Love it or hate it, HDMI is the current standard for home theater component connections. Specifically, HDMI is the current connection standard for displays and high-definition device sources like Blu-Ray players, DVD players, the latest game consoles, and cable boxes.
If you want to know more about HDMI connections and cables, you’ve come across the right article. Keep on reading to find out more about this technology and standard.
What Is HDMI and How Do You Use It?
HDMI means High Definition Multimedia Interface. It’s the standard utilized for the digital transfer of audio and video from a source to a television, monitor, or projector as well as any other compatible home entertainment appliance. HDMI also includes provisions for the following.
- HDMI-CEC: HDMI-CEC stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface—Consumer Electronics Control. It enables remote control of multiple linked HDMI devices through one remote control device. For example, some universal TV remotes for HDTVs also have access to the functions of your BD or DVD player, soundbar, or home theater receiver that’s HDMI-connected to your television set.
- HDCP: HDCP stands for High-Bandwidth Digital Copy Protection. This enables content providers of original footage for movies, television shows, videos, music, and more to prevent their intellectual property and creations from being copied illegally through HDMI-connected devices. It’s similar to copy protection found in tapes where every copy becomes more distorted than the last compared to the master copy.
A variety of manufacturers follow the HDMI format as well, which includes but isn’t limited to those made by Vizio, LG, Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic.
HDMI can be found used on devices like televisions, video players, cable boxes, game consoles, and much more. HDMI connectivity is usually incorporated into the following specific devices.
- Media streamers.
- Home Theater Receiver.
- Laptop and desktop PCs.
- HD cable and satellite boxes.
- Digital cameras and camcorders.
- Smartphones (in combination with MHL).
- Upscaling DVD, BD, and Ultra HD BD players.
- Media streamers and network media players.
- HD and Ultra HD TVs, video and PC monitors, and video projectors.
- DVD recorders and DVD recorder or VCR combos (for playback only).
- Game Consoles like PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.
- Home theater receivers, home-theater-in-a-box systems, and soundbars.
Several HDMI versions have been implemented throughout the years. In every case and variant, the physical connector remains the same, but additional capabilities have been integrated into the hardware leading to HD 4K and even 8K rendering at a 60 fps refresh rate. To wit:
- Date of Purchase: The HDMI version of your device depends on the time you’ve purchased the HDMI-enabled component. The latest versions will always have the best features.
- Backward Compatibility: Every successive HDMI version has incorporated the past features and innovations present in previous versions, leading to backward compatibility.
- Older Equipment Lacks Newer Features: You can still use older models with HDMI capabilities, but they come with the caveat of not being able to access the newer version features since you’re using older equipment.
- Get The Newest Models If Buying for the First Time: It’s best to buy the latest version of HDMI or the latest devices possible to get the highest performance if you’re buying them for the first time.
- HDMI 2.1: As of this writing, the most current HDMI hardware available is HDMI 2.1. It was announced as early as the beginning of 2017 but it wasn’t implemented or made available for licensing until late 2017 or November 2017.
HDMI Cable Types
There are multiple HDMI cable types to choose from. They include the following.
- Standard HDMI Cable: These cables were developed for satellite TV, cable, and common HDTV broadcast resolutions of up to 720p and 1080i. This cable variant also comes with a 5 Gbps bandwidth capacity and comes readily compatible with HDMI hardware versions 1.0 to 1.2a.
- Standard Automotive HDMI Cable: As for this cable variant, it’s similar to HDMI cables capabilities-wise. However, it’s also different because of its ability to connect to in-car or portable DVD players and other devices in order to serve as automotive video displays. Extra shielding is included for this cable for interference suppression due to other auto wirings and car electrical systems present around it.
- High-Speed HDMI Cable: This HDMI cable, as its name suggests, is known for its high-speed transfers, allowing it to handle 4K (30 Hz) and 1080p resolutions as well as supporting Deep Color and 3D rendering technologies. It’s able to do all this with it’s up to 10 Gbps bandwidth transfer rates and support of HDMI versions 1.3 to 1.4a.
