Best HDMI Cables

Updated October 2021
HDMI Cable review by BestReviews
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Buying guide for best HDMI cables

Back in the analog days, connecting devices to a TV required understanding a spaghetti of different colored wires and hoping for the best. Thankfully, the tech industry has consolidated all that wiring down to one, agreed-upon interface for transmitting video and audio to our TVs. The new standard, High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cables, connects all of our favorite gadgets to our TVs, ensuring pixel-perfect quality every time.

There is a catch, though. While HDMI is the standard across devices, there are different kinds of HDMI cables, and using the wrong one can limit your picture quality or even prevent you from enjoying certain broadcasts entirely. Before you hook up your favorite console or streaming box to your fancy new 4K smart TV, make sure you know which cables you need.

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Low-quality HDMI cables can degrade TV picture quality. If you think your TV’s image isn’t as good as it can be, start by replacing the HDMI cable. Swapping in a high-quality cable is easy, and it could make a big difference.

Different types of HDMI cables

HDMI is a standardized physical interface, but how we use HDMI cables has evolved as new versions of HDMI technical specifications have come out. That means that every few years a new version of HDMI comes out that enhances functionality, which is great news for fans of new standards like 4K and high dynamic range (HDR), but it also means that you need to pay attention to which version of HDMI a cable supports. Currently, there are three versions of HDMI available.

HDMI 1.4, around since 2009, is the most commonly used standard in HDMI cables. HDMI 1.4 is still relevant today. It can support 4K content (so long as it’s 30 frames per second, like most TV content), 3D Blu-rays, and even HDMI’s Audio Return Channel (ARC), which allows you to send audio from the TV back to an AV receiver or soundbar.

HDMI 2.0 added both support for High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), a feature for legally playing back copyright-protected content, as well as the ability to use object-based surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos. HDMI 2.0 cables are critical for any home theater with high-end surround sound. (Notably, a later version, HDMI 2.0a, added support for newer TV technologies like HDR and Dolby Vision, so if those are important to you, be sure to pick up HDMI cables that support version 2.0a or higher.)

HDMI 2.1 significantly improves the types of content that can be transmitted. It adds support for 4K at high frame rates (which is perfect for 4K gaming) and expands support for next-generation technologies like 8K TVs. If your 4K TV supports HDR or Dolby Vision, or if you simply want to future-proof your TV setup, make sure it’s built on the HDMI 2.1 standard.

HDMI cable features that matter most

While all HDMI cables perform the same basic functions, not all cables are the same. There are three basic features to track when comparing HDMI cables.

HDMI version: The version of HDMI cable you choose should align with your video needs. While most electronics like soundbars or DVD players will be fine with older version HDMI cables, newer technologies like high-frame-rate console gaming or Dolby Atmos audio will require cables built to a newer specification.

HDMI certification: Quality HDMI cables have been independently certified to meet HDMI standards, so you can trust that the cables will live up to advertised claims. If you see an HDMI cable that doesn’t list a certification, there’s no guarantee that it will perform at the expected levels. Most HDMI cables list the certification on the cable itself or on the packaging.

Length: One of the most important features to consider when you’re looking for an HDMI cable is how long you need it to be. Cables longer than 15 meters can suffer from signal-loss problems, resulting in glitchy or unwatchable video. When it comes to HDMI cables and length, remember two things: never get cables that are longer than what you need, and if you’re getting an extra-long cable, choose one with extra shielding to avoid signal degradation.

HDMI cable features you don’t need

Electronics manufacturers are constantly looking for new ways to improve and market HDMI cables. While that’s resulted in some impressive functional improvements, it has also created a marketplace full of expensive “upgrades” that don’t add any real advantage. Here are the most common.

Braided HDMI cables are made with a woven fabric layer on top of the wiring. Braided cables first became popular with guitar players who needed cables that could withstand a lot of abuse while traveling from gig to gig. While it’s true that a braided HDMI cable will protect it from fraying and damaging the wires inside, most HDMI cables don’t move around a lot. If you need an HDMI cable for traveling or for frequent use with multiple video devices, a braided cable will help it last a long time. If you’re using an HDMI cable for your TV and don’t expect it to move, don’t bother paying extra for it.

“Premium” HDMI cables are often touted as manufactured with special fabric or a particularly durable form of plastic and can cost two to three times as much as traditional HDMI cables. Cables made of high-quality materials are definitely better than standard cables, but the improvements these materials bring are very often difficult to notice. If you’re not sure if a premium cable would make a difference in your particular TV setup, try running a blind test between one and a traditional HDMI cable. Most people see no noticeable difference.

Gold-plated HDMI cables make sense in a home theater environment but are overkill for most TV rooms. Gold plating on any type of cabling has two main benefits: it provides better shielding for the signal (so there’s less chance of interference or degradation), and it doesn’t oxidize and deteriorate the way other materials do, such as copper. Gold-plated HDMI cables make sense if you’re using one longer than 50 feet or running a long cable through a wall, but if you’re just hooking up your electronics directly to your TV, you won’t see any benefit.

