There are a lot of jargons revolving around the HDMI cables. Sometimes these jargons will be just a marketing gimmick or sometimes they are spot on and helpful. But how to figure it out because these jargons are confusing to newbies and even sometimes for intermediate home theater owners. So, what’s the difference between cheap, mid-priced, and expensive HDMI cables, and which is better?
The cheap HDMI cables are worthless if you want a higher refresh rate and bandwidth for your High definition videos, hi-fi audio, and the mid-priced HDMI are worth it for all those but expensive HDMI cables are just a marketing gimmick to avoid.
Keep reading as we will be discussing this in detail with all the differences. I am going to provide features on a silver platter that will help you to mine the best ones in the mid-price or even in the cheaper ones.
What is cheap, mid-priced, and expensive HDMI? Where do you draw the line? The cheap HDMI cables will be all under $7, the mid-priced will be $7-$50, and the expensive ones are $50+. The expensive ones can be found from $150-$1000. But that is not worth buying. Keep reading to save yourself from HDMI cable scams. I categories them this way, so that I can separate the best from the junk for you.
Note: You can take this guide as an HDMI buyer's guide too.
Difference between cheap, mid-priced, and expensive HDMI. Comparison. (Results achieved from research and testing)
|Features||Cheap HDMI||Mid-priced HDMI||Expensive HDMI|
|Price||Worthless||Worth every penny||Don’t worth it at all|
|Build Quality||Just average||Top-notch||Top-notch|
|Gold Plated Connectors & Wire||Very rare for connector and no gold plated wires||Yes for connector & No for wires||Yes for both|
|Fiber-based||None||Yes, you can find||Yes, you can find|
|Refresh Rate||very low||Higher & enough||Higher & enough|
|Newer Resolution support||1080p, 4K||1080p, 4K, 8K||1080p, 4K, 8K|
|Effect on Audio & Video||No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, No HDR content||Support all types of audio & video||Support all types of audio & video|
|Longer distance compatibility||No||Yes||Yes|
|CL3 Rated||Very rare||Yes||Yes|
The cheap cables can’t provide what they say in almost all of the cases. The cable products description or labeling will say it supports HDR and a higher refresh rate of 4k@120Hz but when you put it into a test. This will fail terribly. You will want to buy another cable.
This happened with one of my friends. He bought a cheap $2 HDMI cable and it wasn’t able to deliver the Dolby Atmos. He was cursing his new soundbar. But when he bought another cable for $13. The problem was solved and his soundbar started working.
In almost all cases for the mid-priced cable. Every penny is worth it. It delivers what it is advertised. Unless you are buying it from a brandless manufacturer or a person whose only job is to scam people.
The price of expensive HDMIs is beyond imagination. The $150 or $1000 label can’t bring any changes to the deliverability of the cable. It can’t deliver 7D as it will be delivering the same 3D that a mid-priced cable can deliver.
Read this guide, on cheap Vs expensive soundbars. which is better? I have compared their features.
The cheap HDMI cable connectors can’t be durable and the wiring inside the connector and the cables themselves can’t be thicker enough that can coup with newer technologies’ needs.
On other hand, the connector is made top-notch with thicker wiring inside the connector and the cable itself in the mid-priced cables. We will discuss the composition of the wire in the upcoming “fiber & non-fiber” section. Here I want to talk about the thickness of it.
When it comes to the quality of the wiring and the durability of the connector and the whole cable there is no difference between the mid-priced and expensive cables.
But here they use the jargon of Gold plated wiring of the HDMI cable in the expensive category. We will analyze this jargon in the “Gold plated connectors & wires”.
Know, is the HDMI ARC better than Bluetooth? I have compared them by keeping their bandwidth in mind.
Gold Plated Connectors & Wire
The gold plating is not common in the cheap HDMI cables category. You will rarely find gold-plated connectors HDMI in the cheap category.
The mid-priced will have Gold plated connectors. This is a good thing to make the connectors durable. These connectors won’t wear out quickly if you are plugging and unplugging them a lot. These cables will last for very long.