- High-Speed Automotive HDMI Cable: This is basically the high-speed HDMI cable with automotive support. It features all the specs of the previous HDMI cable type, but this time it’s optimized for use with your car, so it includes interference suppression through extra shielding and whatnot.
- Premium High-Speed HDMI Cable: This high-speed cable type comes with specs like the dependable transference of UltraHD or 4K resolution video. This includes an expanded color range, 4K/60 Hz, and HDR. The cable bandwidth support for this HDMI cable type is 18 Gbps and it’s optimized for HDMI versions 2.0/a/b.
- Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable: This is the highest speed cable so far. It includes specs that are available in all previous cables with the additional 8K video support with HDR to boot. It’s also humongous when it comes to its transfer speeds of up to 48 Gbps in bandwidth terms. It’s also less susceptible to electromagnetic interference caused by wireless devices a la automotive HDMI. This cable is specifically optimized for use with HDMI version 2.1.
- HDMI Cables with Built-In Ethernet: The aforementioned types of HDMI cables also have a version of them that support the HEC or HDMI Ethernet Channel. This extra HEC was developed to enable multiple HDMI-connected appliances to share a single standard Ethernet connection through a broadband router at 100 Mbps speeds. Alas, this feature isn’t normally implemented on devices but you can find such HDMI-compliant hardware if you specifically look for them.
As for HDMI connector types, they include the following:
- Regular Size (Type A) End Connector: A cable with a regular-sized connector used to connect to home theater receivers, video projectors, or TVs to videogame consoles, cable/satellite boxes, media streamers, computers, or DVD/BD/Ultra HD players.
- Mini Size (Type C): This HDMI connector is a miniature one used on standard-sized tablets and DSLR cameras. The mini end connects the gadget to a display like a monitor, projector, PC, or TV with a standard end connector.
- Micro Size (Type D): Micro HDMI connectors are used on even smaller portable devices such as smaller tablets, smartphones, and digital cameras to connect them to displays.
- Automotive (Type E): This special connector is mostly seen in automotive HDMI cables. It’s used to connect the device to your vehicle’s accessory socket.
A Guide To Buying An HDMI cable
When buying an HDMI cable for your HDMI connection needs, you need to take into account the following factors. Firstly, you might see components marked with different versions of HDMI, from HDMI 1.0 to HDMI 2.1. With that in mind, there’s no guarantee that the HDMI version indicated will give the component the full features or specs of that given standard or version of HDMI hardware. To wit:
- Should you always pick the latest high-speed HDMI cable or not? Manufacturers can choose to implement a given standard’s feature set completely or only partially. You should scope out the specific specifications of a given device instead of the HDMI version to know what features are present. Fortunately, all HDMI versions have backward compatibility with previous versions and their respective offerings. Always choose the highest-speed HDMI cable as your insurance that the cable supports all current tech.
- How far can an HDMI cable carry a signal? It’s dependent on a couple of factors. HDMI cables supposedly have a 16-foot limit. However, there really isn’t a distance limitation for HDMI specs if it’s a low-quality signal. Cables that pass the HDMI Compliance Test Standards have been tested to pass the signal of a certain strength to low-performance HDMI devices. Nevertheless, the factors on how far the signal can be carried depending on the construction and design of the cable, resolution of the video being sent, the electronic devices used, and so forth.
- What is the link between HDMI cable length and quality? Your cable should be high-speed and high-quality the longer it gets to keep up with the length. Analog signals lose signal quality the longer the cable gets and the farther the signal is to the end display. However, with digital signals, it’s usually all or nothing. This means you either get sound and picture or get a no signal message on your TV or computer monitor. You can get a maximum resolution reduction versus outright picture degradation. You can also lose support for extra features like the 3D video to boot. You might need a signal booster if your HDMI cable runs longer than 30 feet in length though.
- What are the other considerations for buying HDMI cables? Make sure your high-quality high-speed HDMI cable is able to carry a 3D video signal. In such instances, check the specs to get a cable supporting such technologies. For good measure, the best HDMI cables at present also offer support for Ultra HD or 4K video. It should carry this signal without slowdown on the cable’s part so that the HDMI hardware will be able to hit that smooth 60 fps for this high-resolution type of video signal. It also helps to have gold-plated connectors for good measure.
