HDMI cables: Once again, don't spend more than you need to
We've long been advocates of not paying for pricey cables, which often do little more than pad the pockets of the manufacturers that make them and the retailers that sell them.
For example, we most recently cautioned that there is no such thing as either a "3D HDMI Cable" or an "HDMI 1.4 cable," as any standard high-speed cable (10.2Gbps) is sufficient for handling 3D signals.
But according to a report from HD Guru, there's a new initiative underway to once again get consumers to pay more for HDMI cables, this time based on the frame rate—120Hz, 240Hz or even 480Hz—of the TV. HD Guru found new labels on HDMI cable packages that use key TV marketing terms, such as 3D, 240Hz, and 600Hz (the sub-field drive now used by most plasmas) to lure consumers into buying pricier cables. The irony is that with the exception of 3D, these specs have nothing to do with the signal coming into the TV via the cable, as they refer to the internal processing done to the signal once it's inside the TV.
We thought the issue had pretty much been addressed by the HDMI organization, which prohibited manufacturers from marketing cables by the HDMI version (HDMI 1.3, HDMI 1.4, etc). Instead, cable marketers must label their cables using one of five new logos: HDMI Standard, HDMI High Speed, HDMI Standard with Ethernet, HDMI High Speed with Ethernet, and HDMI Standard Automotive. A high-speed cable is recommended for sending 1080p signals, such as those from a Blu-ray player, to the TV. But based on the packages provided by HD Guru, this is a new, possibly confusing twist that skirts that ban.
So to be clear, unless you plan to regularly disconnect and reconnect components, where it might make sense to buy pricier, sturdier cables with more rugged connectors—or you require very long HDMI cable runs, more than 30 feet—any high-speed-rated cable should suffice. And don't let a package or retail associate tell you otherwise.
—James K. Willcox