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Save a Bundle by Skipping the Expensive HDMI Cables

HDMI cables, especially at brick and mortar stores, are painfully over priced. Generic cables work just as well and cost a fraction of the price.

At PC Magazine they purchased everything from premium Monster brand HDMI cables ($120) to bargain basement $2 cables and found that there was no difference between the two. This is unsurprising if you know that HDMI cables carry a digital signal.

Unlike analog signals that can degrade over distance or poor connection but still provide a picture (however fuzzy or poor), digital signals are either on or off. Either your HDMI cable gives you a perfect digital picture or it gives you nothing.

Hit up the link below to read the details of their experiment or just head over to Monoprice.com and score some crazy cheap but just as effective cables.

Slaying the Cable Monster: Why HDMI Brands Don’t Matter [PCMag]

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/18/11

Comments (13)

  1. Cambo

    +1 for Monoprice…even to Canada.

    Crazy cheap cables that work just fine. Customer service is top notch as well.

  2. Jabberwock

    The statement “it’s on or off” is not entirely true…

    My first (very cheap) HDMI cable was faulty – the image from my computer had a very clear, dark-reddish hue. The store guy was somewhat skeptic, giving the same argument the author here gives – until he checked it with the store TV… The result was the same.

    The replacement cable has been working perfectly, so indeed there is no reason to overpay.

  3. Joe

    Jabberwock: Agreed. HDMI cables (among most digital cables) have quite a few pairs of wires, and if one of the less vital pairs fails, then you could see a lower quality image. This, however, is a cable defect, and not an issue of price as you said.

    I would like to add my own spin as to why this is only partly true. While, indeed, digital gives an “all or nothing” approach, it’s more akin to “All or nothing if the signal loss in the length of wire is above or below a certain threshhold, and error correction bits cannot reconstruct the original signal”. This means that the longer the cable, the more data loss that you will encounter. At some point, the signal may fluctuate enough that you sometimes get a signal, and sometimes do not. This is where higher quality cable comes in. It will have thicker gauge wire, and better shielding to prevent signal attenuation, allowing longer runs with fewer dropouts. For a standard AV setup where the TV sits right above the component, your blue plate special cheapie cable will do just fine.

  4. Dave

    All I can say Joe, is either you like scientific theory, you bought into Monster’s sales pitch or you work for someone like Monster cable. This is not the first time they have been outed as over priced and under performing in ‘real’ world tests. I’m actually amazed they are still in business. Sorry but I will believe the ACTUAL results from legitmate 3rd party lab tests by legimate periodicals. As I’ve had that information corroborated by technicians in the ‘real’ world who work with this stuff, not sales types. Price neithe makes a difference in performance nor does it reflect quality of build.

  5. ddthesm

    “This means that the longer the cable, the more data loss that you will encounter.”

    Where did you get this information? I have various length of HDMI cables, and they all work equally. Some from buy.com and some from Goodwill (of all places), not monster or anything like that.

  6. theotherguy

    The whole “digital is on or off” thing really annoys me and is a major misconception in public media.

    In modern telecoms, the carrier is ALWAYS analogue and if the loss in the carrier medium is sufficient the system wont be able to distinguish between a 1 or a 0.

    Loss will be greater in a longer wire than a shorter one of equivalent grade, but in the case of home media the question is: are those distances long enough to be near the limits of the cable? I would think over a few metres it really wouldn’t matter, but for longer distances you will definitely start to see problems.

    This is why in the UK you get faster broadband-by-phone-line if you are nearer the exchange than if you are several miles away, and we all know the internet is made of 1s and 0s.

    None of this matters as all of the cable is probably made in the same Chinese factory anyway…

  7. horizonguy

    I’ll definitely go to bat for Monoprice – everything I have got from them has been good quality and the cheapest prices around. I am also a big fan of Newegg – back when I first started using HDMI, I always tried to find HDMI cables that were less than $10 with free shipping and I added one to my order. I have never seen any differences in picture quality/sound between half a dozen brands I have bought over the years, and never got one that failed – guess I’ve lucked out…

  8. I-RIGHT-I

    I prefer to pay a little more for my cables because quality is tangible. I’m convinced that a beaten down, hungry Red Chinese political prisoner does not make a quality product. You may quote me on that.

  9. AbbaDabba

    Not HDMI, but I needed a LAN cable and went to Best Buy. They wanted $20 for a six foot cable!! I tried Frys and it was about the same. Everywhere I went, RIP OFF. Then I found some on Amazon for about $2. They were professionally made and work great. I got 10 for the price of one.

  10. bruce73

    I concur about Monoprice. I don’t think about getting cables from any place else. And as a bonus, since they are next door to me here in LA, it’s always next day delivery.

  11. James

    Bought a cheap HDMI for €7.00 two years ago. Use it regularly to watch HD movies from my laptop, absolute quality.

  12. Chris

    Digital signals (even optical ones) do degrade with distance. A digital signal is propogated as a “Square Wave”. A square wave consists of a sinewave at the fundamental frequency and many higher order harmonic sinusoidal frequencies which added together produce the square waveform. As transmission distance increases the higher frequency harmonics attenuate more than the lower frequency harmonics or the fundamental frequency. This causes the square waveform to lose it’s shape; it basically causes each “pulse” to spread, eventually to the extent that adjacent “pulses” start to overlap thus corrupting the digital signal. The higher the bit rate the worse the effect; i.e. a signal for 1080p (or 1080i) will degrade over a shorter distance than a 720p signal. Of course the length of most hdmi cables is not great enough to cause a problem so usually a cheap hdmi cable will perform as well as a super expensive one.

  13. Ken

    Forever these cable manufactures have been laughing at us, gold tip this blah blah blah. Shop around and never leave it to the last minute. Someone said above the closer you are to the exchange the better the broadband, so not true. You can have half a mile of cable even before it comes out of the exchange.

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