Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI Cable

10 Dollars   Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI CableTo get the best out of your HD equipment, be it a nice widescreen television, a Blu-ray player, a PS3, or an HD streaming set-top box, you need at least one HDMI cable. Or more than likely, several HDMI cables. The thing is the pricing of HDMI cables varies wildly, from a few cents on one from the likes of Amazon to $100 or more from big-box retailers and ’boutique’ manufacturers.

Why does the pricing vary so wildly? And is there any connection between the price paid and the quality of the product? If you’ve read the title then you’ll already know the answers to these questions. And if you have already paid more than $10 for an HDMI cable then be prepared to find out just why you’re a bit of an idiot. Or very gullible. Or just easily swayed by pushy sales assistants.

What Is HDMI?

HDMI Cable   Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI Cable

Let’s begin with the basics…

The acronym HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. It’s the digital upgrade from analog cables of old such as RF and SCART. The first big consumer push for HDMI was when HD television sets started gaining popularity. Since then it has become the standard method of connecting many forms of digital equipment, from digital cameras to smartphones, from Blu-ray players to games consoles.

HDMI is an ever-evolving standard, with new specifications released as and when needed to support new technologies. Many people will own HDMI 1.3 cables which don’t support the integrated Ethernet channel or 3D. The latest specification (at the time of writing) is HDMI 1.4b, so if you want to future-proof your digital connections as much as possible these are what you should currently be looking to buy.

Just don’t spend more than $10 on an HDMI cable. Ever. If you do then you’ve been robbed, quite frankly.

Standard & Digital

Digital 1 and 0   Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI Cable

As previously noted, HDMI is a standard. This means any and all HDMI cables essentially do the same job, regardless of cost. If the box says an HDMI cable is 1.3a then it meets the specifications that all HDMI 1.3a cables meet. And it doesn’t matter whether it costs $1, $100, or even $1,000 (follow the link, seriously).

As previously noted, HDMI is also digital. The signal is delivered between the two devices connected via an HDMI cable in a digital format made up one ones and zeros. This means that assuming an HDMI cable isn’t flawed from the outset it will deliver whatever is passed through it error-free and without degradation. If it is flawed from the outset then it will be more from being in a bad batch than being manufactured on the cheap.

Rip-Off Merchants

Stupid Man   Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI Cable

Those manufacturers producing the high-end (read expensive) HDMI cables are, in my opinion, nothing more than rip-off merchants. There are companies whose whole reason for being are to sell these overly-expensive HDMI cables. They produce ’boutique’ products, apparently. Although I’m not sure what’s so boutique about cables rolling off a continuous production line.

The retailers who try and sell these wares to consumers because of the high margins involved are also rip-off merchants. They prey on the vulnerable, the tech unsavvy, the nOObs, and those who believe whatever sales patter they have rammed down their throats. And when a salesperson is looking at adding a few dollars to his or her paycheck with commission they’ll pull out all the stops to secure a sale.

Both of these remind me of the tonic sellers of the Wild West. They will talk you into handing over your cash, promise you the earth, and just hope you never discover the truth.

Paying A Premium

Money Money Money   Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI Cable

You may imagine there is a reason to pay the premium being charged here. But there really isn’t. There is no discernible difference in what the lowest-priced HDMI cable you can buy can do and what the highest-priced HDMI cable can do. Both deliver whatever is fed in one end and back out the other end. And (especially over short distances) the variation in price will make no difference to anyone but the most-ardent audio/visual geeks.

In terms of build quality there may well be some differences, so the $100 cable may last longer. But how often do HDMI cables break anyway? And if a cheap one does break then you can replace it by spending just a few dollars. If an expensive one breaks then that’s another $100 down the drain. With nothing to show for it.

Buying cheap also means you can upgrade to the newest specifications as and when needed without breaking the bank.

Conclusions

If you spend more than $10 on an HDMI cable then you need your head examining. And no argument can suggest otherwise. You’re also the victim of companies, retailers, and salesman taking advantage of people not knowing about an emerging technology. So you’re a fool I actually have some sympathy for.

This opens up a wider point that should see people educating themselves before heading out to buy whatever new gadget or piece of consumer technology they fancy splashing the cash on this month.

Do some research online, ask friends and family for opinions, and find out what your options are. Because if you don’t, you’ll end up not only wasting money but being called names by some random guy on the Internet. And surely no one wants to suffer that ignominy.

