May 6, 2021


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Guide to HDMI cables for next-gen gaming

3 min read

You have probably heard that expensive HDMI cables are not worth the money because all cables provide the same digital signal. And while this is partly true – expensive cables aren’t necessarily better than cheap cables – it’s not as simple as “any cable will do,” especially when it comes down to it. is about modern gaming systems.

What happens when you use the wrong cable

“The whole ‘all cables are the same’ scenario isn’t quite correct,” says Brad Bramy, vice president of marketing at HDM Licensing Administrator (HDMI LA), the licensing agent from the HDMI specification to manufacturers. First, there are differences in build quality. One cable might withstand sharp turns better than another, for example, or withstand more abuse over time. However, he agrees that price is not always an indicator of this quality. “You can have a cheap cable that isn’t made at a low cost, and sometimes the more expensive cable isn’t the best,” he explains. However, if a cable seems too cheap to be true, it just might be. Buy diligently, as you would any other product.

But there is more to the story, especially when it comes to games. Different cables have different speed values ​​which determine what they are capable of. Although it depends a lot on the HDMI specifications present on your TV and receiver or sound bar, with HDMI 2.1 delivering the latest and greatest in gaming—Cable also makes a difference. And if you only use a random cable that you found in your closet, you might run into issues with your modern game consoles.

It is also not as simple as “picture or no picture”. Bandwidth issues can manifest as discoloration, flickering, or “sparks” in the image, not to mention audio dropouts or other quirks. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes you might not notice it right away, but when you do, your first instinct may be to dig into your TV settings, play with your game console, or throw your controller against the wall in the room. frustration. And while you should definitely check your settings, you should also check your cable, which most people put too high on the list of concerns. You don’t need to buy a $ 100 cable filled with gold and wizarding magic, but you do need the right cable for the job.

Modern gaming requires more bandwidth

None of this was a major concern in the 2010s, as most HDMI cables sold were future-proof enough to handle what you threw at them. But over the past few years, as more people have turned to 4K, HDR, and high-frame-rate gaming, things have gotten a little more complicated. The more pixels you push, and the more often you push them, the more bandwidth you need throughout the signal chain.

So, when shopping, look for a speed rating that matches your cable usage. Here is the current ratings approved by the HDMI LA:

  • Standard HDMI: One of the earliest HDMI designations, standard HDMI cables are capable of 4.95 Gbps, which is only guaranteed for 1080i or 720p video. You’re unlikely to find them in a store today, but you can have one deep in your big box of random cables if you’ve been in the game for long enough.
  • High speed HDMI: High Speed ​​HDMI cables are much more common, due to their dominance over the past decade and their future-proof nature at the time – their 10.2 Gbps bandwidth was ready to push 1080p at 60Hz or 4K at 30Hz. This means that this older cable can play 4K Blu-ray at 24 frames per second with no problem. But if you try to play 4K with one, you might start to run into issues.
  • Premium High Speed ​​HDMI: High-end high-speed HDMI, with a bandwidth of 18 Gbps, was the recommended standard for games on 4K-capable consoles such as the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, as these cables can handle 4K video at 60 frames per second.
  • Ultra High Speed ​​HDMI: The latest standard, Ultra High Speed ​​HDMI, was designed for HDMI 2.1, with 48Gbps bandwidth capable of pushing 8K at 60Hz, 4K at 120Hz, and all the other next-gen gaming features that you might wish.

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