/ Technology

Don’t fall for the HDMI cable “con”

HDMI cable

How much would you pay for an HDMI cable? That is, the cable that brings high definition footage to your telly. A tenner? Well, some retailers and manufacturers are trying to push £100 cables.

This HDMI cable issue isn’t new. It’s been going on ever since high definition TVs made their way into our homes.

So why do we think it’s a problem? Last January we went undercover to the UK’s biggest electrical chains to see if their shop floor knowledge was up to scratch. The hard selling of expensive cables was the most worrying.

According to many of the assistants we asked, a pricey HDMI cable was “essential” for good quality HD viewing. However, we’ve found that a £10 cable will do a perfectly good job. Currys lists a £110 Monster HDMI cable on its website, with John Lewis selling a £100 Peerless cable.

Our HDMI cable research

Yes, you will need an HDMI cable if you want to watch high definition content on your TV, whether it’s from your Sky Plus HD box, Blu-ray player or PlayStation 3 (although early Xbox 360’s used VGA cables to support an HD output). However, since it’s a digital cable, the signal either works or it doesn’t. There’s no need for all the fancy pants extras.

Last year we tested three HDMI cables at different price points; £10, £20 and £100. The results weren’t a surprise – the cheapest lead proved just as good as the most expensive. Our experts saw no difference in picture quality, with our tests also confirming identical performance.

So, pricey HDMI leads do not make for a better viewing experience. Retailers and manufacturers might try and make you splash out on one, but they’re really not worth it. This is even true with the latest HDMI v1.4, or HDMI High Speed with Ethernet, cables.

Don’t splash out on HDMI cables

In response to these expensive leads, electronics manufacturer Kogan has announced that it will give shoppers a free HDMI cable if they have recently bought a TV from Currys or John Lewis. The company’s boss, Ruslan Kogan, explains why it’s launched the give-away:

‘At Kogan, we think it’s extremely unfair for someone who shells out their heard-earned money on a new TV to be shafted on cables and accessories because of a deliberate misinformation campaign by the big retailers.’

So, have you felt pressured into buying an expensive cable? How much would you spend on a lead for your TV, and did you know that cheaper HDMI cables offer exactly the same quality?

Comments
Guest
Mattdark says:
28 December 2012

You need a 21gbps lead if you want true 3D 1080p HD image on your tv. Don’t be fooled by buying cheap crap online which only last a month only to find you need to move the lead to get a picture. Look for the life time guarantee.

Guest
GraemeH says:
2 January 2013

Patrick,

Would the same advice apply to digital optical toslink cables? I’ve just ordered a soundbar to go with our 3D Smart TV, and it doesn’t come with the necessary cable.

There is a considerable difference in price between brands (from £2 to £30+), and it’s not clear to me what the difference is between them.

Should I just get one of the cheaper varieties, or will this affect the sound?

Many thanks

Guest
Mattdark says:
4 January 2013

Optical cable is fine a average cable will do just the same job as a top end cable.

Guest

Hi Graeme, I’m just asking our lab guys here.

Guest

Hi Graeme, one of our scientist’s has told me that a mid-priced cable would be best – while he cannot say for sure that a cheaper cable would not work, his understanding is that Toslink cables can be affected by build quality to a degree that would not be experienced in an HDMI cable. Equally though, in most conditions and for most people, he’d find it hard to believe that a noticeable difference in quality could be discerned between a mid-range cable and the most expensive.

Guest
GraemeH says:
4 January 2013

Many thanks Patrick. I’ll go mid range.
Cheers.

Guest

Your contention about the equality of HDMI cables is true if they actually work in the first place but in practice, the signal integrity of many is crucially compromised by their poor terminal connectors as manifest in the latter’s extreme sensitivity to movement and/or their inability to cope with long lengths. Obviously such flaws are down to the quality of their construction which although clearly variable, is not necessarily particularly apparent from mere visual inspection.

In the event, then following my own extensive and extremely frustrating experience with this problem, I have finally now found a proprietary make which is still very cheap but which has so far proved totally trouble-free.

So when are we going see a Which? report on HDMI cables, because contrary to the rather laid back impression you have given us up to now that they are essentially all the same, they are not

Guest

Hello Powersense, this Conversation is based squarely on official Which? lab tests of HDMI cables: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2010/02/no-need-for-expensive-scart-and-hdmi-leads-204691/

Full results here: http://www.which.co.uk/technology/tv-and-dvd/reviews-ns/hdmi-and-scart-leads/

Thanks

Guest

Hi Patrick

Thanks for your comment.

You have rather missed my point however.

Which basically is this:

If an HDMI cable works at all, then of course there will be no discernable difference between that and another which also works – as indeed