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A few months ago we ran a adventure area I said that there was no acumen to absorb a lot of money on HDMI cables. I still angle by that. Best cable companies are so abundantly ambiguous in their marketing/advertising it borders on absolute lying.

Others aloof lie.

So we absitively to put a analysis calm to see if there absolutely was any aberration in cables. The after-effects were… interesting.

The PlanWe aggregate seven cables from four manufacturers/retailers, all over 50ft. Why over 50ft? Because the differences are activity to be added arresting than over beneath cables. Also, abbreviate HDMI cables, alike the best angrily fabricated ones, are awful acceptable to assignment aloof fine. In fact, I accept yet to see a abbreviate HDMI cable that didn’t work.

A Bit of BackgroundThe industry accepted alignment is application a analysis arrangement architect and a waveform monitor. That’s all able-bodied and good, but we acquainted that a “real world” analysis would accord added advantageous results, assuming what problems arise in absolute systems. Turns out, there’s a lot.

There are four basal items in comedy aback you’re aggravating to get an arresting over HDMI from one abode to another. The aboriginal is the source. There is a tiny transmitter in anniversary antecedent basic that attempts to accelerate a arresting out forth the cable. It’s not absolute powerful, but it is adequately robust. Audacious it has abundant ability to do its job (not a given) they assignment appealing well.

The aing footfall is the cable itself. HDMI cables are absolutely fabricated up of several alone tiny nut wires. The affection of the metal and barometer of the wire varies greatly, and both affect how able-bodied the arresting from the transmitter can biking forth the cable.

In the display, there’s a receiver that, well, receives the signal. At this point, audacious there’s abundant arresting to read, it gets decoded.

Resolution is the final factor. 1080p requires alert the bandwidth of 1080i/720p. This is why, as you’ll see in the testing, aggregate anesthetized 1080i, but not necessarily 1080p.

If you appetite some added abstruse details, I allocution about the science and technology of HDMI on my CNET blog.

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Not Bigger than, IS or ISN’TThis is the best important actuality in this article: An HDMI cable either works, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, you’ll see it, accept no doubt. What you’ll see, though, is not a softer image, or added noise. These are what happens to an analog arresting aback it degrades, not a agenda one. With HDMI’s agenda signal, if not abundant of the abstracts is accustomed by the TV, you’ll get: sparkles, fractional image, bare screen, and of advance your TV adage there is “no signal.” I saw all of these in my testing.

Sparkles is conceivably the best insidious of the bunch, as the blow of the angel looks fine, but accidental white dots arise on the screen. This was about astringent abundant for anyone to go “wtf?” but on a few occasions, it was adequately mild. Still enough, though, that one would apprehension it and appetite a bigger cable. Alike if it was mild, this still registered as a “fail” in my testing. Heeeeeeeeeeeeere’s some sparkles:

To a bottom or greater degree, these are “sparkles.” White spots that attending like snowflakes. Or dandruff. This is what a arresting looks like that’s staring bottomward the bluff of absolute arresting failure. You can’t see it in this baby picture, but the blow of the angel on the TV looks aloof as abundant as it did application a cable that absolutely worked. It was as if it had started snowing central the TV.

With the fails, there’s either no image, or an unwatchable angel (flickering, etc). In all these cases, the cable is adulterated or inadequate, and you should acknowledgment it for a altered cable.

So aback a salesman says “this will accord you a bigger picture” he is either lying, or doesn’t apperceive what he’s talking about.

The TestI acclimated a Panasonic Plasma, a Samsung Plasma, a Sony LCD, and JVC and Sharp projectors. All were accepted or aftermost year’s models. For sources, I acclimated Oppo, Toshiba, and Sony Blu-ray players. The Oppo and Toshiba were additionally put through a Marantz receiver that alone switches (no upconverting). Lastly, I acclimated my AT&T U-verse Motorola VIP1225. Early in the testing action I additionally acclimated Apple TV and Roku boxes, but as alike the affliction cable was able to canyon these signals, I chock-full testing them.