Image Credits: Images Money, Anonymous, Chris McClanahan, Laura Lewis, 401K

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47 Comments -

0 votes

M.S. Smith

I agree completely. When you examine the way HDMI works, it becomes clear that there’s no reason why a more expensive cable would work better. 

Personally I’ve used a number of cables from Monoprice for my home theater needs. They were $5 and work just as well as any other cable.

The companies selling high-end cables are just preying on people who are used to analog TV and think they’ll end up with a fuzzy or static-filled picture if they don’t have the right cord.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

Exactly. I bought two costing around £2.50 each ($4) when I got my TV a few years back, and they do the job and are still going strong to this day.

0 votes

stenro

I’ve always done well with Monoprice with their products and service. Even when I ordered the wrong HDMI cables with a HDMI switch box, I othen ordered the correct ones and kept the wrong ones because they are so inexpensive. It wasn’t worth spending even $5 or $6 to send them back.

0 votes

Sam Jones

Monoprice makes good cables cheap, not to be confused with traditional cheap cables.

0 votes

sunny

hello,Sam Jones .
I have a product(HDMI CABLE) introduce to you.if you Interested to these , please do not hesitat contact me.

0 votes

wigglerthefish

Don’t go too cheap on cables longer than 6 feet— signal degradation…

0 votes

Dave Parrack

But only because of bad insulation and electronic interference, surely? Which I would say counts as built quality.

0 votes

Chcurtis

I agree with Mr. Parrack that the added value of high-end cables does not justify their outrageous cost, but I had expected some sort of evaluation, not just “you’re an idiot” invective. 

The author points out that any cable that meets the specifications should be adequate to do what the specifications call for. Fair enough. He says the standards are ever-changing. Now wait right there. In my experience, the lower-price cables are rated for earlier standards. Exactly how important is it to have the latest standards? I know, for instance, that Ethernet 5, 5a, and 6 cabling have different standards — but if all you are doing is connecting a modem and a router with an 18″ cable, it doesn’t really matter which you use. If you are making a run across the house, it does matter. 

The author admits there may be a difference in build quality, but dismisses that saying “how often do [they] break anyway?” He also suggests that there may be a difference that “audio/visual geeks” might detect. Again, I probably agree with him that these are irrelevant for most people. But instead of discussing the pros and cons, he simply says the high-end vendors are crooks and the customers are stupid. 

In my opinion, this article does not meet MUOs former high editorial standards. I used to be able to count on MUO for well thought out critiques. More and more articles seem to be opinion fluff pieces. I hope that trend doesn’t continue. 

0 votes

Toweycigar

I must agree with you. Simply calling a person an idiot and providing nothing more than basic information on the subject, the author has relegated this article as a rant. Give the reader a more detailed argument as to why HDMI cables do not differ.
Nothing is learned in this piece other than to say the author is ignorant to his subject.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

I’m not an expert on HDMI, no, but I’m also not ignorant.  The point of the article is to tell them not to waste their money on expensive HDMI cables. The wider point, to remind people to do some research before buying anything.

0 votes

Jknoel158

I, too, expected to see something written regarding gold plated vs non-gold plated; short cables, vs longer cables, more detail on the standard vs what you, yourself said we need to upgrade from, etc.. Your article did sound like you were simply calling the average buyer, ME, sound stupid, gullible, an idiot, etc. and all sales people as greedy, lying, ‘scum of the earth’ species. Instead, you didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. It was a rant and you repeated the same theme by simply restating your opinions in different ways. there are a ton of choices out there and they can be confusing to the avg. buyer. That does not make us ignorant, stupid, gullible, etc. I do my research, which is why I clicked on your article. Unfortunately, I learned very little and can’t trust what I did learn because of the way you presented it. Joy

0 votes

Dave Parrack

I’ll repeat what I have already stated. If you know not to spend a fortune on an HDMI cable then this article wasn’t written for you. It was a simple, basic reasoning why the average consumer shouldn’t spend more than $10 on an HDMI cable. I would rather inform as many people as possible than zero in on the people who have already done their research or who are likely to delve deeper on audio-visual forums.

