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HDMI Cables. Prices vs Quality. Is it really worth $250 for one?

We were in Harvey Norman the other day, thinking about purchasing a new HDMI cable to go with our ever increasing collection of gadgets that need to be plugged into the lounge room TV, (games consoles, media players, online streaming boxes, etc…) and were most horrified at the prices. They started at around $50 and went to a staggering $250 for the most expensive one. The cables cost more than some of the gadgets we’re plugging them into. While I realise that cheaper HDMI cables can produce an inferior picture for full HD, 3D or 4K pictures, does it really cost so much for the things to be made or are the retailers who sell them placing an astronomical mark up on the things? I’ve purchased cheap brands for under $15 which work fine on standard HD pictures, but produce white dots or flicker to a blank signal on higher resolution video content, but I’ve also purchased cheap brands that work perfectly for full HD content. No idea how they’d work on 3D or 4K though. Even so, how can a cable that ranges from 1 metre to 3 metres possibly cost so much money? I refuse to pay the Harvey Norman price and look for cheaper ones elsewhere that hopefully don’t cause the flicker or dots when being used in Full HD. If I find a brand that works I go back to the shop and stock up. Even finding the occasional cheap dud, it’s a lot cheaper than forking out a couple of hundred for a cable that does the exact same thing as the other cheap ones I’ve purchased that work. How on earth can they justify such a high cost for the things???

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Put simply: Anything over around $5-10/Metre for a HDMI cable (from a quality brand like CableMod, depending on if it’s DVI-HDMI, HDMI-HDMI or HDMI-DisplayPort for the plugs, HDMI-DisplayPort cables tend to be a bit more expensive for niche areas) is snake oil and a ripoff.
All that “Oxygen-free!” and “Gold-plated wires!” is snake oil since the copper wires inside the cables already has an amount of gold mixed in the alloy used to produce them, and of course there’s going to be little-to-no Oxygen inside the cable as each wire is individually sleeved before being bundled together into the cable.

Check IT part sellers like PCCaseGear.com (Melbourne, nation-wide shipping) and Australia Computer Online (ComputerOnline.com.au, Sydney) for quality HDMI cables at around OEM prices.

For example: PCCaseGear sells CableMod’s HDMI 2.0 (a newer standard for things like 3840x2160@120hz (4K*2K 120Hz) instead of the older 60Hz limit) 3m cable for $15/cable plus shipping & handling.

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There is plenty of snake oil and pseudo-science used to sell expensive cables. They are obviously a great little earner for the retailers.

For lab use at CHOICE, we don’t buy the very cheapest cables, as we give them a harder life than they would encounter in a typical home (most consumers wouldn’t plug and unplug them daily or more often). So, I look for inexpensive cables with moulded plugs. We’ve found that modular plugs fall apart with heavy use.

The $ per metre rule is OK until you need really long cables, and then it gets less useful. The longer the cable, the more shielding it needs - you’ve probably noticed that the really long HDMI cables tend to be much thicker, and that raises the price somewhat. Always buy the shortest cable you can for your requirements.

I dream of the day when HDBaseT will replace HDMI. HDBaseT is similar to HDMI signalling carried over ethernet cables. We use HDBaseT for signal distribution in our labs, but it might never arrive for domestic products.

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I can only imagine that the people who actually pay the $250 for the things at Harvey Norman are those who rely on the sales person’s word that they’ll need to spend such a large amount of money on a cable to get a decent picture from their freshly purchased home theatre system. I’m an IT person with a Cert III in ICT, and I’m amazed at some of the rubbish that comes out of the sales peoples mouths while they try and sell you a higher priced, yet lower spec computer to the one you went in to purchase in the first place. Some of them actually believe the misinformation that they push and they’ll argue the point about how the things work, even after it’s explained to them why their information is wrong and misleading.

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I second what @Technous285 wrote . I use Vandesail and UGreen cables . Under $25.00 and do the job nicely .

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We bought ones at Kmart which were very cheap and have had no issue with them. We aren’t audiophiles though.

Their more expensive ones (still cheap) which we purchased also appear to be well made. Haven’t had any signal/data breakup.

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Not sure I understand the comment about longer cables needing better insulation … but HDMI is a digital signal, with some tricks in the TMDS to reduce errors. You either have errors in the transmission or you don’t - the colours can’t change, the sound can’t be better or worse (in a tonal sense/etc in fact audio has better error correction than the video) - a bad cable will just give you errors which will show in the video as sparkles or pixel flashes to some extent, and audio will ‘drop-out’.
Buy the cheapest you can on EBay - if they don’t work, complain to the guy in China you bought them from, they will generally send another lot or refund with no return requirement :slight_smile:

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Definitely the salesman targeting gullible buyer thing. My mum got conned into buying an $80 bottle of screen cleaner there too in the same purchase. :anguished:

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Signal attenuation is a problem that comes into play the longer a cable (especially for digital signals) is.
There is a REASON why when you’re running CAT5e Ethernet cables to have a maximum length of 100 metres in a single section of a run between components like a router and a signal relay - the power strength of the signal fades harshly beyond that point without either a powered repeater (the relay) or an end device like a router, server or PC.

