HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cables are an increasingly common part of home entertainment systems, especially as consumer expectations increase in regard to picture quality and sound quality. If you’re shopping for one of these cables, here’s what you need to know about the different types on the market.
What is an HDMI Cable?
HDMI is short for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. It is a video standard used in both home theaters and computers.
The high definition part of that name means it can transmit high-quality pictures and sound. The multimedia interface portion refers to its ability to combine audio, video, and data into one cable.
That makes it useful for transmitting several types of information through one wire; for example, you could stream a movie from your computer to your TV using an HDMI cable. For most people, that’s overkill–but it’s good to know what kind of functionality is available if you have more sophisticated needs than just streaming Netflix shows from your laptop to your TV!
There are three different types of HDMI connectors that you’ll need to know about: standard, mini, and micro.
Standard HDMI Connector
The most common type of connector is 19 pins and looks like a thick piece of wire. As its name implies, it is used for standard video transmissions and can also be found on new DVD players and Blu-ray players.
Type A Standard HDMI connectors can handle high-definition pictures up to 1080p (1920×1080). If you are using a flat-screen TV, it probably has one or two standard connectors to hook your cable box or DVD player to it.
Mini HDMI Connector
The Type C Mini HDMI connector is sometimes used on mobile devices such as cameras and tablets. This is a small version that is just 10.5mm wide compared to Type A which measures 14mm.
It’s featured on modern digital cameras such as Nikon’s D3200 DSLR camera. The mini HDMI connector supports up to 1080p Full HD video, which makes it ideal for recording video or displaying photos onto a TV screen in full HD quality.
Micro HDMI Connector
The Type D Micro HDMI connector is a small variant of standard HDMI cable that can be used in portable devices like cell phones, tablet PCs, and HD cameras.
The Micro-HDMI port is 6 millimeters wide, making it 30% smaller than standard full-size connections. This allows Micro-HDMI equipped devices to be slimmer and more portable while still delivering high-quality video and audio signals through a single cable.
Types of HDMI Cables
Category 1 (Standard) HDMI Cable
Category 1 HDMI cables were created to facilitate high-definition digital TV, and since then, their use has expanded to include devices such as home theater audio/video systems. HD-TV (1080i or 720p) and ultra-high-def displays require 4.95 Gb/s bandwidth, which is precisely what Category 1 cables are able to provide.
These are considered standard and should be able to handle all high-definition content today. Category 1 cables also come in lengths from three feet up to 25 feet long, so there’s a length for every need.
Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet
The Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet is a thick and heavy cable used to transfer digital audio and video signal from devices. It has a bandwidth of 4.95 Gb/s. The cable includes an ethernet channel, so you can easily connect your HDTV or Blu-ray player to your Internet-ready router to get instant access to online content.
You’ll need an adapter if you have an older model that doesn’t include an ethernet port, but otherwise, it’s just plug and play. This standard video cable will work with anything that displays at 1080i or 720p and doesn’t require 4K resolution.
Category 2 (High Speed) HDMI Cable
Category 2 cables offer transmission speeds up to 10.2 Gb/s, which is sufficient for most high-definition video needs at 1080p and 4K resolutions. With less bandwidth than Category 3 cables, they’re a good choice if you’re worried about image quality or your budget is tight.
Category 2 cables also support up to 30-Hz refresh rates, which is ideal for gaming. However, if you plan on using 4K at a higher refresh rate (such as 60 Hz), it’s best to look into getting a cable that supports Category 3 or above.
High-Speed HDMI Cable With Ethernet
These high-speed HDMI cables have Ethernet built-in, so they’re ideal for hooking up devices that are going to be sharing a network connection. They can also handle 4K video at 30 frames per second (FPS).
The cheaper high-speed cables work fine with 1080p and some lower-end 4K TVs, but many techies recommend paying extra for Premium High Speed or Premium Certified High Speed if you want to be sure your TV or other devices will display 4K properly.