0 votes

Oron Joffe

I agree with others, who point out that you did not actually make your case, but simply abused anyone with a different point of view, or without the knowledge (is that a sin? If someone is not aware of how HDMI works, does it make them instant idiots or worthless people?).
You are wrong to state that it makes no difference what HDMI cable one uses because HDMI “is a standard”. There are many standards, including for cables, and products nevertheless differ. Analogue sound cables are a good example (there are standards for these things, you know…).
What matters is that HDMI is *a digital standard*, so any cable that meets the standard will give the same result – picturewise.
This takes us to the last point, that there are differences. Better clips, softer (or stronger) insulation and all sorts of other mechanical differences. Most of the time, these make little difference, and personally, I will never pay a $100 for a digital cable (never actually seen an HDMI cable at that price, but perhaps I’ve not been looking in the right places!), but I have certainly paid a little more on occasion when I needed a particular feature, such as a clip on a SATA cable, for example.
The main point, in short, is don’t insult your audience, or they’ll do the same to you!

0 votes

Dave Parrack

I didn’t call anyone out for not knowing what HDMI is or how it works. I did call people out who go blindly along with whatever salespeople tell them without doing even 5 minutes of research.

The point about the standard is if something is an HDMI cable then it’s an HDMI cable, and it will work, barring faults. I also explained the digital aspect.

After reading your comment through a few times I can see you agree with my point of view, just not the way it was delivered. Which is fair enough.

0 votes

JerryP

If you want to go down the data rabbit hole, start with this article (http://lifehacker.com/5506219/why-you-should-never-pay-more-than-10-for-hdmi-cables), and follow the links in the last paragraph.

It’s been a while since I read through those, but here’s a summary:
6′ and under it doesn’t matter at all.  Between 6′ and 25′ they couldn’t see any difference.  At 35′ they could detect some differences in a lab setting (basically putting it on a meter), but even at 50′ they didn’t see anything without pushing it to 1080p and even then, swapping cables removed the issue.  Pushing more data revealed some differences on a scope (but not in real world usage), and even then only when pushing 1080p or 3D.

That being said, Monster does make the best quality cables.  But the quality matters much less with HDMI than with other types.  Basically, try the cheaper ones first, if they can’t handle it (possible, but unlikely) then try the Monster cables.

Monster is the Porsche SUV or Hummer of the cable world.  Expensive, good quality, can do things that it will never be asked to do.  Fine if you have money to burn, but for the rest of us, there are cheaper versions that will let us pick up groceries, take the kids to school and sit in traffic.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

 Thanks for the extra links. This article was only intended as a basic outline of the facts for the mainstream user. If people want to delve deeper into the nuances of the subject then they’re more than welcome to do so.

0 votes

Sam Jones

There is a point missed…
Are all who spend more than $10 on cables “fools who need their heads examined and to be pitied on”?
.
So the premise you believe is that you must rob someone of their joy, just because you dont believe there is any tangible return. So has anyone who has spent time and money watching a movie also stupid, because all they get out of it tangible is enjoyment; not unlike purchasing cables they feel better about.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

I do explain why there is no need to spend more than $10 on an HDMI cable. Which is the subject of the article. And I was speaking to mainstream users, who are the ones likely to be suckered in to spending this kind of money in the first place. People who already know as much as you do about the subject really don’t need my advice.

0 votes

David Levin

 It’s an excellent article and I’m sending it to my kids, one of whom has been suckered on this.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

Thank you, David. Please share it. The more people who learn the truth the better.

0 votes

Amihai Cohen

0 votes

Ankur

Thanks for the knowledge. Normally I assumed that better price = better quality (which is mostly applicable on cables)
Now I wont be over charged :)

0 votes

Dave Parrack

I’m glad to have been of service, Ankur.

0 votes

Matthew Leingang

Interesting article.  I don’t quite understand how the fact that the signal is transmitted digitally implies that it’s guaranteed to be an error-free transmission, though.  And it seems like a cable that sells for cheap is more likely to be bad, no? Has anyone run side-by-side tests of cheap vs expensive cables?  That would be some good research.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

The signal is made up of 1′s and 0′s. Whatever enters at one end of the cable will come out the other. If if doesn’t then you get no picture at all and you have a faulty cable. Paying more for analog cables made some sense, but it doesn’t for digital.

I’ve seen numerous tests online comparing the two. There is no discernible difference.

