How to avoid paying more than you need to for HDMI cables

Macbook Connection to HDMI TV (Fascinated Kevin)
Image by kprogram via Flickr

I needed to get some HDMI cables for my new PS3/AV setup. Took a trip to Fry‘s electronics who, whilst not the cheapest are usually reasonable – and local.

After browsing around I was shocked to see that they would have the audacity to charge $40+ for 6ft cables. 12-15ft cables were running around $70-80 which struck me as crazy, so I left the store and decided to check in case I could find a cheaper alternative.

Sure enough, Amazon could offer me a 15ft HDMI cable for $4.00 – you read that right – FOUR US DOLLARS. Here’s the cable I bought. Fitted it to the AV equipment and everything worked just fine.

So why is it that other cables are expensive? An HDMI cable is by definition just like any other cable that is used to transmit data – it needs to have a quality signal i.e. not have any noise/interference from other devices. The cheaper HDMI cable I bought had gold plated connectors and seemed to be well constructed. Manufacturers such as Monster Cables suggest their products are far superior as they have high quality connectors and the wires are shielded.

There’s also lots of marketing around the different HDMI cables you can buy – some have “PS3/XBOX 360 ready” or some other kind of  spin that suggests they have the edge over other products. Ignore this. The only significant thing to consider is that you’ll either buy HDMI 1.3 or HDMI 1.4 cables. The difference is in the slight configuration change of the cable. HDMI 1.3 should be more than sufficient for your needs unless there’s something you feel would benefit from HDMI 1.4.

Audioholics has written up a few articles which will shed a lot of light on this subject:

HDMI speed explained

General cable / HDMI articles

I also picked up an HDMI port switcher for US$19.00 which lets me connect 3 HDMI devices and output the signal of the most recently switched on unit.

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