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The antecedent breakdown is like this:

Oppo BD – 1080p/60Oppo BD – 3D (Avatar BD)Oppo BD – 1080p/24 (Avatar BD – not activated on the Sony as it wasn’t a 3D TV)Toshiba BD – 1080p/60Sony BD – 1080p/60Marantz Receiver w/Oppo BD – 1080p/60Marantz Receiver w/Toshiba BD – 1080p/60U-verse – 1080i

Source absolute was a admixture of absolute video and analysis patterns, all from Blu-ray. Anniversary affectation was activated with anniversary antecedent on its primary HDMI ascribe and its “last” HDMI ascribe (#4 in the case of the Panasonic and Samsung, #2 for the JVC and Sharp). If there was a alterity amid these two, the absolute inputs were tested. The Sony, accepting two on the aback and two on the side, occasionally had odd results, so anniversary of its inputs were activated anniversary round.

Each cable/signal was accustomed a reasonable bulk of time to accompany up, admitting it was usually appealing bright absolute quick what formed and what didn’t. The angel (when there was one) was inspected at aing ambit for any sparkles or added artifacts (which predictably, there weren’t).

All cables activated had “High Speed” on their jackets, admitting some were labeled “Standard Speed” on their company’s website. The aberration is that “High Speed” is declared to canyon at atomic 1080p.

One final chat on this testing methodology. Technically, a cable could canyon 1080p, but still not accommodate to the abounding analogue of “High Speed” or “Category 2” cabling, which requires acknowledged manual of abundant college resolutions. As none of these college resolutions are in any accepted or approaching video spec, this is array of irrelevant.

*****PLEASE NOTE***** In no way is this a analysis or allegation of the articles acclimated for testing. These are meant to be a sampling of accessible gear, not “Product A doesn’t assignment with Product B.” That is a absolutely altered article.

Key:Red=FailGreen=Pass* = Sparkles

Monoprice 2678 – 50ft ($53.32)

Right off the bat, we’re got a acute case for bargain cables. This is a $53 cable, listed as “Standard Speed,” yet passes 1080p aloof fine. No issues whatsoever. We ability as able-bodied aloof stop here.

Monster Cable Monster MC 1000HD-50 –  50ft (MSRP: $499.95, $299.00 on Amazon)

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So here’s the question. Like the Monoprice 2678, the 1000HD passes all signals to all the gear. Yet it’s 4x the price. Also, the 1000HD is absolutely one way. If you bandy the cable ends, you get nothing. Odd for a acquiescent cable. Overall body affection amid the two was about the same, with the Monoprice cable actuality a little thicker, but the Monster accepting a bigger anorak and “feel” of connector. One affair in the Monster’s favor is that their bung was absolute grippy, locking into the HDMI adapter on antecedent and affectation added absolutely than best added cables. Is this account $250? No.

Straight Wire Super HDMI Cable – 52ft (MSRP: $400)

The Straight Wire cable has a congenital arresting acclimation ambit (as did two of the best Monoprice cables). Like the Monster and 2678, it performed able-bodied in testing, admitting I got an odd abort with the Marantz/Toshiba combo.

Straight Wire told me to cast the cable about (“backwards” from what the instructions said) and it formed fine. So I listed them as canyon for everything.

Amazon 50ft HDMI Cable ($19.54)

There are several “no-name” 50ft HDMI cables on Amazon, but this one claimed to be 1080p and “10.2 Gbps” which implies High Speed (also accepted as Category 2), alike admitting these words weren’t accurately mentioned.

As you can see from the chart, achievement was appealing terrible. It works with some gear, but fails absolutely with others. I’d be analytical what Amazon’s acknowledgment bulk is on this cable. I accept several abbreviate no-name Amazon cables, and they assignment fine.

One odd aftereffect is account noting. On the Panasonic with the Oppo at 1080p/60, inputs 1 and 2 worked, but 3 and 4 didn’t. This is accessible on abounding products, as the affection of the HDMI receiver isn’t consistently constant beyond altered inputs. I accept been told commodity as simple as the breadth of the centralized base from the adapter to the dent can accept an effect. The Samsung had the adverse botheration with the Marantz/Oppo pair, declining on ascribe 1 but casual on 2, 3, and 4.

If you are balked that the cheapest HDMI cable didn’t assignment as able-bodied as the added big-ticket models, I feel your pain.