But the expensive category has gold plated the wiring of the cable along with the connector. Is it any good?
No, not at all. They claim with this you can get better faster data transfer which results in a faster refresh rate. This is not true. Just pure oxygen-free copper will work the best. Gold plating it won’t help. It will just raise the price.
If you are concerned about refresh rates then why not pick a mid-priced fiber HDMI cable. Because nothing can beat the speed of light.
So, avoid gold-plated wired HDMI and pick the gold-plated connectors’ HDMI cable. Because it is good for durability. Again the gold-plated connectors, won’t help in the speed but in durability.
You can’t find this feature in the cheap HDMI cables. The fiber-based HDMI cables can transfer data for a very long distance without any loss in it.
You can find the fiber-based HDMI cables both in the mid-priced and expensive category. The functionality of both is the same. You can get the advertised refresh rate and bandwidth and also it is beneficial to transfer data for a long distance without any loss.
|Refresh Rate||Cheap HDMI||Mid-priced HDMI||Expensive HDMI|
|Provides||4K@60Hz (False advertised)||4K@120Hz & 8K@60Hz||All including 10K (unspecified rate)|
Almost for all modern content, you need a high refresh rate especially when it comes to gaming. Newer AV receivers work with 4K@120Hz and 8K@60Hz. Technology is evolving rapidly. That’s why my advice will be to settle for no lesser than 4k@120Hz. You can be comfortable with 4K@60Hz because now the content is supporting that but soon the technology will change because newer AV receivers are aiming for 4K@120Hz, 8K@120Hz, and more.
The cheaper cables will advertise that the cable can deliver 4K@60Hz. But be careful most of the time it won’t be true. It will be less than that. You will see the difference when you are gaming. You will see the frames and pixels are shredding a little. This can frustrate pro gamers.
You can find the advertised statement true in the mid-priced and expensive HDMIs. But expensive HDMI cables talk about 10K too. But 10K is in the far future. When the 10K is mainstreamed at that time there will be cheaper HDMI cables with a nice refresh rate.
For now, avoid 10K because they cost $500+ and also there is no content that you can find with a push of a button that is 10K.
You will find limited 8K content then imagine getting 10K.
From refresh rate, it just struck my mind. Know, is the soundbar good for gaming, movies, and TV? I have analyzed the soundbar here intensively.
|Resolution||Cheap HDMI||Mid-Priced HDMI||Expensive HDMI|
|Provides||4K (False Advertising)||4K and 8K||4K, 8K, and 10K|
The cheap cables don’t support 4K very well. Now, you will say I have checked on Amazon and BestBuy. The cheaper cables are supporting 4K.
But put them into a test or just read the reviews. You will know that there is a big difference between the advertisement and the actual deliverability.
The cheaper will fail overwhelmingly when testing it with 4K content. It happened to me while I was testing them.
The 4K deliverability in the mid-priced and expensive category is top-notch.
Read this review guide on the best AV receivers. I have reviewed the top 7. Many in this list are providing 8K@60/120Hz.
Effect on Audio & Video
You can’t deliver the HDR or Dolby Vision video content and Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio content with the cheap HDMI cables. They can’t have sufficient bandwidth that can support this delivery. I will show you the best bandwidth that will work for now and for the future in the “what to look for instead?” section.
You need the right bandwidth to have the audio-video which is a common thing in the mainstream market. Everyone wants and loves Dolby Atmos and HDR content.
You can have a suitable bandwidth in the mid-priced HDMI and the expensive HDMI cables.
I have talked about certain terminologies here. Read more about Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision, DTS:X, and more from this guide. I have defined and compared them all.
Longer Distance Compatibility
If your projector is mounted on the ceilings and you want to connect it to the AV Receiver with HDMI. Then you need an HDMI cable that can carry the data without any loss. Regular HDMI cables are not capable of carrying data for a longer distance without any loss in the data.
You will need an active HDMI cable. These HDMI cables can transfer data from one corner of the theater room to another without any loss in the data.
