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HDMI Cables – Save Money Connecting Your High Definition TV

Posted By admin On August 27, 2009 @ 10:44 am In Home Entertainment | Comments Disabled

So, you’ve bought that flat panel TV and a spanking new Blu-ray DVD player. You’ve forked out 1000s of dollars and you’re ready to indulge in a spot of high definition viewing pleasure.

Well, almost.

You need to connect your two devices. And this can’t be done with any old cable. To get the signal from your Blu-ray player to your TV in all its high definition glory, you have to use an HDMI cable.

What is HDMI?

HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is now the global standard for connecting high definition consumer electronics. Got a high definition set-top box for your TV? Almost certainly you’ll be connecting the two via their HDMI interfaces with a HDMI cable.

HDMI is an all-digital audio/video interface. Using only a single cable it is able to transmit:

  • Digital video
  • Multi-channel audio
  • Device control data

The New Generation

Older generations of interfaces like SCART and S-video were analogue. As an analogue signal moves along a cable the signal decays. By the time it gets to the TV then, the picture it generates is of a correspondingly lower quality.

HDMI, though, is completely digital and transmits its information in a bit-stream, or series of ones and zeros. As a result, as long as the signal can make it’s way from one end of the cable to the other, there is no degradation of picture quality.

The result? Crystal clear, super rich images that are so realistic they sometimes border on 3-D. Not to mention faster gaming and richer audio.

The HDMI Advantage

  • A single cable for both audio and video – means no more cable clutter.
  • A uniform plug for all HDMI devices – allows easy installation and reduces consumer confusion.
  • An accepted standard – by 2010 there will be an estimated billion HDMI-enabled devices worldwide.
  • Exceptional information transfer speed – the latest HDMI cables can carry up to 10.2 gigabits per second (double that needed to transmit a 1080p signal).
  • The smart nature of the connection allows devices to communicate with each other. For instance, a DVD player and a TV can talk to each other, allowing the TV to adjust its settings so that it can display the incoming DVD signal to the best of its ability.

An Evolving Standard

The first version of HDMI was released in 2002. Known, unsurprisingly, as HDMI 1.0, it had a bandwidth of 165MHz and a maximum bitrate of 4.9 Gigabits per second.

The current HDMI version is HDMI 1.3. This has a bandwidth of 340MHz and a maximum bitrate of 10.2 gigabits per second.

The good news is that the plugs have not changed from version to version and each newer version is completely backwards compatible (you can use an HDMI 1.3 cable with an HDMI 1.0 device).

Which Cable Should I Buy?

Amazingly, if you only need a cable about two or three metres long, the answer is “the cheapest one you can find”.

Because of the nature of HDMI cables (all those ones and zeros) the signal either gets through and results in a super sharp picture, or it doesn’t, and you get no picture at all. The signal doesn’t decay the way an analogue signal does, so there is no grading of picture quality.

As long as the cable works, therefore, there is no difference in picture quality between a very expensive HDMI cable and a cheap one. You don’t even need to buy the latest HDMI version (1.3).

True high definition has a resolution of “1080p”, meaning that there are 1080 pixels along the vertical axis of your TV picture. Devices like Blu-ray DVD players and gaming consoles offer this level of resolution, so you obviously need a compatible cable. Luckily, all HDMI cables can accommodate 1080p, even HDMI 1.0.

Length Makes a Difference

If, however, you need a longer cable (10-15 metres) – say you’re running it through a wall – a different approach is necessary.

As a video signal travels through an HDMI cable, although it doesn’t degrade like an analogue signal, it does grow weaker and become distorted. After a certain point it won’t produce a picture.

To help overcome this problem, if you need a longer cable, you should choose HDMI 1.3. This version, with its wider bandwidth (340MHz as opposed to 165MHz with HDMI 1.0) is capable of handling higher frequencies. Cables that can handle higher frequencies cause less distortion at lower frequencies and allow the signal to travel further before it begins to fail.

As long as you choose HDMI 1.3 for longer cabling there is, again, no point in buying an expensive model – it won’t make your picture any better.

Note: Cables longer than 15 metres may need an HDMI extender, or booster box.

Don’t Get Conned

High definition TV and gaming already requires the outlay of significant amounts of money, so when it comes to cables don’t add more to your bill than you have to. The difference in price between two cables that will do exactly the same job can be over $100. If you pay at the upper end, you’ve probably been bamboozled by a salesman who’s more interested in his commission than the health of your bank balance.

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