Technology

Which HDMI cable is best for you?

Which HDMI cable is best for you?
2020 has ruined a lot - including the perceived simplicity of HDMI.
Six generations of identical cables released over 18 years (12 if you count variants) all connect to the back of your TV in the same way, but are capable of wildly different things.
The PlayStation 5 amplified the problem when it arrived in November, with many fearing the HDMI included in the $750 box couldn't handle 4K - all because it didn't explicitly have "ultra high speed" written on the cable.
Ultra Certified Cable stickers make things easier to understand. (Supplied)
Ultra Certified Cable stickers, like those recently awarded to Belkin, make things a little easier to understand, but how good are the cables you already own and what do you need to get ready for a 4K future?

HDMI 2.1

There are at least a dozen generations of HDMI cables available. (Supplied)
HDMI 2.1 set a new standard in 2017 and, in my opinion, should have been named 3.0.
HDMI 2.0 ushered in 4K for the mainstream but in 2020, HDMI 2.1 is taking charge.
2.1 more than triples the data rate of 2.0, allowing 10K video, higher frame rates (up to 120Hz), better contrast (high dynamic range - HDR10+) and a suite of smart features like variable refresh rates, which all but eliminates stuttering for gamers.
Premium viewing for a premium price; $79.95 is the price tag on Belkin's certified one-metre cable.
The two-metre cable will set you back $99.95.
That's plenty for one cable regardless of what it can do, but will be necessary if you want to get the most out of newer 4K TVs, game consoles or an Apple TV 4K (which doesn't come with a HDMI in the box).
Some HDMI cables come with a hefty price tag. (Supplied)
Ultimately, the higher frame rates shouldn't affect anyone but gamers.
Movies rarely waiver from the classic 24 frames per second standard.
But note, HDMI 2.1 can only handle 8K at 60Hz (60 frames per second) and 10K at 50Hz; limits which shouldn't be pushed for years to come in the mainstream.

HDMI 2.0

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HDMI 2.0 is all the average person will need and since falling off the cutting edge, prices have taken a nosedive.
You can find shorter HDMI 2.0 cables on Amazon for as little as $10 or less.
You'll miss out on better contrast and higher frame rates for gaming, but most with UltraHD Blu-ray players won't notice the difference.
HDMI 2.0 made 4K a reality at home back in 2013 and is still serviceable.
They're great to keep around for older devices or TVs that can't handle the latest in High Dynamic Range technology.

HDMI 1.0 - 1.4

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The first generation of HDMI is redundant in 2020 and are all but destined for a recycling heap.
Ditching the red, white and yellow analog cables in 2002 was a revelation, but FullHD is fast becoming obsolete.
Later versions (HDMI 1.4) can actually handle a 4K signal but only at 24Hz which again, is fine for film, but won't cut it for gamers or most YouTube videos these days.

Verdict

Anything below HDMI 2.0 is hindering your entertainment experience in 2020.
If you have a TV that has the ports to handle them (which is another article entirely), invest in the better cables to get the most out of it and futureproof your set-up for the consoles and smart-TV hubs of the future.
HDMI 1.0 to 1.4 cables still have their place if you're rocking up to a 1080p display, but are fast becoming useless.