Thursday, March 26, 2015


Life is supposed to be simple — at least that’s what it has become with today’s flat panel TVs. They connect to your home network wirelessly and weigh so little it’s easy to put them on the wall. But one thing hasn’t changed since the days of the cathode-tube TV: to connect something to the TV, like a cable box or Blu-ray player, a cable is needed. The types of cable to use with a TV has also changed over the years: first there was the composite cable (i.e., the “RCA” cable with a yellow tip), followed by the component cables (one each for sending separate video signals that combined to form one) and then the HDMI cable. Each cable was able to send higher resolution video through to the TV than the one preceding it, but the HDMI cable is unique compared to the others for one reason.

The one reason the HDMI cable is unique is because it looks the same even though it has changed since it first appeared. From the first HDMI cable to the ones now being offered, the plug on either side goes into an input or output in just one way, holding in place through friction. The cable itself looks similar too, although different manufacturers will improve on the outer casing to make it more durable or distinctive.

So does this mean that you can just attach any HDMI cable to your various devices to the TV? No! But to understand which to use requires understanding what an HDMI cable can do.
HDMI cables are listed under different specification numbers — these basically say what the HDMI cable can and cannot do. But it’s just easier to go by names, which are:
Standard speed: These are good for video up to 1080i resolution (and obviously fine for 720p rez too).  Some cable companies and satellite receiver providers were known to give these out for free back when HDMI cables were hideously expensive, so there might be a few of these around the house that are now being incorrectly pressed into duty for 1080p use.
Standard speed with Ethernet: These cables add a dedicated data channel for device networking and so eliminate a separate Ethernet cable and require both video source and video display devices to be compatible.
High speed: These HDMI cables are good for video up to 1080p resolution and beyond. Or in other words, good for any video source device or TV that is of Full HD resolution as well as 4K resolution. These cables can also handle transmitting 3D and Deep Color technologies.
High speed with Ethernet: Similar to High speed cables but adds the dedicated data channel.
[There’s also an automative HDMI cable — that’s for use in a car, obviously, and is similar in resolution to a standard speed cable but is more rigorously tested to ensure a stable signal].


So for practical purposes, one should disconnect any HDMI cable that one can’t verify its type — stop using it to state it simply and get a High speed HDMI cable or High speed with Ethernet (which is backwardly compatible with High speed anyway) so that the full resolution and technologies built into the video source devices and TVs can be utilized.  How to know what kind of HDMI cable it is is easy: just read what the manufacturer puts on the packaging because it’s all stated right there. Then consider what refinements the maker has added which might appeal to your particular needs — for example, how long the cable is, or what its construction is made of or how much bandwidth the cable can transmit (a high number is always good). Then take them home and make them do their job. Your eyes will thank you for doing this with every time you watch something at home.


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