Are you wasting money on expensive cables?

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Stop. Don’t waste more money on expensive cables.

Got a new TV?

I was visiting a friend who has a new TV. I noted his very, very expensive ‘big brand’ HDMI cables and asked how much he paid for them. He proudly informed me he paid £60. I hesitated a bit before I told I paid 98 for my HDMI cable. “You paid £98?” he asked. “No, 98p” I replied.

And that is true. I paid 98p for an HDMI cable from a well known online seller.

My friend claimed that his cables were top notch quality and will give a better picture; and beside they look good! I pointed out that are hidden behind the TV (so the brand name won’t show anyway) and in fact they won’t affect picture quality.

Something consumers doesn’t seem to know

So, let’s try to debunk the facts from the fiction. We will discuss the two basic types of signal: analogue and digital. To compare the difference between the two, try comparing a light dimmer switch versus a plain old “on-off” light switch.

Analogue (this is like a dimmer switch)

An analogue signal is variable. Just like a dimmer switch you can set the level from fully off or fully on or anywhere in between. This is the same as for an analogue signal (say an audio signal or the connection between a VCR and a TV using a SCART cable).The signal carried through the cable can be affected by the quality, length and build of the cable. That’s why – in the previous generation of analogue music players and video recorders – a high quality cable really did matter because a poor quality cable could affect the quality of the audio or video being sent; especially when long cables are used.

Digital (this is like a plain On-Off switch)

A digital signal is a series of “1s” and “0s”. The signal is either on or off. There is no variable signal level. The signal is either fully on or fully off like a light switch. Cable quality plays no real part in transferring the digital data in the same way that the cable quality could affect an analogue signal.

In terms of HDMI cables. for example connecting a Blu-ray to a TV – which is a digital signal – the cost or perceived quality of the cable will have no effect on the quality of the TV’s picture. None. Nil. Zip. Nada.

If the cable meets the HDMI specification, it will work. If it’s broken it won’t work.

And this is the same for all digital data. Buy an OK cable that meets the specification and ignore cables that are unnecessarily expensive. This also extends to digital audio via fibre (i.e. Toslink cables). Don’t buy expensive ones; I recall paying £1.25p for my Toslink cable and it has never failed me.

Buy a basic cable that meets the required industry specifications,and then you can take the family out for a curry with the savings.

HDMI cables

HDMI cables are the ones that really snag consumers. They spend a pile of money on a new TV and Blu-ray player and then think (or get told by someone) that they need to buy a top branded HDMI cable. This is NOT the case. What can you lose? If you buy a low-cost cable from a store and it doesn’t work – take it back.

There was an early HDMI implementation that used “HDMI Standard” cables. Today, the industry has moved to HDMI 2 and you’ll need to buy a “High Speed HDMI” cable. Buy a cable that is marked – both on the packaging and on the cable itself – as “High Speed HDMI” and buy a low-cost one.

No sorry, that really expensive HDMI Standard cable that you bought may not work with High Speed HDMI. That’s a expensive lesson in obsolescence.

Cable manufacturers and retailers will do everything they can to extract the maximum profit (that is what they are there for), like promoting gold-plated connectors. You should look carefully at what you are buying and don’t over pay because something looks (and is) expensive.

Price variance

Of course some cables will look and feel nicer, and some may offer an extended warranty etc. However, when looking at a well know UK retailer today, I see a 3m cable can cost from £5.99 (customer rating 9.6) to £79.97 (customer rating 9.5). I could buy a new low cost cable every year for the next 13 years and still have change out of £79.97.

It’s your money.

The horse speaks

If you want to hear from the horse’s mouth, the HDMI’s website features this page which is really helpful and will help you select cables. I’m sure you are buying your TV from a reputable outlet, so as I mention earlier, you can always take a faulty cable back.

 

 

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