What you should know about HDMI cables.

Today I am going to explain why HDMI cables that you find in the stores are so expensive. I will also be showing you a few places where you can get these cables for a fraction of the price that they sell for at the big box stores. HDMI Cable(64987)Credit: Petr Kratochvil, http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=641&picture=hdmi-cable

I have seen many people come home with a new TV and a brand new $80 HDMI cable.  The salesperson insisted they needed to get good picture and audio quality.  At first I would try to tell the people,  “Hey, that cable was really overpriced. I can get you the same cable for 1/10th the price online.” Almost every time the reaction is that there must be something wrong with the cable I can get or that it is inferior quality.

Now let me tell you something that will blow your mind. The only thing inside a typical HDMI cable is copper. There are 19 pins on each end of the cable, these pins are connected to each other with copper and then put inside of a nice insulation. Sometimes you will have a type of shielding around the copper to prevent signal mixing or interference from other things. Does this matter when you are going 5 feet from your TV to your Blu-ray player? No! This might matter if you are setting up a projector or running cable in walls to a distant location, but your typical at home install will not see any benefit from going with these more expensive cables.

So why is the name brand cable at the big box store $80 and the cable online of the same length only $8 dollars? They mark the prices up because they can. They know people will buy the cables at inflated prices and mark up the prices accordingly.

Gold Plated Vs.  Non-Gold Plated
With a cable there is always the push towards “gold plated” or “gold pin” connectors. When you compare the price of gold plated vs. non-gold plated we can see the price is usually much more expensive. The first thing to know about Gold is that it IS NOT a better conductor than copper. So when the salesperson tells you that the gold connector will give you better signal than the non-gold plated this is flat out wrong. The main reason gold plated connectors were created was to prevent corrosion. On any metal to metal connection gold plating will reduce the chance of corrosion, but it is not a good idea to mate a gold plated connector with a non-gold connector.

Female HDMICredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HDMI_connector-female_PNr%C2%B00057.jpg
How does this affect me and is it necessary?
Short answer; In the typical situation of installing a device to a TV you will be fine with a non-gold platted cable and will not see any degradation in signal over time. Long answer; If you are installing the HDMI cable in a dry environment, then it really doesn’t matter what type of connector you have. You will not have enough corrosion and oxidation to affect the signal loss over the life of the cable. If you are for some reason installing the HDMI cable in a wet environment then you might want to consider getting a gold plated cable. First look at the connecting pins inside the device you are installing the cable into and see if the pins are gold. The best thing you can do is match the cable with the type of metal used inside of the device.

Male HDMICredit: D-Kuru, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HDMI_connector-male_front_PNr%C2%B00058.jpg


But wait!
There is one thing you want to look for when buying an HDMI cable. There are newer, updated standards for HDMI and some people are still selling the old cables. The newer cables will perform better than the older cables. When you see a cable advertised as “Standard” speed, this means the cable will only go up to 1080i or 720p resolution at higher frequencies. In some cases this is fine, but if you have a 1080p TV then be safe and buy the “high speed” cable.  The “high speed” cables will be able to handle 1080p, 4k, 3D, or Deep Color. One thing I have noticed with this is that a lot of the big box stores WON'T advertise the speed on their cables so you have no way of knowing what speed you are actually buying. This is just another reason to avoid purchasing these.

Where should I buy my cables at then?
I work in the IT department at a higher education school and all cables that I buy for personal use or for my work are from Monoprice . I have also seen some very good deals on Amazon.com. If you have a prime membership you can take advantage of the 2-day free shipping.