It’s worth noting that even older high-speed cables can transmit Ethernet signals; just make sure yours is rated Category 2 or better, has an Ethernet channel rating of 10.2 Gb/s or higher, and a minimum bandwidth speed of 340 MHz.
Category 3 (4K) HDMI Cable
This standard allows for a maximum resolution of 4K at 60 Hz (4,096 x 2,160) and supports up to 18 Gb/s transfer speeds. In addition, it features a cable-bandwidth capability that carries three full-HD video signals at one time.
Category 3 cables are perfect for displaying 4K video at 60fps. If you want 4K/60 capabilities and don’t care about backward compatibility with older technology, then Category 3 is your best bet.
Category 3 (8K) HDMI Cable
Category 3 cables are capable of transmitting 8K at 60 Hz or 4K at 120 Hz, 48 Gb/s. This means it can display video up to three times clearer than a standard HD cable and is rated for use with higher-resolution displays like 4K TVs, QLED TVs, and UHD monitors.
That’s important to keep in mind if you have a newer TV that supports HDR but not Ultra HD. In that case, using a Category 3 cable will allow you to transmit both HDR content (limited to 4K) and 8K resolutions simultaneously on compatible devices.
HDMI Cable Design Types
Waterproof HDMI Cable
One-eighth of an inch thick, with a massive handle, and made from very durable materials, a waterproof cable is designed to be used in areas that are typically wet or damp. In addition to being used in bathrooms and other water-prone areas, it’s often employed for outdoor use, like on boats and near swimming pools.
Since these cables have rubber shielding and waterproof connectors, they can withstand depths up to 6 feet. They are definitely not meant to be submerged though. It means you basically don’t have to worry about your TV reception going out if a few drops hit your cable while it’s plugged in outside.
Male to Female HDMI Cable
If you want to create a long-distance connection, then these cables are best for you. As its name suggests, these are usually used to extend an existing HDMI cable.
These can also be called an A/B cable or extension cable. These are available in a variety of lengths, and you can choose from them according to your needs.
These cables do not support audio signals and hence it is best if you use them for video connections only. You can connect these cables easily as they have a plug-and-play feature. They work just like any other standard HDMI cable, but they only extend its length instead of replacing it completely.
Panel Mount HDMI Cable
Panel-mount cables are an excellent option for permanent installations. This type of cable is designed to securely connect to both ends with a panel mount connector, which will not come loose under normal use.
Panel-mount connectors contain a built-in security mechanism that prevents them from being pulled out at an angle. With these connections, there’s no chance of your connection becoming detached and potentially damaging your equipment or your installation.
Locking HDMI Cable
Generally, these are used with fixed installations or in places where you don’t want people disconnecting cables. They tend to be very secure and difficult to disconnect, so they’re a good option for public settings.
Be aware that if your device does not have a locking feature on its end, it will likely not work with a locking cable. Non-locking cables have no such restrictions because there’s nothing stopping anyone from unplugging them at any time.
These are typically more expensive than standard cables but worth it if you need something more robust or permanent.
Right Angle HDMI Cable
These cables let you connect your HDMI cable to a device in an area that doesn’t have a lot of room behind it. It can be used for wall-mounted televisions in your bedroom or other rooms where space is tight.
It also lets you connect your device to another without disconnecting any wires by allowing you to position both devices close together and face each other while connecting them. There are a variety of lengths available, so you can find one to suit your needs.
This can be useful if you plan on installing your TV behind a cabinet or bookshelf and don’t want excess cable hanging out.
When you’re shopping for an HDMI cable, you might come across wireless options that allow you to stream your media through Wi-Fi, rather than over cables. These can be useful if you want to connect a device in another room or even outside your home—but they are typically more expensive and don’t always work as well as wired versions.
And while it may seem like a convenient option, wireless HDMI has its downsides. The biggest is lag time. In order to receive HD content, your receiver needs a constant signal; otherwise, things can get choppy—fast. And because Wi-Fi uses radio waves, there are issues with bandwidth and interference.
Does a USB-C port output HDMI?
