No, You Don’t Need Expensive HDMI Cables For Your Newly-Bought 4K HDR TV
Stephan Jukic – January 03, 2019
So there you are in your living room or den. You’ve just unpacked the brand new, state-of-the-art 4K ultra HD TV with HDR that you wanted for a long time, and you need some new HDMI cables because you want to hook up the 4K streaming media box or gaming console you also have.
The temptation right now to go for really expensive HDMI cables for your really awesome gadgets is going to be high, to make sure all that high dynamic range beauty and resolution flows perfectly, and after the money you (or somebody at least) just spent on that TV and external device, it almost seems like a trivial issue no? Well, in the interests your wallet, we say no. Here’s the real deal:
Even if the signals you want to pack between devices include full 4K resolution, total high dynamic range with wide color gamut and fast refresh rates (frame rate above 30fps for content, games), the only thing you need is an HDMI cable that says “High Speed with Ethernet” and you’re good to go for everything current and likely to come soon. As a bonus, you might see a “Certified Premium” label too, and that’s great if its cheap as well but High Speed with Ethernet is perfectly capable of handling 4K video at maximum frame rate for today’s HDMI standard, HDR and everything else you need for smooth, high quality connectivity between your 4K media devices or consoles and your 4K HDR TV. This is it. If it says this, then no matter how cheap it is, it can absolutely handle all of the above as perfectly as any other HDMI cable with all the marketing bells and whistles of “4K-capable” “HDR-ready” and whatever else tacked onto it and sometimes selling for as much as $100 for even a fairly short length.
Get the cheapest cable you can find from any brand with both High Speed capability and “Certified Premium” advertised somewhere on the packaging and you are definitely good to go. These sorts of cables usually cost between $3 and $5 per meter (3 feet) and come in all sorts of generic brands. Amazon sells a particularly economical line call ed “Amazon Basics” that delivers all of the above for under $10 bucks for over 6 feet of length, but like we said, you can get high speed HDMI cables anywhere for the same performance.
You see, HDMI cables are basically just dumb pipes. If they have the right basic width, then the same quantity of data will flow through them no matter what else comes along in terms of content additions, as long as the cables work at all. All the rest is literally just manufacturer hype for squeezing extra money out of unknowing consumers in what is an extremely competitive commodity market for electronic device accessories.
Now however, here are a couple very minor caveats:
A Couple Small Caveats on HDMI
First of all, yes, there are also older versions of HDMI which could only transmit 4K at 30FPS and without HDR but these are rarely sold now and as long as you maintain High Speed with Ethernet and maybe “Certified Premium” as well in mind, you won’t accidentally buy any of these. The bottom line will be that most new HDMI cables sold today online or in stores come with the best stnadard built into them by default, regardless of brand or even price. And in any case, your 4K TV should be able to tell you it’s getting a 4K HDR signal, and if it can’t be seen to indicate this anywhere, then maybe the cable you bought wasn’t a high speed version but instead a standard speed version and you just didn’t notice (these also exist, regardless of brand).
Secondly, as some of you readers might have heard, HDMI 2.1 is coming for the 4K UHD TVs of 2019 and beyond, so obviously this is going to affect the content market in some ways. However, for the time being (and forever as far as any existing devices, disc and streaming content are concerned), HDMI 2.1 is completely irrelevant. If your 4K TV had HDMI 2.0 (4K HDR HDMI) connectivity and the devices and cables you connect to it do as well, then all the content and games so far produced for the consumer market will work on them. Even games or content created with HDMI 2.1 in mind will flow just fine at the standards of HDMI 2.0 when running through your existing “Certified Premium” 18Gbps HDMI cables. So like we said, HDMI 2.1 may be coming but for you and your existing content and devices, it won’t change anything at all.
Finally, if you do find yourself not getting 4K HDR video transmission from your 4K high dynamic range external media device to your television, also be sure to check that you installed those affordable new High Speed cables into the right connectivity port. Most of today’s 4K HDR TVs from all of the major brands come with at least two of their (usually) four HDMI ports with full HDMI 2.0 or 2.0a capability –meaning that the PORTS are built to handle both 4K video and HDR content metadata. Some models even come with this standard in all of their HDMI ports. But if they don’t and you accidentally plug your cables into one of the HDMI 1.4 ports, then your 4K will come through at a lower maximum frame rate and no HDR content. This of course isn’t your cable’s fault and just requires changing ports until everything flows smoothly..
HDMI & Transmission Distances
One further, final detail to keep in mind applies only if you need to install HDMI cables for your 4K HDR transmissions from device to TV over longer distances of about 15 feet or more. In these cases, it might be a good idea to invest in what are called “Active” HDMI cables (with the same above High Speed and “Certified Premium” capabilities).
The Bottom Line
In essence, go for the very cheapest HDMI cable possible that works for 4K HDR. That’s it. Unless you fall into what we described in our caveats above about older HDMI cables or longer distances. Any basic brand like Amazon Basics, Monoprice or even the most generic versions will do just fine if they can handle High Speed connectivity and come with “Premium Certified” labels as a bonus. And you can ignore all the pricier editions with their plastered marketing hype.