HDMI Cable Comparison
Our picks: We’ve bought and tested these cables by cutting them open and verifying that they are made of high-quality materials with no fillers.
1’st Choice: Sewell Direct: Sewell has two classes of cables that we recommend - their basic Certified HDMI Cable is good if you want a high-quality, low-cost cable. They also have a line of Premium HDMI Cable which costs a little more but comes with the high-end features that most video enthusiasts and installers can’t pass up such as a thicker wire gauge, a nylon braid over the jacket (which not only looks more like it belongs in a home, but is also designed to stand up against harsh tugs and pulls across sharp edges like walls and other video equipment), and an even more intense shielding to block EMI (electromagnetic interference), and so is very reasonably priced considering the features. Both cables are available in various lengths.
2′nd Choice: NewEgg: Rosewill HDMI Cable (good connectors)
3′rd Choice: TigerDirect: Cables-to-Go HDMI Cable (more expensive, but nice retail packaging)
Standard vs. Premium Grade HDMI Cable
There is a lot of debate on the internet as to the merits/evils of opting for the premium style of HDMI cable. I personally am a customer of both. When people who are really price sensitive want a cable that will work well for them without feeling the pinch in their bank account, I refer them to the cables in the $5 price range. There are a lot of brands that sell in this price range and not all are alike. That was part of the inspiration for this site; I have so many friends and family asking me because of my experience in the field, and I have a lot of experience with many brands. I have even cut cheap HDMI cables open to find that the shielding is sparse on many cheap brands. This was one reason I liked the Sewell inexpensive version, because at least there wasn’t filler, but real shielding that is dense enough for anyone living under any amount of phone/power wires, and you get perfect 1080p every time.
Premium cables, although they cost a significant amount more, are designed to last a lifetime and are often made with higher-precision machines. Their thicker conductor gauges future-proof the user as resolutions will someday surpass 1080p. The extra amounts of shielding allow contractors and home users alike to rest assured that, even if they are basically living inside a microwave oven, the HDMI signal will not suffer from outside interference. The nylon braid is especially recommended for behind-the-wall installations because you can feel free to tug at it without causing damage to the insides of the cable, and the future-proof nature of its construction will guarantee that you won’t be needing to rip the cable out of the wall once standards are updated.
Below is a diagram of a sample of the premium HDMI cable. This one again is from Sewell and with my experience, it is the one I recommend to serious users:
So what really matters between a $10 HDMI cable and $100 (or more) cable? A lot of people will tell you there is absolutely no difference - while strictly speaking there do seem to be some differences, the majority of the markup seems to go to marketing and profit.
HDMI is a digital format - unlike analog, where some amount of noise, or static, is constantly present. A digital signal is basically “all-or-nothing” - you either receive the image in its entirety or not at all.
Connectors - A more expensive cable typically has more heavy-duty connectors. This is important because if a cable’s connectors are extremely poorly made they may break after just a few insertions. The most likely problem you will have with poor connectors is that they will be DOA (dead-on-arrival, or won’t work at all out of the box). If this is the case you will know right away.
Certified - A really cheap cable may not be officially HDMI Certified. The certification, however, really only applies to a particular manufacturer - not to each cable that they design and manufacture. So a manufacturer just has to create one certified cable and they can then designate all of their HDMI cables as “HDMI certified” without external testing.
Gauge - Part of the certification requires a minimum gauge, so if you are using a certified cable you should be OK here. While marketers tend to exaggerate the importance of the gauge it is important to at least take practical considerations into account - if a cable could easily be cut through or chewed through by a rodent this introduces a problem.
Length - You should consider a higher-quality cable if you are running the cable over 25 feet. A poorly constructed cable’s signal degradation is amplified over distance, while high-quality cables often have active boosters which can effectively extend the distance much further - sometimes as far as hundreds of feet. If you are considering a long cable run you should consider converting the signal to fiber or cat5e (using a balun on each end).
Poor cables threaten your HDTV equipment
This is one of the lines often repeated by retailers (who have a lot to gain from you purchasing an over-priced cable). The basic line is that by saving $50 on a cable you are somehow putting your several-thousand dollar home theater equipment at risk. Remember, retailers are trying to make up for their low margins on the HDTV equipment you buy.
Oxygen-free gives a better signal
I won’t get into all the theories about why oxygen-free cables produce better images than regular cables, but even if it were true that a machine in a lab could detect a difference, almost no home user would benefit and certainly not at the price retailers want to charge for these type of cables - one ridiculous example is a $23k speaker cable that got some attention back in 2001 (solely because of the price of the cable).