0 votes

Village Idiot

That’s right because it’s digital not analogue. That HDMI cable will either work or it won’t. With VGA cables, distance can contribute to signal degradation because they are analogue. Not so with digital such as HDMI and DVI.

0 votes

Sam Jones

Hello Dave, have you had a chance to look into your mistake. Your whole argument is based on sheer stupidity that the signal is made up of 1?s and 0?s. Thats as ridiculous as believing voice travels down a phone line. ONLY electricity travels down electronic wires. The exception being fiber optic cable.

And no what goes in one end is NEVER what exactly comes out the other. In any cable. And no, it functions just fine when the output is different than the input. Your understanding of digital is also wrong.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

The fact remains only A/V-philes will be able to tell the difference. Normal people do not need to spend more than $10 on an HDMI cable.

0 votes

Sam Jones

Not true at all. Its precisely that ill-informed mindset that has kept a perfect $50 cable from the market. They figure idiots will be in 2 camps, either those who feel that a cable should or could cost $1000 and then the others who think anything over $10 is a waste.

The word digital is like the word Turbo use to be in the 80′s. They would put it on everything and folks would foolishly believe it solved all the problems. Remember turbo sunglasses. Cables are still analog, putting a source of noise next to one will quickly show you if they make a difference.

The best indicator however is that, you cannot have long distance runs of HDMI. Why not if cable does not make a difference?

0 votes

Richard

Great article. Thanks.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

No problem, Richard. I hope it helps.

0 votes

TinKicker

Yeah, great article! Everybody just go to Monoprice (or at least start your price comparisons there), and be done with it. I’ve had GREAT luck with their stuff, and it’s CHEAP :)

0 votes

Vic Allen

your stupid & wrong….probacly blind

0 votes

Dave Parrack

Please, fill me in as to why I’m wrong. And stupid. And probably blind. I’m all ears. But not eyes, obviously.

0 votes

wjw

come on vic, we know you were tricked into spending all that money on those cables, but a lot of other idi..sorry people did the same..no point in taking it out on dave…lol

0 votes

vic

I know … I was a bit harsh…Dave I apologize….. because your stupid & probably blind. No really, compare them ,buy a cheap cable & buy one with lets say 5%silver in it. If you then can’t see the difference I’d be amazed. But that woulnd’t be the first time.
Some people think LED TV’s look better than Plasma….. ?

0 votes

Sam Jones

Ignorance by itself is bliss, but combined with righteousness its dangerous. There is a fundamental flaw in this article: “The signal is delivered between the two devices connected via an HDMI cable in a digital format made up one ones and zeros”. No the signal does not travel in ones and zeros, thats beyond ignorant to be under that presumption. If you could do that you would solve all of worlds problems and the hunt for a superconductor would be over. It travels like it always has as electrical current and is susceptible to all the same degradation as any other cable. In fact it is more vulnerable than the older cables, thus the limitation in length, unlike the older connectors.

Yes digital has a way of correcting for what is ‘dropped’, however, the correction itself is not perfect. So the better the cable, in terms of shielding, resistance and capacitance the less correction is needed, thus better performance

0 votes

Dave Parrack

Those things you mention may make a small difference, but they do not justify the exorbitant prices. The aim of this article was to stop people from being ripped off because normal people who have better things to do than study black levels and all that BS will be fine with the cheapest HDMI cable they can buy.

0 votes

Sam Jones

My point is: your argument is nonexistent, because you grotesquely have the fundamental facts wrong. Your case is entirely based on the premise that 1′s and 0′s flow through the wire. You even have a picture of it above- its hilarious. The guys who believe their $1000 cable will cook dinner for them, are closer to reality than you.

We should be questioning your competence to make the distinction. Do you believe there is a difference between a $1 rca cable and one that cost $50?

0 votes

Dave Parrack

The pictures are representative and not meant to be taken literally. I stand by what I said. I believe there is no reason to spend more than $10 on an HDMI cable. You’re entitled to believe differently. Thanks for commenting.

0 votes

Sam Jones

Please consider the value of our discussion. If you are wrong, its you that is ripping people off by advising them to buy Chinese junk that wont allow them get the full potential out of their $2000 TV.

