HD features exclusively depend on HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) connections and HDMI cables to delivery their high-quality pictures these days. When you buy an HDTV for your entertainment system, the HDMI ports will probably be easy to find simply because there are so many of them. Likewise, it is a rare receiver, computer monitor or game console that does not use the HDMI standard to channel video and sound data.
There are many goods reasons for this dependence. HDMI can handle very high quality video and sound that can easily keep up with the latest Blu-ray or HD channel presentations, all in one simple cable with the easiest installation process possible (you plug one end into the TV, and the other end into the compatible device of your choice. The most difficult part of using HDMI cables is buying them in the first place — and this guide is designed to take the worry out of the purchase.
Tips for Buying HDMI Cables
1. Learn the Capabilities of Your Devices First
The latest HDMI products can offer high resolutions and plenty of capabilities (like 3D video), but here is an important note for those first learning about cables: The cable cannot give your TV those abilities. Both your TV and your source device (Blu-ray player, console, etc.) must have those capabilities. If you do not understand the limitations of your devices, buying the right cables will grow confusing and frustrating, so sit down with your manuals and find out your limits first.
If you have bought an HDTV with 3D viewing capabilities, make sure that your Blu-ray disc and your Blu-ray playing device supports 3D, too. Then you can go out and buy cables without worry.
The same applies to video resolution. Unless your source provides 1080p (the primary HD video mode used by modern technology, surpassed only by the still-nascent 4K technology), your HDTV and HDMI cables will not be able to offer true 1080p quality, either. If your source only offers 1080i (a lesser HD standard), that is the quality you should expect.
2. Take Some Time to Measure
American HDMI cables are measured by the foot, and often priced based on length, as well. Do not buy more cable than you need. Extra cable will not affect quality, but it will take up space in the innards of your entertainment system and may cost a little extra, too. If your devices are very close together, you may only need a 3-foot cable. If they are farther apart, a six-foot or 12-foot cable may be a better choice.
If you are wiring a complex system that spans the room, then order a much longer cable. Instead of just guessing how much cable you need, bring out the tape measure and use a few minutes to measure the distance between ports. At the least, eyeball your devices and do some basic guesswork to come up with the right lengths.
3. Find Low Prices
While many HDMI scams have died out, some persist. As long as a cable is the correct HDMI standard and not an outright fake, the price does not matter. The cable will have precisely the same functionality no matter who is selling it or what extra features they are claiming.
Some brands try to make packaging especially impressive and boast additional features that make their HDMI cables especially fast, durable, or effective — and then charge $120 for a basic 12-foot cable. The 12-foot cable for $15 by a different brand can work the same way, with the same features, while saving you $100. The choice is obvious, so look for low prices and pay little attention to weird advertising claims. Double-check cable type and age instead.
4. Buy the Right Type
There are currently five different official types of HDMI cable. Three of these HDMI cables are “Standard Speed,” plus various extra features and can be safely ignored. The remaining two are “High Speed” cables that offer better performance for little extra cost, making them the perfect solution for your system.
There is a High Speed option and a High Speed with Ethernet option. The Ethernet version has a separate Ethernet data channel that can help devices network through a physical line instead of a Wireless Internet connection. Few devices use this feature, but it is a relatively new iteration of HDMI cables and you may want to buy the Ethernet-supported version for future device compatibility.
5. Do Not Buy Old HDMI Cables
Trying to avoid rip-off prices and making sure your HDMI cables are still the right type may grow confusing. All HDMI cables are based on an evolving standard. The latest standard is 1.4, which supports 3D and the other latest features found in High Speed HDMI cables.
This creates a simple, two-step guideline when shopping. One, look for the blue “High Speed” label. Two, avoid buying cables that are several years old. Both these steps work together – the latest High Speed HDMI cable types are new, while the older HDMI standard will not offer the same compatibility.
This is why it is a good idea to purchase HDMI cables from a well-known online store like Amazon or a physical store, instead of using eBay or buying used cables that may be from an old standard.
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