The invention of HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) took audio and video to another level of sophistication and connectivity. HDMI uses digital signals in the form of ones and zeros to transmit data from an output source to a display. HDMI version 1.3a boasts a major bandwidth increase over component video, which provides breathing room for 1080p video content and high-definition audio. With higher bandwidth than analog alternatives, the question remains whether expensive cabling is still worth the money.
Analog Component Cables
In the past, buying a more expensive component cable meant less signal degradation over cable length. This enabled the display to receive a stronger signal and therefore output video with better picture quality and clarity. Stronger signal strength was achieved by using better copper, shielding materials and gold-plated connectors. Those who used more expensive analog cabling noticed a significant increase in video quality. Better craftsmanship also created secure connections and better resilience to wear and tear.
History of HDMI
Many systems prior to the mainstream use of HDMI utilized a DVI (digital visual interface) to transmit digital high-definition video. HDMI was invented to be backwards compatible with DVI while providing more features such as audio support, better color enhancement and two-way communication from a signal source to the display. Since the invention of HDMI 1.0 in 2002, newer standards of the interface have increased bandwidth from 4.6 Gbit/s on 1.0 to 10.6 Gbit/s on HDMI 1.3a.
Having a basic grasp on digital signals leads one to believe that HDMI is simply decoding ones and zeros, and therefore, cable length and quality has no effect on picture integrity. This is untrue. Digital signals are also susceptible to interference and degradation due to cable length, although it is not as drastic as analog degradation. Cable quality and length in HDMI has an impact on color accuracy, audio and HDCP (High bandwidth Digital Content Protection) compatibility, which will cause disruption in the picture.
What to Look for in an HDMI Cable
HDMI cables are rated as either category 1 or category 2. Category 1 HDMI cables will work on shorter lengths for 1080p content. When using a cable longer that five feet, a category 2 cable should be used. An HDMI 1.3a category 2 cable is defined as "high speed." A high-speed cable will allow for longer cables with less signal loss for 1080p content. Generally, category 2 cables have a larger gauge and are built hardier. Quality manufactured cables will withstand more wear and ensure a consistently secure connection to the components.
Should I Buy More Expensive HDMI Cables?
Expensive doesn't always equal better. When purchasing an HDMI cable at a local retailer, the consumer is often paying more for the packaging than the cable itself. Searching the Internet for a better price on an HDMI cable is encouraged as long as the cable is certified HDMI, built using quality materials, and rated as category 2 or "high speed."
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