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Author Topic: Is all HDMI created equal?  (Read 1527 times)

scottydl

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Is all HDMI created equal?
« on: December 29, 2016, 07:20:27 PM »
Are cheap HDMI cables just as good as premium ones?  When I stream video from my laptop to the TV (via HDMI cable), sometimes the picture/sound stutters a bit... and that doesn't seem to happen with a second cable I use.  Neither one of them has a brand name and I think they're both cheapies.  I'm just wondering if it's worth it to upgrade to a better cable, or if those "premium" and "made for 4k content" expensive cables actually allow for more bandwidth to travel.
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BobNSam

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2016, 07:43:13 PM »
Wire is wire is wire. If the manufactured cable meets HDMI standard for shielding, etc. it should work fine. Premium high dollar cables add little value, plus if a cheapy fails just through it away. I don't  know why but a connected cable just laying there will sometimes fail...and it was an expensive one that failed for me. 
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scottydl

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2016, 07:52:58 PM »
None of mine have failed, as they still transmit audio and video... I just wondered if that signal stutter could be due to my cheap cable or if there is some other problem source.

A guy on Craigslist near my is selling a few Monster Cable brand HDMI cables, and I thought about picking them up if they would be worthwhile to have and/or provide better signal.  I don't really need any more physical cables, and in fact I'm going to grab a gently used Chromecast from someone else on CG... so most of my streaming I'll be able to do wirelessly anyway.
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SeilerBird

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2016, 07:59:13 PM »
I stopped buying cheap HDMI cables after a few of them failed on me. I am not suggesting buying the most expensive ones because wire is wire but not all insulation is created equal.
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Lou Schneider

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2016, 12:03:15 AM »
There can be significant differences between HDMI cables.  HDMI 1.4 signals go up as high as 10 gigabits per second, HDMI 2.0 goes as high as 20 gigibits per second.

At those rates, you're basically talking about sending RF signals down the wire.   As with any RF transmission line, things like wire cross-section, twist, spacing, etc. has to be uniform throughout the cable length for good signal transfer.

A cheap cable may be "HDMI compliant" in that it has the right connectors on each end and some kind of nominally correct cable in between, but the manufacturing tolerances may leave any particular cable scraping the edge of those specifications.   Higher priced cables generally are made to tighter tolerances, including usually having greater mechanical resistance to damage, so they will most likely work better than one that just barely meets the minimum specifications.

A kinked or otherwise damaged HDMI cable should be thrown away - it will have an impedance bump at the kink or damage and this will adversely affect it's performance.

Don't forget digital signals are all or nothing - there's really not much overlap between working perfectly and not getting a usable signal at the other end. 

If you're not having noticeable problems, going to a better cable most likely won't make any difference.

But if you are having problems, it might be worthwhile to invest in a better quality cable.

« Last Edit: December 30, 2016, 12:15:05 AM by Lou Schneider »

Isaac-1

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2016, 12:14:30 AM »
I say buy the mid grade ones, the bottom of the barrel $1 cables may work fine for a while, but the $5-$10 ones like the Amazon Basic house branded cables tend to be a good bit better, more flexible, handle more insertion events, etc.  There is no way I would buy those $50+ monster cables though.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2016, 07:37:12 AM »
I'm with Isaac-1. The very cheapest cables may not hold up well or have minimal specs, but most any above that are generally quite good. The minimum HDMI spec has plenty of data capacity for any streaming need, including 4k tv. For example, Netflix says their 4k tv stream is 15.6 Mbps, which is hardly a blip on an HDMI cable. DVD playing 4k video are probably closer to 20 Mbps, but that's still not much when HDMI is measured in Gigabits rather than megabits. So it's not the cable data rate that is the concern..

What does happen is wear or corrosion on cheap connectors and the inconsistencies in insulation and spacing that Lou described. So if one cable is not performing well and another is, I would trash the laggard one. However, I would replace it with another inexpensive model as long as it met at least the HDMI 1.4 spec (HDMI 2.0 is the latest, I thing). That should have plenty of capability for any tv streaming, even after the cable degrades a bit from abuse. No need to buy those high-priced cables with prominent claims about digital, streaming, or 4k. Any spec of  HDMI cable will do all of those things.
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scottydl

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2016, 08:49:36 AM »
I say buy the mid grade ones, the bottom of the barrel $1 cables may work fine for a while, but the $5-$10 ones like the Amazon Basic house branded cables tend to be a good bit better, more flexible, handle more insertion events, etc.  There is no way I would buy those $50+ monster cables though.

Thanks for all the great info.  The only reason I'm considering Monster Cable is because I can get them from someone local on Craigslist for a fraction of their retail price.  They're used but I assume not damaged in any way.
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chuckbear

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2016, 10:22:53 AM »
Scotty, We have had 3 sets of Monster HDMI cables that at least one end has completely fallen apart. There was no type of wear or movement that could have caused this. Just an FYI. Chuck
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spacenorman

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2016, 12:33:34 AM »
There is no way I would buy those $50+ monster cables though.

Monster will NEVER get a dime from me.   They are one of the most litigious companies out there.  They sue anybody and everybody - and they sue them early and often.   Their claims regarding their products' superiority have been debunks.   Their business practices are such that I'll go out of my way to take my business elsewhere. 

YMMV. 

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Randy328

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2016, 12:54:16 AM »
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spacenorman

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2016, 10:34:58 AM »
You think Monster Cables are expensive, go get you a few AudioQuest cables. Low distortion.

Boutique cables as like catnip to the audiophiles of the world.   A well spun tale of the special conductive characteristics of a particular cable will have them reaching for their wallets every time - regardless of how many independent tests debunk the claims of anything being "special" at all.   When PT Barnum made his now famous comments about fools and their money - he was talking specifically about the "boutique cable" world.
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8Muddypaws

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2016, 12:02:30 PM »
I've set up a number of home theater systems and have only found two instances where a cheap generic cable wouldn't work but a more expensive one did.  Both times it involved Roku devices, for whatever that's worth.
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SeilerBird

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Re: Is all HDMI created equal?
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2017, 06:33:13 PM »
I spent the last few days rebuilding my 4k TV and 7.1 surround system up. I mounted the TV on a much better stand and put the receiver and 4k player on a new cabinet. This meant I had to take the entire system apart and put it all back together. When I hooked everything up I was not getting any audio out of the TV. After spending time searching the menus for the TV and the receiver I started wiggling cables and sure enough the cheap HDMI cable connecting the TV and the receiver was intermittent. Gotta replace it with a more expensive cable.
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