A while ago, good advice for choosing an HDMI cable was quite simple: buy an HDMI cable. Nowadays? Not much. Whether you’re building a next-generation gaming console or building a large entertainment system, if HDMI is involved, you should know that the game has changed.

If you’ve already discovered that something is wrong with your new device when you’re having trouble getting picture or sound, then you’ve definitely come to the right place.

I’m about to explain a little bit about why your new technology might not work and how to avoid having this problem in the first place.

The old HDMI standard

My advice to people looking in the recent past HDMI related guide the cables were quite simple. Up to 15 feet long, your bread and butter HDMI cable is almost guaranteed to work well. You’ll probably still be safe at 25 feet. But you’ll want to look at cable longer than that and at least a lower gauge—note that the lower the gauge number, the thicker the copper in the cable.

Basically, the longer your HDMI cable is, the more it should look like a fire hose, as opposed to, say, a drinking straw. Or you can switch to a different type of cable – but we’ll talk a little more about that below. Additionally, you wanted to do everything you could to make sure you had good build quality and a solid connector on each end. And then there were bonuses like high flexibility for easier cable management, or maybe a color you like better than black.

HDMI cables in red, blue and orange colors

I was perfect for going with most people for a long time Amazon Basics type cable for the most practical home consumer use. As long as the cable wasn’t complete garbage, it usually did the job. The ones and zeroes will go from point A to point B and you will get picture and sound. If you’re willing to spend crazy bucks on a high-end cable in hopes of getting slightly better video and audio quality, knock yourself out.

Now everything is different. In the world of HDMI 2.1 – or, more precisely, in a world where new HDMI cables can handle 40-48 gigabits of bandwidth per second (which is much higher than the 18Gbps standard we used to get), all bets are off. Well, not all, but enough to cause some problems.

Today, if you buy a cable that’s 2 to 3 meters (about 6 to 9 feet) long and needs to run up to 48Gbps, the chances are pretty good that whatever brand of cable you buy will work. At lengths longer than that (and actually shorter than that) you’re more likely to run into some problems.

HDMI 2.1: what’s changed

At the heart of why older cables are no longer sufficient is the intersection between the higher bandwidth or data rate we’re trying to push down the series of tubes in an HDMI cable, the cable itself, and the construction of the cable. a bunch of complicated math and physics. The bottom line is that there’s a lot more to this HDMI cable than you might think. Most people I’ve talked to think we’re talking about digital signals – ones and zeros – and since it’s a digital process, it should be pretty simple and there’s no real quality difference in the output of an HDMI cable. and other.

And up to a point this is true. The transmitted signal is digital. But the delivery method involves many quite similar factors.

Take a look at this diagram I took from a Chat on YouTube between Jeff Boccaccio at DPL Labs and Jason Dustal at Murideo. As you can see below, there’s a 5 volt line, a hot plug, a display data channel, some video channels, and then below that, a clock – all individual lines within one HDMI cable.

As specified in HDMI 2.1, the division of channels within an HDMI cable
Jeff Boccacico/DPL Labs

I don’t know about you, but this diagram shows me that there is more to an HDMI cable than I thought.

That’s a huge oversimplification, but the 5V channel above just needs to negotiate a very specific milliamp between a source like an Xbox Series X and a receiver like a TV or A/V receiver to get the party started. If this little thing doesn’t happen, nothing will. While this trigger worked quite successfully in the past, it’s becoming harder to do now. I will find out why in a moment.

On the other side of this diagram is a clock. Without looking at what the watch actually does, it can be compared to performing the function of air traffic control. If that clock can’t do its job, forget it—no audio or video signal goes to your TV or A/V receiver. If the clock is running low, you’ll likely see audio and video going in and out.

As demand increased, this tolerance decreased. Now we see more failures than before.

there are other factors as well HDCP and EDID and CEC audio and video must also be successfully negotiated digitally before being sent to the pipeline.

So where am I going here? I noted that higher speed or higher bandwidth is a factor. The more you try to compress a pipe, the greater the demand on that pipe’s capacity. The result is that now the requirements have increased with 60 frames / s or more 4K resolution, HDR metadata and uncompressed audio – if the copper in the cable is not strong enough and not strong enough in the right places for a given cable length, then failure is not the case before is inevitable.