How To Connect HDMI Over Long Distances
HDMI is perfect for passing audio-video signals from a given source, such as your BD player or Nintendo Switch, to a destination such as your TV or computer monitor with a single cable. However, it does have issues, such as the “handshake requirements” problem wherein both the source and the display need to recognize one another in order for a successful connection to take place. The main issue with HDMI is that it’s sometimes ineffective over long distances.
- What is the recommended distance from the device to display? Source and destination devices connected by an HDMI cable should not be farther away from each other than 15 feet apart. This should give you the absolute best results possible. However, you can avail of HDMI cables that can extend all the way to 30 feet. What’s more, you can go up to 50 feet if you buy well-constructed, high-speed, but incredibly expensive HDMI cables capable of extending the signal integrity to up to 50 feet. Unlike analog signals, you either have a digital signal or you don’t.
- What are some options for HDMI cables that run over 30 feet? Buy an active HDMI cable or a booster in order to use a 150-foot HDMI cable with no worries. An active HDMI cable in particular features built-in electronics for signal boosting. Meanwhile, a booster is what you connect to the cable to boost the signal at farther distances. There are even cases wherein such options can give you double the range of a passive or standard HDMI cable when push comes to shove. Such boosters and active cables require external power to run through.
- What are the options for HDMI cables that run over 500 feet? If your HDMI cable runs for up to 500 feet or longer, like it’s across whole streets and houses or something, your most cost-effective solution is to use Cat5/Cat6 cabling. Through this option, you typically connect your HDMI video source or device to a transmitter, with your display monitor serving as the receiver. Meanwhile, the Cat5/Cat6 cable carries such signals between transmitter and receiver. You can also make the updated standard of HDBaseT to carry IR and serial remote control signals on top of HDMI audio-video.
- What if you need to run your cable through a wall? You can also avail of HDMI wall plates for installation in order to get a solid connection for your cables on both sides of the wall. You need to specifically avail of a Dual Cat5/Cat6 Extender Wall Plate Kit that includes a transmitter and receiver to allow you consistent long-distance HDMI signal transmission between rooms and beyond wall partitions. However, this setup can work whether you’re using Cat5/Cat6 patch cables or a standard HDMI cable as long as you choose cables that are rated for in-wall usage.
What is Wireless HDMI and Should You Use It?
Wireless HDMI simplifies your HDMI needs so that you can set up your HDTV in another room of your home—like downstairs in your man cave or game room as well as the deck or garage—in order to watch the game, the latest superhero movie, or the latest game with your similarly wireless controller. It allows you to connect HDMI source devices to your display device without installing an extra top box for your television or wires all-around your home.
- What Is Wireless HDMI? This isn’t new technology although most laymen might have not heard of it. It allows you to send HD audio-video signals to your TV or computer monitor from your PC, laptop, BD player, game console, and cable/satellite box in a wireless manner, like using Wi-Fi Internet. It’s more convenient than hard-wired connections and all you need to do is attach a receiver and transmitter on either end in place of an HDMI cable.
The use of a transmitter linked to your BD player and similar devices and the receiver on your TV monitor allows you to link the devices together through a wireless connection. You won’t even need additional setup after that. The source and output devices will be talking and recognizing one another immediately after installation. Some wireless HDMI kits come with power adapters to make them work. However, others receive power from the devices they’re plugged into instead.
- What Isn’t Wireless HDMI? Wireless HDMI isn’t streaming media hardware or a Chromecast device. That’s a different kind of technology. Those making use of your home Wi-Fi network or your wireless Internet connection. This HDMI connection type also doesn’t work like Intel’s or Miracast’s WiDi, which involve screen mirroring. Rather, it involves directly connecting your media source and your display output using HDMI transmitters and receivers to achieve more convenience and deal with fewer cable management issues.
The best kits work superbly, as though you’re using HDMI cables in terms of clarity and reach. The most dependable of these wireless HDMI connectors ensure that you’ll get high latency and zero quality degradation. You won’t get frame rate slowdowns or resolution reductions, particularly when using high-speed HDMI tech. You can purchase these on the Internet, and they include everything you need to set the kit up within mere minutes.
