/ 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.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Guest

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

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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.

Profile photo of powersense
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

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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

Profile photo of powersense
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 is one of the principal characteristics of digital media.

I am referring to the problems caused by poor connection terminals, as manifest in the latter’s evidently sloppy manufacturing tolerances and consequent susceptibility to repeated movement and/or their inability to cope with longer lengths, neither of which parameters you appear to have tested at all.

Your test would be more meaningful therefore if it took account of those two variables, in the first instance by simulating the sort of regular movement that takes place (for example) between a cable and TV on a swivel stand each time the TV is so moved, and in the second instance, by testing longer lengths of these cables (up to their claimed maximum useable length without the need for signal boosters, that is).

Would you like me to see if I can dig out some of the dud cable I am talking about (I think I’ve still got some of it) and send it to you so you can see my point proved for yourself?

Guest
Gavin Blake says:
19 August 2013

Ok, I’ve read every message on this subject but one thing is missing. One important question that I really hope someone can answer as I’m at the end of my tether. I am experiencing crosstalk/ghosting and it is driving me nuts. I’ve tried various settings, factory reset, different glasses, different viewing angles. I have been told that it is my HDMI lead. I hear what you are all saying that every lead does exactly the same as the other, but does the higher priced lead reduce crosstalk. I have a 47LW450U 3DTV LED/LCD, it is only 18 months old. Any help would be muchly appreciated.

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Guest

In answer to the previous posting in particular, I’ve tried dozens of HDMI cables over the years, and although most hardware like your average high definition TV is generally fairly tolerant of the not-so-well-made ones, there ARE differences (commonsense alone would ordain that there must be if you think about it), and those differences do sometimes show up – like when using long runs, or coupling your TV to a surround sound amplifier for example.

In my experience, Cablesson and Labgear make the best (both of which are reasonably priced), and if you don’t get good results with either of those, then that’s the time to start checking the other elements of your system – but not before I would suggest.

Guest
Matthew says:
22 September 2013

Can you recommend a good quality HDMI to DVI cable.
I already have a DVI cable with my monitor is it ok converting this lead to work with a HDMI socket on my DVD player. Which is best cheapest way to do it.
Maplins asking £40 seems a little steep.

Guest
Matthew says:
27 September 2013

If anyone at which? could answer this would be grateful not sure where else to post.
The new wifi Sky box HD they say connects to any broadband on their website.
But on skychat customer service they say it only can connect to their sky hub and then you press both box and hub to work together so its Sky broadband only for wifi use.
If I’m not using ethernet either with the box is there still a wifi signal coming from this HDbox
like a dect phone.

Guest
15m hdmi cable says:
27 December 2013

I’m looking to purchase a 15m hdmi cable to connect to a hd projector. I’ve seen a cable from HDanywhere activewire which has inline signal boost chip. I will be using this in conjunction with a splitter CYP QU12S which has built in signal amplifier and equalisation. Does this sound like a good solution?

Guest

I have just received a samsung ue46f6100 for Christmas and I have some cheap hdmi cables from eBay and I am getting a lot of screen juddering ,after finding this juddering happens on all devices I presumed it was a faulty tv now after having the tv replaced I still am having the same problem so I was wondering if I bought a slightly more expensive cable than the 3 quid ones I have will this sort the problem …..any advice would be very kindly received

Guest
Lee Dale says:
10 September 2014

I have just purchase a Sony 42W829 from Argos, the picture and sound does not seem brilliant. I am using my old HDMI cable. Would this be a factor and could you possible recommend the right cable for the TV.

Many thanks,

Lee.

Guest

“It either works or it doesn’t” Biggest load of shit I’ve ever read. I’ve been in the AV industry for seven years and seen HDMI cables at home and also at work that have issues (maybe from bending) With certain signals not getting through (high refresh rate) to the picture cutting out.. It’s far from either being perfect or having nothing at all. I’ve read one AV specialist who swears black and blue that higher quality cables (21Gbps+) help to improve audio quality.

Profile photo of powersense
Guest

Reference the comment posted 21 January 2013 at 10:58 am by Powersense (who incidentally, has pinched my Ebay username), he is absolutely.right.

