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The truth about HDMI CABLES... Can you say profit?

Posted 4/10/2020

So you finally go out and get yourself a ultra high-end flat screen TV display complete with 5.1 audio surround system. You wheel and deal and believe you got the best deal going - we all like to think that right?.  You walk out thinking that  you've  left the store clerk all battered and bruised.   The sad truth is the store replays this saga dozens of times a day and you wonder, how the heck do they stay in business?  Clearly no one got your deal. As you check out you're ready to hear about the "extended warranty" scam and quickly decline their kind offer. Then you're told in a "matter of fact" nature that after spending thousands of dollars on your new system, you'll need high quality video cables. After all, after spending that kind of money, what's a few hundred more?  
 
THIS is where the stores profits come in. DON'T FALL FOR IT. Truth is, a $5 HDMI cable is in most cases all you really need. 

One of the things that irks me is when companies or corporations use ill-informed consumers for greedy monetary gain. Their approach is simple. They thrive simply by confusing the uninformed or unsuspecting consumer. If they can cast any doubt in the consumers' decision making, chances are they'll win the customer over.
 
HDMI cables are perfect examples of this. Imagine the scenario. You commit to an expensive entertainment system and are quietly (and matter of factly) told that if you want to maximize the signal quality of your new system, High Quality cables will be required. They just happen to have some that will fit the bill and have been certified by their professionals to be fully compliant. Remember, you already spent a thousand dollars or more and you're anxious to get it set up. What's an extra couple of hundred dollars for superior cables are a no brainer and safe bet. It's a piece of mind.
 
How do I tell you nicely that you've just been SUCKERED!

Some unethical vendors and manufacturers confuse you with terms that my electronic engineering colleagues don't even use.

"Copper is an analog delivery format", "Oxygen-free" cables, Ultra High-speed or high-resolution HDMI cables. Terms that mean absolutely nothing to 99% of consumers. Remember let these experts tell you what you need! Just like the old snake oil salesmen, rest assured these vendors will take care of you (and your wallet).
 
The sad part is that electronics by their very nature are ever-evolving. We all know that as soon as you pick up your new unit, something better is waiting in the wings. Retailers are constantly balancing stock with demand and missing the hottest trend can cost them a bundle. They rely on consumables and accessories to pad their coffers. Cabling is a very lucrative and profitable undertaking for them. For some while the electronic product gets you in the store, the real profit is the "add-ons" like cabling.
 
For example, most High Definition consumer products are connected together using High Definition Media Interface (HDMI) cables. A simple HDMI cable typically carries multi-channel audio and HD video all through one simple 19-pin connector. The information or data that flows through these cables is transmitted in a digital format. In digital transmission, binary "zeros" or "ones" travel the length of the cable and decoded on the other end. It's that simple. This permits superior and unsurpassed quality since interference cannot be introduced. Colour fluctuations or ghosting are a thing of the past. The signal either gets to the receiver or it doesn't. There's NO in-between. While older analog signals suffered from colour loss over long cable runs, interference was possible from external power sources like vacuum motors or flourescent light fixtures. In those situations, shielded cables were required.be further impacted directly or indirectly by this downturn.
 
You're expected to get confused by complicated terms such as ultra high-speed (clearly better than high-speed right?) shielded, 1.3, 1.4 or 2.1 specifications cable.  What's Ultra High-speed cables?
 
Some tidbits to ponder:

HDMI connectors typically have 19 pins and are made with a variety of products ranging from tin, steel, silver or gold-plating. While the manufacturing process can be different, 99.9% of the HDMI-compliant cables are identical. This is where the confusion comes in.

HDMI-compliance outlines specifications that must be adhered to during the manufacturing process.  M
anufacturers are realizing that the consumers have been scouring the Internet to understand these differences and are shifting their marketing to point out their "high quality" connections and "superior nitrogen-filled-by-non-child-laborers" gobblygook. You'll now hear that they cater to a clientele who expect the best. If you have to ask what their cable costs, it's not for you. See the marketing here? A WANT is not a NEED!
 

A new HDMI specification has been introduced that supports video resolutions such as 8K, 4K, 1080p/60 video signals but also adds support for Gigabit ethernet transmission through the cable and high-end Dolby Atmos or DTS-HD high bandwidth audio. These HDMI 2.1 spec. cables are also referred to as Ultra-High speed.


While the specifications are important to remember, the price differences are inconsequential.
 
A 1.3 compliant cable will support a signal with up to 1600 horizontal lines of resolution. It will also support 3D signals up to 1080i/60 (but NOT 3D 1080p/60) signals. These are known as the older Standard 1.3 (Category 1) cables.
 

There are newer cables that support 8K60 or 4K120 signals. These are known as Ultra High-speed 2.1 cables. You now see where the terms come into play.  The fact is, if you have a 4K or HD (either 720p or 1080i) display, pretty well ANY HDMI cable will work.
 
Admittedly some devices like set-top boxes or Blu-ray players provide output of 2160p so specialized cables are required. 
You're expected to get confused by complicated terms such as ultra high-speed (clearly better than high-speed right?) shielded, 1.3, 1.4, 2.1, 2.xyz or whatever specifications cable.  What's ultra high-speed cables?

If you spend a few minutes surfing the Internet, you can find inexpensive (not low quality) six or eight foot HDMI cables for less than $5 at many online retailers. What surprises me is many of these cables come from the same suppliers that provide the stock to many big box electronic stores.

I have used both Monoprice.com and Infinitecables.com to purchase these inexpensive but high-quality cables. 

If you keep an eye out, you can sometimes see these cables on sale at department or dollar stores. It's an odd place to find them but they are slowly appearing at these outlets.

In closing, remember, that you don't need to spend a lot of money for high-quality cables. I'm always reminded of the report on this subject that appeared on Canada's CBC network Marketplace program and has perpetuated all over the 'net. Here you see what the retailers are up to but more importantly, you see that one of their high-markup product lines are unwarranted.

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