- Why Use Wireless HDMI? The main reason why you should make the switch from HDMI cables to wireless HDMI should be plainly obvious. Wireless gives you more portability to work and play. You can watch your football game in peace, moving the monitor from room to room without losing the signal or tripping all-over cables. You’re not chained to any one spot, as though you’re using a laptop with a full battery in terms of the TV or monitor flexibility. You just cannot beat that lack of wire clutter for sure.
It also helps that you can avoid spaghetti wires or having to buy clips to keep all your cables in place. That can be a fire hazard just like an octopus connection, especially if you don’t bother with getting a power strip. It provides a cleaner look, the signal remains as sharp as when you’re using cables, and you can move your display around without losing the signal as long as you’ve got a really good wireless HDMI kit in your possession. Like with real estate, the main appeal of wireless HDMI is location, location, location!
How to Troubleshoot HDMI Connection Problems
The purpose of HDMI is to provide a universal modern standard for connecting components in your home theater setup, which includes televisions, video disc players, game consoles, cable boxes, and so forth. When your HDMI connection goes awry, it’s not like analog connections that turn into snow or get distorted. Its max frame rate and/or resolution might drop or you won’t get a signal at all. Also, there are several things you can do in order to fix HDMI issues by yourself.
- What is an HDMI handshake? An HDMI handshake has something to do with copy protection. HDMI cables and ports are favored by many electronics manufacturers because it ensures copy protection through HDCP and 4K HDCP 2.2. It’s a copy-protection standard that requires components connect via HDMI to communicate and recognize one another. This communication tech is known as an HDMI handshake. It keeps off-brand or pirated electronics from being used for displays or audio-video sources.
- What if an HDMI handshake fails? If an HDMI handshake between a source and a display fails, you won’t be able to see a picture on the screen or hear any audio. HDMI refuses connections between devices unable to do a proper handshake. A failed handshake typically happens when the HDMI signal’s encrypted HDCP is not recognized properly by the source or more than one of the connected components and display as valid.
- Check for loose HDMI connections: You should check the connection of your HDMI port and cable end to see if they’re fitting as snugly as possible. Signal problems might occur if the connection isn’t as tight of a fit as possible. Your composite or component video connection can sometimes slip out if the equipment is slightly moved or nudged around. If this is an issue, lock your HDMI cables with cable management clips or get self-locking HDMI cables to secure them tot the display and device.
- Try a different turn-on sequence: Sometimes, you can get a signal back by trying a different turn-on sequence instead of getting into the habit of turning your television first before turning on your HDMI source components like your BD player or game console. Reverse the turn-on sequence by turning the device first before turning on your TV or monitor. See if that’s enough to get the signal back. Try different startup combinations if you have more than one component connected to your display.
- Try a different HDMI input on your TV: Use your remote switch to another input on your TV. Afterward, switch back to HDMI to see if the signal is recognized this time around. If that works, stop using the problematic input and then repeat the turn-on sequence to see if this works this time. You can also check out the video resolution output setting of your source device to see if that’s what’s tripping up the signal. Check to see the output setting menu if it’s set to AUTO. Reset it to match the TV’s native resolution if it is in AUTO and there’s still no signal.
Q&A (Frequently asked questions)
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about HDMI cables.
Are all HDMI cables the same?
In some aspects, HDMI cables are all alike. Every cable, from standard ones to high-speed ones, meet the minimum specifications of a standard HDMI cable so that it can work the same way across the board, especially with backward compatibility present. However, some cables are more high-speed than others as discussed in the section about the different types of HDMI cables.
Furthermore, different manufacturing quality can slightly affect the transmission abilities of any given cable when dealing with long distances of over 50 feet. No matter what, the picture or sound quality of a $3 cable should be the same as a $1,000 cable, but the latter has extra features that go beyond standard offerings, like carrying 4K to 8K signals.
Do I need a special HDMI cable for 4k?
Yes, you do. You need at least a premium high-speed HDMI cable that’s optimized for HDMI versions 2.0/a/b and cable bandwidth support of up to 18 Gbps in order to get optimum results when watching 4K BD releases or the latest 3D games on your high-powered game console or PC. It certainly helps to have an expanded color range, HDR, and 4K/60 Hz.