I’ve been installing av systems for years and OF COURSE it makes a difference.

I suspect the cable he’s talking about as being good but reasonably priced is Cablesson, which unlike the plethora of other brands I tried before that one, have NEVER given me any trouble.

Which does rather undermine its credibility in printing the nonsense it does about there being no difference between them..

Guest
Claudiu says:
19 December 2014

Are there any difference on performace between a 1m hdmi cable and a 10m hdmi cable?

Guest
Andy Bigwood says:
8 March 2015

Was looking at 4k uhd primarily as a PC monitor and secondarily as TV

Pc world were hard selling their 89 quid gold cable…at which point I walked away.

Accepting what was previously said about the con.. what standard of cable is required for a 4k? Still 1.4?

Guest
Owen P says:
17 March 2015

I am moving my DLP cinema projector and have decided to go for the Monoprice high speed cable with Redmere, this seems to be the standard to adopt for higher end kit like 4k, especially if using over longer distances. The cables are well priced in my opinion and are considerably cheaper in the US if you have friends who can buy and ship

Guest
D.C says:
5 July 2015

@ Andy Bigwood

you can use a 1.4 HDMI (10Gbs) for 4K but the frame rate will be limited to 30 fps to get past that you need a 2.0 HDMI (18Gbs) which will give a higher frame rate of 40fps+

Guest
Flivoless says:
27 August 2015

Some advice please. I would like to update my wall mounted Toshiba TV, that is now 10 year old (doesn’t time fly?) to, preferably, 4k but my problem is that I only have a scart cable (and coax) coming down from the Sky+ box located in the plant room upstairs. Replacing the scart cable is not really an option as it would involve major surgery to wall, ceiling et al. Anyone know what options I have, if any?
Thank you in advance.

Guest

Hi , I have just bought a LG 55 4K 3D TV and they have told me I need to but the this http://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/tv-and-home-entertainment/tv-accessories/cables-and-accessories/sandstrom-av-gold-series-hdmi-cable-2-m-21948994-pdt.html, can someone please tell me if I need to spend this much on a lead?

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Guest

Ryan

If you need to use your 4K TV in conjunction with another high pixel, high frame-rate capable device, like a high end gaming PC with a 4K graphics card, then you might need a cable that can support a higher bandwidth that the ordinary HDMI standard of ~10Gbps.

The cable you linked to is rated at 27Gbps and clearly comes with a “rolls-royce” price.

If you are at unsure about the need for this, then you probably don’t need it.

You could also try a “borrowed” ordinary HDMI cable before forking out for such an expensive one.

Also, as evidenced by other convos, Currys/PC World are notorious practitioners of the noble sales art of “up-selling”.

Guest
Robert says:
26 March 2016

Hi, just bought 2x sandstorm silver HDMI leads and a sandstorm digital optical lead for my new 3D, 4K Panasonic TV; are they suitable and of a good quality?

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Guest

Yes I agree, high price ripoff. These shops did the exact same to people with usb cables for printers or scanners

Not worth worrying about it, just get the right length cable and try it first.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

Your right 474phil you dont need to spend nearly £100 on a cable ,its the same and even worse with top end hi-fi connectors . What you first of all should aim at is a good SCREENED cable in other words not a very thin one that picks up RF interference also the metal connectors shouldnt be cheap chrome but that doesnt mean you pay ££££ only that you dont buy a dirt cheap one .There are many competent ones at much lower prices. If you are looking for a quality one that isnt OTT in price Maplin do several like the 1.5 M with screening and ferrite core pulse/interference rejection and gold plated contacts at £20 ,although you can buy cheaper at £5,thats the one I would go for if I had a 4K TV.

Guest
speedy says:
19 December 2016

It depends on the quality of the tv and audio receiver . listening through £1000 SPEAKERS and a £800 high quality audio receiver it definitely makes a subtle difference that high quality cables cannot improve cheaper equipment, but cheaper cables certainly can degrade high quality higher end equipment.

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Guest

Gold-plated optical cables seem to be becoming more popular. If people have not managed to work out that gold is not going to help improve an optical connection, maybe they deserve to pay extra, but it would be kinder to explain the point.