Yes, a USB-C port can output HDMI. However, you’ll need a USB-C to HDMI adapter, as well as a new cable to get an HDMI signal from your computer to your TV or other display.
USB-C devices that have an HDMI port are a rarity at present. In addition, even if you have one, it might not work with your current cables because they’re not made for transmitting both data and video at the same time. It’s best to check with your specific adapter and cable to make sure they’re designed for simultaneous use.
What type of HDMI Cable Should I Get for my 4K TV?
A high-speed HDMI Cable is specifically designed to deliver 4K picture quality. If you have a 4K TV, you want a high-speed HDMI cable for your device to get those crisp, clear images and sound.
Regular HDMI cables are only capable of transferring 1080p video from a source to a display. A high-speed HDMI Cable is capable of transmitting 4K video at a 60Hz refresh rate, which results in fast-moving pictures that look smooth and sharp.
It also has 18Gbps bandwidth, which enables it to transfer uncompressed audio as well as video signals with no distortion or loss of information. Because it’s HDCP 2.2 compatible, the High-Speed HDMI Cable works with all Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and other entertainment devices supporting the HDCP 2.2 content protection standards.
History of the HDMI Standard
The HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) interface was originally developed by a consortium of consumer electronics manufacturers that included Hitachi, Matsushita (Panasonic), Philips, Silicon Image, Sony, Thomson (RCA), and Toshiba.
This collaboration began in 2002, with subsequent versions released in 2005 and 2009. Version 1.0 first became available to consumers in 2002; it was superseded by an update in 2005 (1.1). The most recent update is version 2.1, released in 2017.
In 2002, HDMI 1.0 was released and it had a lot in common with what you’d find in other digital connections. It supports 8 audio channels, 1080p at 60Hz and 4.95 Gb/S. The thing that makes it unique from other cable standards is its bandwidth.
Where traditional connections like coaxial cables have large bandwidths, they’re much lower than that of HDMI 1.0, leading to noticeable degradation over long distances or with high-resolution media.
The first consumer-grade version, 1.1, was released in 2005 and offered resolutions up to 1440p at 30 Hz, 4.95 Gb/s bandwidth, DVD-Audio support, and One-Bit Audio support. It was superseded by 1.2 later that year, which supported HD video at 720p or 1080i as well as 12-bit audio (with Blu-ray Discs) and bit rates as high as 9.9 Gb/s.
Released in 2009, version 1.3 offered four key improvements: 4K at 60 Hz, 10.2 Gb/s transfer speed, Audio Return Channel (ARC), and support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
These upgrades allow for much greater clarity and image detail as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound when paired with compatible devices such as 4K TV sets. They also offer backward compatibility with earlier versions of HDMI, making it easy to use your existing cables with newer devices.
HDMI 2.0 allows for a maximum video resolution of 4K (3840x2160p) at 60 frames per second and a minimum audio format called high-efficiency advanced audio coding (HE-AAC).
It also supports 32 audio channels and up to 18 gigabits per second, double what was available with previous versions. If you’re purchasing a new HDTV, Blu-ray player, or game console, be sure you have an HDMI cable that supports at least v2.0; otherwise, it won’t be able to send 4K content to your TV at full speed.
In 2017, a new set of HDMI standards were introduced, signaling that it’s not too early to start investing in cables. The most notable changes were in support for 8K video at 30Hz, 48 Gb/s bandwidth, Dynamic HDR, and eARC. To get these features, you’ll need an HDMI 2.1 cable.
These can be identified by an “HDMI Ultra High Speed” label on the packaging or on product pages online (as well as higher prices). There are also some additional benefits with 2.1—such as improved audio return channel performance.
The latest version, 2.1a, was announced in early 2022 and is also backward compatible with all earlier versions. Among its new features are:
- 8K at 60 Hz
- 4K at 120 Hz
- up to 10K
- 48 Gb/s bit rates
- 32 audio channels
- Source-Based Tone Mapping – HDR is done by the source not the display to produce an optimized signal.