You can also get all these benefits and more by getting an ultra-high-speed HDMI cable due to HDMI’s backward compatibility.
The ultra cable for HDMI is optimized for HDMI version 2.1 this time around, thus its 48 Gbps bandwidth support.
Do you need 4K HDMI cable for 4K TV?
Yes. You can use a lower yield cable but expect lowered results like lower frame rates and lower resolutions. So in essence, you don’t need to pick up special HDMI cables to use your 4K television, but it comes with a caveat of you also not experiencing the full capabilities of your 4K TV unless you have a 4K cable like the premium high-speed HDMI to make it work. Don’t toss out your old HDMI cables in favor of the ones optimized for HDMI 2.0a or 2.1.
You can still use them in a pinch. However, if you want to watch “The Hobbit” in all its glory on Blu-Ray or play the latest Triple-A game, you should get a good cable to watch them in full.
Do Gold HDMI cables make a difference?
Yes. It’s supposed to be better and more expensive than standard HDMI cables. Gold-plated HDMI cables are supposed to have a higher grade of transmission capabilities mostly because the gold plating gives them better conduction.
They’re also made to serve as larger conductors to boot, resulting in faster transfer speeds and clearer signals at longer distances. This cable type boasts of special shielding, with it allegedly being longer-lasting and tougher than the average standard cable. It’s also true that the gold-plated ends are more resistant to oxidation when push comes to shove versus regular HDMI cables that you have to sandpaper the oxidation out.
What is longest HDMI cable?
The longest HDMI cable you can buy at the store is 50 feet. Most people don’t need that long of a cable unless they live in mansions or multiplexes. It’s also rare to buy off of the shelf an HDMI cable that’s longer than 25 feet. To get 50 feet of cable, you have to make a special order for it specifically.
It’s incidentally the maximum amount of cable to give you a consistent signal before the cable is deemed too long to use. However, you even have options for boosting signals for HDMI cables and extensions that run up for 500 feet or longer known as Cat5/Cat6 cabling.
Can HDMI cables get interference?
Radiofrequency interference or electromagnetic interference can come about on any other sort of cable including HDMI cables. This is because these cables also run their electrical signals through twisted-pair wiring.
You can avail of extra shielding in order to make your cables more resistant to EMI or RFI, which is the case with automotive HDMI cables that also have to deal with electronic interference with all the other electrical accessories of any given vehicle.
You know your signal is undergoing HDMI interference if you’re using red or green speckles on your HDTV that shouldn’t be there in the first place. EMI issues arise due to HDMI cable emissions and poor cable shield bonds in cheaper cables.
What is a premium HDMI cable?
A premium HDMI cable, also known as a premium high-speed HDMI cable, is a cable optimized for HDMI versions 2.0/a/b and has cable bandwidth support of up to 18 Gbps. It’s much faster than a standard HDMI cable but is capable of running on HDMI versions 1.0 and so forth until 2.0 due to backward compatibility.
When buying such a cable, get one certified by the Premium HDMI Cable Certification Program that assists you in buying future-proof cables. This certification serves as your guarantee that these cables have been tested to perform at the specific level to give you some 4K video viewing pleasure you deserve.
Can cheap HDMI cable cause problems?
The most obvious problem you can get out of a cheap HDMI cable is that it doesn’t work properly. It doesn’t have enough shielding to prevent EMI or RFI. The shoddily made HDMI end connectors might get loose too easily or cannot be read by the display or the HDMI source. It might even have handshake issues, resulting in lowered resolutions, frame rate, and even a lack of a signal.
A faulty HDMI cable can also cause damage to your gaming and video systems, rendering the system inoperable although not necessarily the individual components.
Does HDMI over Ethernet work?
HDMI over Ethernet or HDMI over IP allows you to use an existing Ethernet infrastructure for the sake of distributing HD video signals from one source to an unlimited number of displays, screens, monitors, or television sets. There is such a thing as HDMI with built-in Ethernet. Those can work over Ethernet.