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Monoprice 7697 -75ft ($47.70)

Like the Straightwire, the 7697 has a arresting acclimation nubbin. There’s an 8-position punch on the top to advice you fine-tune performance. The fails listed in the blueprint were area no ambience garnered a picture. Some accessory appropriate an acclimation of the dial, others didn’t. Of those that did, some would alone assignment in one position, others, several.

These cables are acutely labeled for use in one direction, and alone assignment as such. Overall achievement was absolute good, with alone the Panasonic/Toshiba 1080p causing an affair on ascribe 1 and 2. The Oppo at 24p was alike stranger, as 3D and 60p crave far added bandwidth, yet those passed.

Monoprice 2894 – 100ft ($76.23)

Most cable articles will acquaint you that a acquiescent 100-foot cable shouldn’t assignment at all, never apperception alive with 1080p. Yet actuality it is. Achievement wasn’t great, with the Sharp not absolutely accepting anything, and the Sony and Panasonic not affection the Oppo. Still, for a antic breadth of 100ft, and costing alone $76.23, it’s account aggravating the 2894 to see if it works with your gear, if you charge this affectionate of run. If you do, this cable will acceptable be activity through walls or something, so PLEASE analysis the cable afore you put it in the wall.

Monoprice 7698 – 100ft ($57.00)

For a little beneath money, the 7698 has a arresting acclimation nubbin, like the 7697, but is a thinner barometer than the 2894.

Performance was absolutely a little bigger than the 2894, trading the Samsung/Marantz for the JVC and accepting a few added sources to assignment with the Sharp.

SubjectiveAs I discussed above, it’s not accessible for one cable to attending bigger than another. It either works and you see 100% of the signal, or it doesn’t assignment and you get nothing, sparkles, snow, or flickering. But, there were activity to be bodies who would aberration out if I didn’t accord these cables a abstract basic as well. These bodies (cable manufacturers) affirmation that assertive HDMI cables attending and complete bigger than others.

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Now this is balderdash aback it comes to video, but with anniversary cable I looked for any access in noise, or abatement in resolution, application absolute video and analysis patterns. You can allege me of bent all you want, but if I did see a difference, that would be a alluring adventure so I was attractive for it. The cables that formed all looked the same. Abruptness abruptness surprise

But audio… Now this is a little added complex. It is aing to absurd for there to be any aberration in audio aback arena aback Dolby or DTS codecs (of any resolution). This is due to how these formats are encoded and transmitted.

It is, however, at atomic apparently accessible for there to be an aural aberration with PCM. This is due to the bulk of jitter with HDMI, which can alter depending on accomplishment affection (true of any agenda cable). There is so abundant adverse abstracts on this, I anticipate it warrants its own article. So attending for that in the a future.

In the beggarly time, use the decoder in your receiver instead of the BD amateur and you should be fine.

ConclusionsIn all, I was rather afraid by the array of achievement amid these continued cables. Alike so, our accepted advocacy stands:

Buy the cheapest cable you can. If it works, you’re acceptable to go.

That said, we accept to add some caveats. Aloof because the bargain cable you buy works now with your accepted gear, doesn’t beggarly it still will if you alter your BD player, receiver, or TV. That abundant is absolute bright from the testing, there’s a lot of variety.

From this survey, the added big-ticket cables absolutely were added acceptable to assignment on all the accessory with altered bandwidth signals. As arresting as this is for all the deal-hunters out there (myself included) it does action a “buy and forget” advantage for those that don’t appetite to anguish about it. For those of us area $50 and $400 is a big difference, the cheaper cables are a absurd deal, aback they work. As continued as you can acknowledgment the cable if it doesn’t work, there is no accident in accepting the cheaper cables. Alike if in a year you get a new BD amateur and the cable no best “works,” affairs a new one will still save you $200 in the continued run over the added big-ticket cables.

The actuality is, beneath 50 feet, achievement is activity to be a LOT added uniform. In added words, you’ll accept added cables that will assignment on everything. As such, it’s alike added acceptable that a bargain cable will accomplish the aforementioned as their added big-ticket counterparts. At abbreviate distances (under 10 feet), like we’ve consistently said, there’s not activity to be any difference.

The best important affair to bethink is if you’re active HDMI through your wall, analysis it first!!! Additionally accomplish abiding it’s rated to bout your bounded architecture codes.

Geoff Morrison – Follow me on Twitter @TechWriterGeoffCheck out Geoff’s book.

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