You can find these HDMI cables in the mid-priced and expensive category. But if the wire is copper-based then you need an active one but if it is fiber-based then you don’t need an active feature. Because fiber itself can deliver data for a longer distance.
I will provide the distance limit in the “what to look for instead?” section. Keep reading.
Know. Is your HDMI ARC enabled? by reading my this guide.
eARC is the modern world necessity. It provides the highest audio quality possible. You can’t find eARC capabilities in the cheap category. If you find any then read their review because the possibility is that they are lying.
The eARC is common in the mid-priced HDMIs but only above $10 cables. It is very rare to find eARC cable under $10.
You can find eARC in the expensive category of HDMI cables.
Know the difference between eARC & ARC by reading my this guide. You will get the comparison table after the second heading.
Those cables that can fish in the wall or ceiling and prevent fire hazards are rated as CL3.
It is very rare to find CL3-rated HDMI in the cheap category with higher bandwidth that can support HDR and Dolby Atmos.
You can find CL3 rated with higher bandwidth above $10 in the mid-priced range.
You can find this rating easily in the expensive HDMI cables. But it is a very sensitive thing. You should read the reviews carefully of all the CL3-rated wires if you need one.
The cheap HDMIs don’t talk about bend lifespan at all. You can get decent Bend life in the mid-priced and expensive HDMIs.
The 10000 times bend lifespan is very common in the mid-priced HDMI cables. This is more than enough because we don’t plug and unplug the wire that much.
What to look for instead?
Read this section carefully and take notes. If you find these features even in the cheap cable then you can go for it but first read reviews because it is very rare to find these features all in the cheap cables.
- HDMI version: Go for the HDMI version 2.1a or at least 2.1. Because this version can work with newer technologies
- Bandwidth: All HDMI 2.1 version cables must support 48 Gbits/second. It is usually written as 48Gbps. If the bandwidth is lower than that then either the cable is low quality or it is false advertising. The 48 Gbps works with newer technologies without any errors.
- Refresh Rate: You should choose the refresh rate of 4K@120Hz or at least 4K@60Hz and 8K@60Hz is more than enough
- Length: The wire should be oxygen-free copper or pure copper when its length is more than 7ft and up to 10 ft but it should be fiber-based when the distance is above 10 ft.
- Backward Compatibility: The wire should be backward compatible. If you buy a new TV or projector then it should be working with the comparatively old receiver.
These all features can easily be found in mid-priced cables but of above $10 price.
Final verdict: Which is better?
The mid-priced HDMI cables are the best of the best. They provide everything available in the expensive HDMI cables.
Then why go for $500+ HDMI cables when the mid-priced $7-50 HDMI cable can provide all of those features.
The brands are scamming you if they price their HDMI cable above $70. The cable should not be higher even than $50. But I showed the $70 for the safer side.
There is no need to waste your time and money on cheap and expensive HDMI cables. Go for the mid-priced HDMIs.
Can cheap HDMI cables cause problems?
The cheaper cables under $5 can cause issues when you want it for Dolby Vision, HDR, Dolby Atmos, or DTS:X content because they do not have enough bandwidth to satisfy the needs of this type of content.
The cheap cables won’t work when you have a soundbar of Dolby Atmos or HDR TV. The TV might work but you won’t sense the magic of HDR.
This was my opinion, read more about it from this Quora Discussion.
Does a high-quality HDMI cable make a difference?
The oxygen-free copper wires with gold-plated connectors will always outperform the cheaply made cables. They will have higher bandwidth and refresh rate.
The quality speaks for itself in the HDMI cables. The high quality does make a difference.
Are expensive HDMI cables better than cheap ones?
The expensive ones will always be better than the cheap ones but they can’t be better than mid-priced HDMI cables. I consider under $7 cheap, $7-$50 mid-priced, and $50-$500+ expensive HDMIs.
The expensive HDMIs are just a hoax and can’t outperform the mid-priced HDMIs. They can win in only one feature and that is “PRICE”.