An HDMI cable with an Ethernet channel feature enables your entertainment devices that are Internet-ready to share an Internet connection across all of them without requiring a separate Ethernet cable to make such a connection possible. You can specifically avail of HDMI over Cat5/Cat6 Ethernet cable extenders to do the job.
Do all HDMI cables support Ethernet?
No, you need to specifically get HDMI cables that have built-in Ethernet support. Otherwise, you’ll need to put up an Ethernet adapter for your HDMI cables or HDMI port. Of course, in light of adapters being available, technically HDMI cables all support Ethernet usage as long as there’s an adapter on hand to allow conversion.
This HDMI cable type gives you support for the HDMI or HEC Ethernet Channel in order for multiple HDMI source components to share a single universal Ethernet connection through a 100 Mbps broadband router.
Can you convert HDMI to Ethernet?
Yes, but you need to convert the HDMI to Ethernet using a special adapter for the job. This adapter has an output for HDMI on one end and an Ethernet cable input on the other end to allow connection between HDMI devices and your Ethernet cable or your HDMI cable getting an Ethernet link.
In turn, any device requiring an HDMI cable or wireless HDMI transmitter connection can make use of the HDMI with Ethernet cable variant because such electronics are fully backward compatible anyway. Ethernet has been a present option since the earliest HDMI versions.
How far can you run HDMI over Cat5?
As discussed above, HDMI over Cat5/Cat6 work by connecting the video source to a small device known as a balun with a short HDMI cable. From there, you then connect your HDMI source to a transmitter and connect your display monitor with a receiver.
You can increase your distance of effectiveness through this system from 150 feet up to 500 feet. Because HDMI is a high-bandwidth video standard, you might need more than one Cat5/Cat6 cable to send the full 1080p or even 4K signal across from the transmitter to receiver. You need the cables to punch down the transmitter and receiver connections, which you can put up as wall plates to remove cable clutter.
What is HDMI ARC cable?
The “ARC” part of “HDMI ARC” stands for “Audio Return Channel”. ARC allows for the downstream and upstream of signals over a given HDMI connection between your television and any ARC-equipped devices or HDMI audio-visual components. It mainly transfers audio back and forth the cable, allowing digital sound to flow freely.
This tech also makes it possible to use a single remote on all your connected appliances for the most common of functions because it also carries HDMI handshake information. Any device requiring HDMI cable assistance can use HDMI ARC as long as they’re compliant with the ARC tech. Ask retailers if your specific model of DVD or BD player, as well as a game console and television, includes ARC functionalities.
Does my TV have HDMI ARC?
While many brands of television are compatible with HDMI ARC, the simplest way to check for compatibility is with your eyes. To be more specific, you should take a gander at the TV’s own HDMI ports. HDMI ports that are ARC-compliant tend to have an “ARC” label on them to make them easier to identify.
If the ports on your TV lack such a label then you can check their specs through the user manual at least. You can also check the make and model of your TV through the Internet for more details regarding its ARC compliance. Thanks to ARC, the same cable handles video and audio signals together versus separately in previous formats.
Can I use HDMI ARC as regular HDMI?
Yes, you should be able to. After all, HDMI ARC is just a regular HDMI with ARC functionality. Therefore, you can connect video sources to the port while at the same time connecting the audio receiver as well. HDMI does both audio and video signals, but ARC makes it even more receptive and dependable audio-wise.
HDMI 2.1 is particularly pushing the ARC format even further than before. With it, 4K video run at 120 fps is now possible on top of doing 8K video at 60 fps and even 10K. ARC, in theory, allows you to have one connection between your television and whatever device you use for sound creation, such as a soundbar or receiver.
The Bottom Line
Before buying expensive wireless transmitters and extenders for your HDMI and home entertainment system’s needs, you should make sure you need them. Most people don’t need 50 feet of HDMI cable, much less 500 feet or so as though you’re providing HDMI connections to a couple of your neighbors for good measure.
Your standard HDMI cable is your simplest, cheapest option for runs that are 50 feet and under. Avoid going for high-priced cables unless you really have a big enough collection of HD Blu-Ray movies or HD Triple-A videogames like Crysis or Destiny that you wish to play at their highest 4K HD video and audio specifications.