"There is a version number printed on most HDMI cables. If you don’t know the version of your cable, hold it under a light. Some cable printing can be hard to see. If the version number isn’t there, the cable probably uses the HDMI 1.4 standard."
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HDMI cable prices

It’s easy to overpay for HDMI cables, so before you pull out your credit card, make sure you know how much you should spend. You can expect to pay between $5 and $100 for an HDMI cable.

Inexpensive: You’ll find reliable HDMI cables that measure six feet or less for between $5 and $19. In this price range, it’s definitely possible to find great bargains. Just read the fine print carefully to make sure that the cable you select supports your needs. If you need an HDMI cable longer than six feet, you’ll have to spend a little more. Longer cables need to be more durable, and that’s worth paying extra for.

Mid-range: You’ll find overpriced shorter HDMI cables alongside longer high-quality cables for between $20 and $50. If you’re just connecting a nearby video source to your TV, don’t spend this much. If you’re running an HDMI cable across a room or through walls, this is the price range to watch.

Expensive: You’ll find so-called “premium” HDMI cables and extra-long typical HDMI cables for between $51 and $100. Premium cables are somewhat controversial because they offer minimal additional benefits when compared to more affordable cables, but some people swear by them, insisting the build quality and materials used do improve overall video quality. If you’re a home theater fanatic with a TV room full of cutting-edge gear, spending this much on HDMI cables might help your setup shine, but in most cases, there’s no good reason to spend this much on an HDMI cable.

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Did you know?
Some HDMI cables can also transmit ethernet data signals, which make it easy to connect TVs and other devices to your local network. These cables cost more and aren’t compatible with all devices, so do some research before choosing.
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Tips

  • Measure ahead of time to determine what length HDMI cable you need. Don’t get a cable that’s too long. Most components like a cable box, game console, or streaming box are designed to sit near your TV, so most people only need HDMI cables between three and six feet long. Resist the urge to get cables that are longer than you need. The extra length will create a nest of wires you’ll have to untangle. If you have a cable that’s much too long, you run the risk of the signal degrading by the time it reaches your TV. When it comes to HDMI, a little goes a long way, and there’s no benefit to getting more than you need.

  • Avoid using HDMI cables that come included with electronics. Some electronics, and even some TV mounts, include their own HDMI cables so that consumers don’t have to get them separately. While the idea sounds like a convenience for customers, in most cases, included HDMI cables are of low quality and built on outdated versions of HDMI. Make sure your TV’s picture looks as good as it can and stick to HDMI cables you choose yourself.

  • Use HDMI cables of different colors to differentiate between connected components from one another. Some HDMI cables come in different colors and designs, and while the differences are cosmetic, you can take advantage of them to color-code your connected devices. Color-coding your HDMI cables is an easy way to instantly know which cable is connected to which component.
A white hand displays a variety of electronic cable types.
If you plan to extend an HDMI cable through a wall or use it as part of an in-home wiring setup, get one with strong shielding that’s based on the most current HDMI standard available. In-wall cabling is permanent, so invest in a cable that’s durable enough to last for years and modern enough to still be technically relevant in the future.

FAQ

Q. What is HDCP, and how does it relate to HDMI cables?

A. High-bandwidth Digital Copy Protection (HDCP) is a copyright protection that broadcasters can add to their TV signal. It prevents other devices from making illegal recordings. If a broadcast or video stream includes HDCP, in order to play everything correctly, the device playing the broadcast needs to be HDCP-compliant, the TV needs to be HDCP-compliant, and the two must be connected with an HDCP-compliant HDMI cable. Some cable providers and video-streaming sites utilize HDCP to protect their content. Play it safe and make sure any HDMI cables you select support HDCP.

Q. Can I get older, non-HDMI devices like my VCR to work with HDMI?

A. Yes, with an adapter. HDMI cables are designed to connect HDMI devices to one another digitally, but they can also work with older analog video technologies using a third-party adapter. While an adapter can be a great way to connect your legacy tech with your newer TV, keep in mind that older content will never look as good as anything filmed more recently. Your VHS tapes will still look as quaint and fuzzy as they did before.

Q. Can I use an HDMI cable to connect my smartphone to my TV?

A. It depends on the smartphone. Some Android smartphones have built-in mini-HDMI ports, so getting the phone’s screen on a TV is a simple matter of using a mini-HDMI-to-standard-HDMI cable. That’s pretty rare, though. Other phones require the use of an adapter in order to use a TV as a monitor. For example, Apple makes Lightning-to-HDMI cables for their iOS devices, and many Android phones support the use of a micro-USB-to-HDMI cable.

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