® cable may be a lot like buying a car, except people usually have a vague idea of what they want in a car. They are either looking for something sporty; with good gas mileage; or a car that can carry all their golf bags, groceries or children. One of the similarities to buying a car is that there are a whole lot of options when looking for an HDMI® cable, with costs ranging from $6.99 to $10,000 a cable for the severe audiophiles. For those who are uninformed about these cables, mulling over the choices can be difficult and overwhelming to try to figure out which option is the right one. Here are a few tips on finding your HDMI® cable match:
DON'T FEAR THE "BAD PICTURE"
Every HDMI® cable, whether it's priced in the single-digits or five figures, does the same basic thing. You may think that a higher priced cable may produce a better picture or sound. This isn’t how HDMI® works. If the cable is functioning properly, the picture and sound quality is the same, no matter which HDMI® cable you're using. HDMI® either works perfectly or doesn't work at all. If what you see is fuzzy or spotty or sparkly, it means the cable is defective. Whether it's cheap or pricey, those issues mean it’s broken; and you should return it. Test after test has shown that the price of the cable has little or no effect on the quality of the picture or audio displayed on your screen, so if you're thinking of spending a mortgage payment's worth of money on a cable because you think it will be better, you may want to rethink that decision.
DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE "JITTERBUG"
Many HDMI® cable manufacturers use whatever tactic they can think of, to spook you into spending more money. One of the main concerns they like to bring up is "jitter,” which they say is audio interference that can supposedly mess up your sound. Manufacturers of more expensive HDMI® cables like to tout that they can reduce jitter but is that feature necessary? Well, jitter is a real thing, but just because it is, doesn't mean you should fear it. Why is that? Jitter hasn’t been proven to be perceptible by human ears, so any jitter that a fancy cable would reduce, would be something you likely would not be aware of in the first place.
DON'T STRESS ABOUT SPEED
Jitter is just one of many scare tactics to get you to buy overpriced cables. You may be asking: if there's no difference in signal quality, does that mean all HDMI® cables are the same? Not exactly. There are factors beyond price to consider when choosing the right cable. For example, HDMI® cables are separated into Standard Speed (Category 1) and High Speed (Category 2) models. The difference between them is that Cat 1 is rated up to 1080i resolution, while Cat 2 is rated for 1080p and higher. In practice, however, most Standard Speed cables are quite capable of handling 1080p. However, since there are reasonably priced options available for both, if you want to be absolutely sure you're maximizing your resolution, you might as well go with the High Speed option if you're dealing with 1080p.
WHAT TO CHOOSE?
Now you have a somewhat clearer understanding of the HDMI® cable landscape but which one should you buy? Ultimately, rather than relying solely on price, you should really choose the cable that suits your needs. The cheapest cable will provide a fine signal, but a more mid-level model will probably feature a more solid construction that can hold up to more wear and tear. Length is also a factor: if you're running a cable longer than 50 feet, a cheaper cable may have trouble getting the signal where it needs to go. There are lots of variations in the style of cable, such as flat cables or cables with a swivel-hinged plug that are ideal for tighter spaces.