HDMI cables – the great ripoff?


I know this is slightly off topic but I’ve been struggling to find any new and interesting freeware items of late, plus articles covering Windows 8 and browsers have been done to death and are beginning to wear a tad thin. Besides, I’ve just bought myself a brand new Panasonic 55″ plasma television so, for me at least, the subject is topical.

My original Panasonic 42″ plasma was purchased almost a decade ago, still going strong but I decided it was time for an upgrade – bigger is better, right? The old TV relied on connecting peripheral devices via such ‘old fashioned’ notions as AV jacks and S-video, so the new purchase moved me into the previously unvisited realm of HDMI and HDMI cables.

The first question which entered my head was, as human nature often dictates, how much? And I was absolutely amazed at the price differential – from a mere $10.00 all the way up to a staggering $250.00. Now I am by no means an expert in this field but I am no dunce either so the TV salesman’s pitch… the more expensive the cable the better… did not quite ring true. Time to head home and visit my old friend Google.

Ten minutes later, after some basic research, my suspicions were indeed confirmed – overwhelming opinion suggests there is basically no difference between $10.00 HDMI cables and those which cost $250.00. Forget gold plated and gas injected, forget signal degradation and enhanced performance, the plain fact of the matter is – digital either works it it doesn’t, there is nowhere in between. If you connect via a $10.00 cable and can see a picture and hear the audio that is as good as it is going to get, the situation will NOT be improved or enhanced using more expensive cables.

This is, of course, assuming standard device to television direct hookup over normal distances, from 5 to 10 feet. The situation may well differ for connections involving much longer cables, such as cabling through an entire household for example (conventional wisdom currently suggests a maximum of around 15 meters).


I did also read a few comparisons stating that more expensive cables do in fact offer improved signal transfer and enhanced audio but even if that were true, I am suggesting the differences would be so infinitesimal as to be indistinguishable to human senses. This terrific graphic from the MintLife blog just about says it all:

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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

17 Comments

  1. I remember giving my father the same advice when he bought his tv. Don’t buy expensive HDMI cables!

    Though I did buy one of the $1.25 HDMI cables from Amazon, and I can say that it does leave some to be desired. When used to connect a PS3 or my LG Blu-ray player, there is a hint of static and snow-like pixels in really dark spots and when the systems start up.

    It seems like $1.25 may not buy a fully functional HDMI cable. Who would have thought?

    • LOL. Compliance is an important ingredient Patrick. One should always make sure the cable they are buying conforms to their own country’s particular set of standards – generally signified by a seal of approval from the relevant authority. I’d hazard a guess your $1.25 cable didn’t. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the article been telling people this for years now I have more proof. Only problem I have had with cheap cables is the failure rate. I have had cables go bad not sure why but once replaced with another cheap cable things worked again. Why pay $250 for one you know how many I can buy at $6.00 each 41. 🙂

  3. I have found a great website for inexpensive, high quality cables of all sorts, as well as connectors and other miscellany; it is called My Cable Mart, or mycablemart.com. Great prices for hdmi cables of all lengths and quality. I am in no way affiliated with them, just a very satisfied customer I have purchased coax cables, toslink cable and hdmi from them with excellent results. I hope this helps someone out there looking for some value in hunt for good cables.

  4. Oh this is SOOOOO true.Actually,if you pay more than 3 bucks for a 6FT,that’s too much.One day sale sites have offers for twin packs @ $4.99 or similar all the time.

  5. I’ve always tried to direct people to these cables as I think they are about the best on the market for the price they are. Very high over all quality on the cable…none of the junk that does nothing for an HDMI cable. Best thing about BlueJeansCables is they don’t try to be the best…they are just a very good quality at a resonable and great price (for what you’re getting).

    http://www.bluejeanscable.com/store/hdmi-cables/hdmi-cable.htm

  6. Jim makes a good point about “compliance.” As long as the cable meets the “compliance standards,” buy the cheapest one you can find. Works for me.

  7. I recently was moving my TV and on unplugging the Best Buy RocketFish (their own brand) HDMI cable I found that the connector stayed with the TV while the wires just pulled out of the gold connector that is plugged into the TV. So of course I brought the item back to Best Buy since RocketFish cables have a lifetime warranty. Unfortunately I didn’t have a receipt as it was paid for with cash so there was no way to retrieve a receipt. However, since the only place to get RocketFish cables is Best Buy and it had a lifetime warranty I didn’t think there would be a problem. Boy was I wrong. The “customer service” manager did everything thing he could do to prevent honoring the warranty. First he claimed that I damaged the cable because the wires that go into the connector were bent. When I explained to him that there was no way to put the gold hood/connector back on once it came off and that was why the wires were bent he insisted I was trying to return a damaged item and told me I should have brought this small connector with me. I picked up the other end of the cable where the connector was still attached to show him what the connector looked like, gave it a slight pull and lo and behold, that connector came right out of the cable. So now the “customer service” manager tries to put the connector that just came off back on the wires. Can you imagine, he couldn’t do it and wound up mangling the wires. Only then did he drop the position that I had damaged the cables. But in the long run it didn’t matter. They would not exchange the cable. The moral….keep ALL receipts.

  8. This article does not constitute proof. Is there “proof” showing matching of the input digital signal to the output? Otherwise, what are we really talking about?

    • Does a guy with a EET degree and 20 years on the technical side of the Broadcast Television field (who works with digital signals daily) count as an expert of sorts?

      If so, you will find absolutely NO difference between a $5 28ga HDMI cable from monoprice.com (or similar quality supplier) and a more expensive cable (other than your wallet will be much lighter) for typical in home use. Now if you’re nearing the 15 meter HDMI specification limit you will need to look at something a little more robust, but nowhere near $250.

  9. A $1.25 cable? I think I got took when I bought one at Big Lots for $6. Next time I’ll wait for Dollar Tree to start selling them (everything is a dollar) – I buy all my cheap digital watches there – cheaper than replacing the batteries when they die. I did hook up the cable company’s DVR box for three months (and returned it). I really didn’t notice any difference using the standard coax, the HDMI, the “RCA” audio/video or an “S” cable. The TV is a 3 yea old Vizio (720/60) unless I stood about 6 inches from the screen – even then it was minor. As for “Worst Buy”, I had my problems with them in the past and will never deal with them again. This past Thanksgiving they got into trouble for taking people’s money with the promise of delivery in time for Christmas. Of course, Christmas came and went and “no delivery”. In the meantime, they had the money earning interest or whatever investment. Plus they deal with rebates (or at least they did) and you wait forever to get the rebate (not to mention the numerous phone calls and hassles to get them). I think anyone who goes there would probably follow the “Yes” path in that chart and not give a “you know what” for the starving children.

  10. I have a 6 year old LCD flat screen TV that does not have a HDMI connection.
    Is there a way I can equip it with one?
    Thanks

      • Just to further clarify Jim’s (correct) response and add a bit of information for those who are curious…

        The TV in question will have component connections for HD video which require 3 cables and are usually marked, labeled, or colored as Red, Blue, and Green. Component is an analog signal and the max resolution it can pass is 1080i (interlaced).

        Due to the nature of analog video cable construction is important to get the best possible signal. Factors such as cable length, construction, and shielding play an important role, but (just like HDMI) $250 cables are not needed as long as quality cables are used. Monoprice.com and BlueJeansCable.com are both sources form component cables.

  11. I recently purchased an HDMI cable from ebay. The total cost is 1$ including shipping from HongKong. The only drawback is that you need to wait about 10days to receive the cable. The cable works fine connecting my laptop and an 1080p TV. I would strongly suggest Dollar Tree to carry HDMI cable in their store.