0 votes

Sam Jones

p.s. you would also be ripping off those who had paid good money for hdmi by robbing them of their joy.
I dont know if there is any difference between hdmi cables, I came here to find out. But when I read your theory, I could not believe how stupid folks can be to not at least tell you that digits do not travel down wires.
I pay some attention to the credibility of folks who make recommendations. I would be a right idiot for getting suggestions for bacon from a muslim.

0 votes

Tina

Sam,

You are of course right, digital signals are delivered as electrical current or voltage. The voltage levels represent the digital logic, which is made up of ones and zeros and nothing more. So the recipient of the signal, e.g. a TV, interprets the voltage levels into ones and zeros, thus translating the signal back into actual data, e.g. a video.

Personally, I don’t see a fundamental flaw at the basis of this article. Dave merely made a simplification. His point is that – for the average user – an expensive cable doesn’t bring any significant benefits because it does the exact same thing as a cheap cable, which is transmit the signal.

Of course you are right again when you say that more expensive cables probably offer better insulation to shield the signal and protect it from degradation as it travels through the cable. However, this flaw in cheaper cables is hardly recognized by the average user.

It’s like comparing $10 and $200 headphones. The average user is not an audiophile and can’t appreciate the subtle differences; provided they listen to an audio format that offers the full spectrum in the first place, which mp3 does not.

So taken together, someone who invests a substantial amount of money into his enormously sized LED or plasma TV and wants to watch high quality videos, should probably invest in a proper cable. But someone who struggles to afford a decent TFT can put their mind at rest and go with a cheap cable. And I would guess that this applies to most of us.

0 votes

Sam Jones

Tina you should have written the article; the way you say it is the right way. The way this article says it is: (I paraphrase) ‘you have to be plenty stupid to believe anything other than 1′s and 0′s flow through the wire- thus making it fool proof’ there is even visual aid of both a stupid person and digits.There lies the problem; my point is that you have to be totally brainwashed by what you read to believe that digits flow through wires, moreover that the HDMI cable is any different from any other cable. ITS NOT!

This article is grossly misleading because it claims that the reason there is no difference between hdmi cable performance is because the signal travels digitally (lol) and further states that its either right or you get nothing at all. It makes bold, authoritative, and blanket statements on erroneous facts. It lumps users of “nice widescreens televisions” and streaming devices in one breath. The Title of the article claims NEVER spend more than $10. I wonder how people would interpret this article if they were properly taught that it makes no difference when you are using it in a non critical application- because there is a error-correction unit built in the receiving unit, which resolves most errors; but it has its limits. The easiest test that proves its limitations is when the cable gets longer; go past a certain length and the error correction cannot keep up. Also true in an extremely noisy environment. I think people would come to more conclusions more suitable for their environment.

0 votes

Tina

Sam,

You must be a scientist or at least you think like one. :)

Did you ever hear of Randy Olson? He is a former professor for marine biology who earned his PhD at Harvard and dropped his professorship to become a rather successful film director.

Anyhow, I recommend you to read his book ‘Don’t Be Such a Scientist’. I’m a scientist (not working as one anymore, but still at heart) and I had to read the book twice because it is so good and made me understand so many things about communication in science vs. the real world.

Why am I telling you? Well, the book will help you understand why often things are better expressed in oversimplified ways, rather than in scientifically correct ways. The idea is to reach a certain (broad) audience and too many details are just confusing. It’s annoying for scientists or in this specific case technology geeks, but it helps the majority of people understand the key message. The details don’t really matter.

0 votes

Sam Jones

Funny you should write that. That is exactly what this article fails to do. Any authority (or scientist if you like) should oversimplify for the sake of universal comprehension. Dave has hilariously oversimplified a fundamental lack of understanding. Any fool can do that. However, even fools have merit when you consider the following: Who is the real fool, one that believes the common stone he possesses to be a precious stone, or the one that tries to convince him no stone should cost more than $10.

0 votes

Sam Jones

Essential info:Is there a difference between HDMI cable quality? Especially between a $10 and $30 cable?
Sure there is; The HDMI standards group them in category 1 and 2. Category 2 is heavier gauge and better construction, and performance. A category 1 cable can perform as good as category 2 in some instances, but it is not constructed or guaranteed to so so, category 2 is. A $10 cable which has to be made for $3, and quality compromised. So it may perform the same on day one, but its non-oxygen free copper, cheap gold plating, very poor shielding, will all fade quickly.