Insulation and shielding was a big problem with analogue cables such as Composite RCA Video (the Yellow plug of Red/White + Yellow), Component RCA Video (the Blue, Green & Orange plugs), S-Video & VGA (that old blue 15-pin port and cable on older video cards & CRT monitors), due to signal interference between cables.
It’s still a problem today with digital signals (along with the attenuation), since an unshielded cable like DVI or CAT5e can have a device clamped over it to read the signals passing along the cable without interrupting said signals.

And sure, you can go for the el-cheapo route from a Chinese seller on eBay, but by sticking to companies like CableMod and retailers like PCCaseGear, you’ve got a much better warranty system in place as you can return a faulty product to the retailer and get a replacement if they can confirm it is faulty.

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… was the statement I found curious. Insulation quality depends so much on the material and physical construction of the cable that thickness alone is arguably barely a rough guide, and at the voltage (ELV)/current involved hardly mandate an inch of PTFE with Kevlar braid. The only time I’d imagine that a longer cable needs better insulation is something like current loop where I believe the range can be increased substantially by increasing the voltage to account for the cumulative electrical properties of the wire (though I admit, I was a user of current loop on the first computers I worked on, not a technician - thank ‘god’ for RS-232… which interestingly we ran for 1200 metres at 4k8 bps in a manufacturing environment in a few cases - ‘somewhat longer’ than the spec says is the limit - arguably at the expense of toasting DZ11’s semi-regularly) - by working with conductor size and shielding, with insulation remaining the same, but I digress … ).

Shielding on the other hand is a distinctly separate issue …

So far I’ve never had a problem with a cable from China - so far. As for warranty though, I’m happy with the “we’ll send you another one, chuck that one in the bin” response which I’ve had on a number of occasions for other products, I guess they just want good EBay feedback at all costs. If the local people have a warranty setup like that (where I don’t have to return the dodgy product) than the only advantage is shipping time. If they expect the customer to pay return costs … well … no. I had one company insist that I pay the shipping both ways for a product failure under warranty - which came to a third of the value of the product, but I did have a good experience with Element14 - sent me a new Pi to replace a failed one no questions asked, no need to return, so I get that its not just our brothers to the North offering good warranty options.

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Thank you draughtrider. My bad. When I typed insulation, I meant to type shielding. :sweat: I’ve corrected my earlier post.

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I have had the salesperson from retailers when I have brought electrical items (4K TV) try and sell me very expensive HDMI cables with prices up to $200 for a 4K HDMI cable.
I buy mine from MSY they are (Very) cheap price compared to elsewhere and I have had no problems over the years with the brand they sell (Cablelist), I purchased a Cablelist 3 Meter HDMI V2.0 4K 3D solid copper cable with gold plated connections for $13, not $200 as suggested by the retailer.
Works fine no problems, you don’t have to spend big dollars on HDMI cables.

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I used to work & own in an electronics store & cables & accessories was where the real profits were made. There were only small margins made on tv’s & the like but a small fortune to be made on a $20 cable that cost the store $2. As stated earlier it’s much better buying from eBay & places like that.

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Cables are a massive con, and have huge mark-ups because the typical consumer doesn’t have a clue. Yes there are inferior cables, but generally speaking most are more than adequate for normal use. For 4K you need to get the version of HDMI that’s 4K compliant.

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4K-compliant isn’t an official qualifier for HDMI cables. Neither is any qualifier that mentions 3D. HDMI cables only exist as four types: Standard Speed or High Speed, and each of those are available with and without Ethernet.
Price differences between Standard Speed and High Speed are small, so just buy High Speed and decide whether or not you need it to carry Ethernet (the answer will almost certainly be no).
If a salesperson tries to tell you that there are High Speed HDMI cables that will handle 4K, and others that won’t, I suggest you shop elsewhere.
The labelling of some HDMI cables reminds me of Nurofen - identical product being labelled differently and sold at different prices.

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Some good reading for consumers here - http://www.hdmi.org/consumer/index.aspx

:slight_smile:

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That’s my understanding, although I am no expert. A digital signal either makes it or it doesn’t. You don’t get a better signal by having a better cable, it either works or it doesn’t.

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Clearly not so, unless you have evidence.

Not everyone is tech savvy, especially older folk who’ve decided to fork out part of their life savings on a home theatre system to enjoy their old movies on. They’re not idiots for paying $250 at H-N, they’re just not aware that there are cheaper options and trust that the sales person isn’t trying to dupe them. Also, anyone who has an intellectual disability of some sort would also take the salesperson at face value. In my book it’s pure dishonesty by H-N for selling the cables at such a high price and instructing the salespeople to upsize with such expensive products.

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Yep, that’s a good summary of the situation.