In the past, the requirements were lower, so there was more tolerance for mistakes. As demand increased, this tolerance decreased. Now we see more failures than before.

The longer your HDMI cable is, the better the cable needs to be built, or the more important it is to switch to a different type of cable that isn’t just a bunch of thin copper inside.

So what if you buy a cable that says “HDMI 2.1” or “8K certified” or “48 Gbps guaranteed”? Then that cable should work, right? “Certified” is written on the package. Well, in a perfect world, yes. It should be. And for shorter runs, it probably will. But I can say that we are hearing more about failures than ever before. This is the A/V world we live in.

Zeskit Ultra High Speed ​​8K HDMI cable.

And it’s not just cables, it’s the source devices and receiver devices we use. These also change. It’s an evolving situation, and based on conversations I’ve had with some industry people, it’s kind of a mess and it’s getting worse.

What to look for

So what do we look for when shopping for HDMI cables that will reduce the risk of something going wrong? And what do you do if it goes wrong? First, buy from a reputable retailer so you can get a refund or exchange for another product. Save your receipts!

Second, when you get your cable, plug it in and stress test it before you do anything else. Do gaming or the most demanding audio and video work you want from your system at 4K/120Hz. Do this before carefully pulling cables and moving hundreds of pounds of equipment back and forth. If it works, great. If not? Make an exchange. This should save you from finding out the hard way that your cable isn’t working, and you should be able to fix the problem relatively quickly.

In terms of choosing an HDMI cable, all I can do is try to point you in the right direction.

Please note that the following tips are for people dealing with 4K, high frame rates, HDR, next generation consoles – such advanced products. Or, if you’re someone who wants to future proof as much as possible. If you’re hooking up your PS3 or old laptop, you’ll be fine with most decent HDMI cables on the market today.

Copper cables

First, you’ll be safest if you don’t buy a standard, copper-based HDMI cable shorter than 1 meter or 6 feet. If you do, the clock I mentioned above will likely not work and the cable will fail. So you’re safest starting at 1 meter, although it may be longer than you think you need.

From there, don’t go with a standard copper cable longer than 2 meters. I’ll get into other cable types in a bit, but make sure the 1 to 2 meter cable can handle 48Gbps and buy a cable from a brand you trust. I’m not going to mention the brands here, but if you haven’t heard of the brand before – it might be fine, but you’re taking a risk. Make sure you’re okay with taking that chance, and be prepared to take it back if it doesn’t work out.

Also, don’t buy the cheapest cable and don’t buy anything too expensive. The good thing is somewhere in the middle. Really expensive cables will probably be completely reliable, but are probably overkill. However, the idea that anything other than the simplest cheap cable is snake oil is not true.


If you intend to extend the HDMI cable beyond 2 meters or 10 feet, I think you should seriously consider upgrading to an HDMI Active Optical Cable or HDMI AOC. You used to be able to get away with longer runs with copper cables, but now it’s too risky.

HDMI AOC is a hybrid that uses fiber optic for some jobs and copper for others, making it safer to run longer. How reliable is HDMI AOC in a 40Gbps world? We’re still trying to figure that out, but we’ll update this article as soon as we find out. I can say that if the HDMI AOC cable does not work, there is one more step to make it work longer.

HDMI cable Power type cable with USB power connector

HDMI Cable Power

That would be HDMI Cable Power. There are two ways to use the HDMI Cable Power function. Currently, most devices don’t have a built-in HDMI Cable Power, so the HDMI Cable Power cables you get will come with a separate connector that will provide power via USB, for example. But as more devices support HDMI Cable Power in the future, you’ll be able to start using HDMI Cable Power cables without that little connector – the power will go into the HDMI cable connector itself. If the HDMI AOC does not work, the HDMI Cable must have power.

One more important note. If you’re talking about in-wall use, then you need to make sure that the cable is designed for in-wall use, in addition to everything we’ve just discussed. This usually means that it has a special jacket on the outside to prevent the spread or, in some cases, the cause of the fire.

I realize there is a lot to absorb here, but I hope this explanation and guide was helpful. As always, I will update this article as new information becomes available.

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