HDMI cables transmit high-definition video and audio between a source and a display, like a video game console to a TV, or a laptop to a monitor.
We tested several HDMI cables and interviewed Brad Bramy, the VP of marketing for HDMI Licensing Administrator, the organization that sets HDMI standards, offers certification, and tests the cables for quality.
Based on our testing and research, the best HDMI cable for most people is the Monoprice Certified Premium High Speed HDMI Cable because it covers most of the features and standards you’re likely to need right now.
When you hook up a video game console, cable box, media-streaming device, or Blu-ray player to the TV in your living room, chances are that you’ll be using an HDMI cable. You’ll also need an HDMI cable to connect your computer or laptop to the monitor in your home office. HDMI stands for high-definition multimedia interface, and, in simple terms, HDMI cables carry sound and picture signals from a source to a display.
Although they may look the same, all HDMI cables are not created equal. There are a few different types of HDMI connectors, but this guide sticks to HDMI cables with Type A connectors. There are also several different standards of cable that offer bandwidths from below 5 gigabits per second (Gbps) all the way up to 48 Gbps. To complicate matters further, HDMI cables can support a range of different features and standards.
I can feel your eyes glazing over already, but don’t worry, I’ll keep things as simple as possible and tell you exactly what you need to look for. I have tested out several HDMI cables with a range of TVs, monitors, video game consoles, laptops, and computers, and I’ve spoken with experts at HDMI Licensing, the organization that sets the standards, offers certification labels, and tests HDMI cables in the wild.
How to choose an HDMI cable
The first HDMI standard was released in 2002 and there have been several updates over the last couple of decades. To ensure the best picture and audio quality, and to take full advantage of the features your devices offer, you need to get the right HDMI cable.
“The primary things people should ask themselves, are what HDMI features they want to support and which cables can support delivering those features, and then perhaps if they want to be future-proofed against possible upgrades in equipment and features in the future,” Brad Bramy, VP marketing, HDMI Licensing Administrator explained to Business Insider. “And also make sure the cables are from licensed HDMI Adopters and their products are tested and certified and using the HDMI trademarks correctly and are not unlicensed or counterfeit products.”
What standard of HDMI cable do I need?
While HDMI versions are numbered, the HDMI Licensing Administrator has created its own, slightly confusing, nomenclature, which is explained on the HDMI Licensing website. All you really need to know is that certified cables come in these varieties:
Standard: tested to reliably transmit 1080i or 720p video
High Speed: designed and tested to handle video resolutions of 1080p and beyond, including advanced display technologies such as 4K@30Hz, 3D, and Deep Color
Premium High Speed: designed and certified for ultra-reliable performance for 4K/UltraHD including advanced features such as 4K@60Hz, HDR, and expanded color spaces
Ultra High Speed: support for all HDMI 2.1 features including uncompressed 8k@60Hz and 4K@120Hz
Although Standard and High Speed cables will serve you fine for some applications, because the difference in price is negligible, we would recommend always opting for Premium High Speed cables. It’s also important to note that, while you can get some HDMI cables that appear to support the Ultra High Speed standard, the testing specification has not yet been released, so no Ultra High Speed cables have been certified at the time of writing.
How much should I spend?
While different HDMI cables will support different bandwidths and features, the signal is digital, so a cable will either work or it won’t. If you compare two certified Premium High Speed cables, they should perform exactly the same, even if one is $5 and the other is $100. Sometimes more expensive cables are more durable, which may be worth thinking about if you intend to plug and unplug frequently. You’ll also pay more for a longer cable, but for the most part, there’s no reason to spend a lot of money.
How do I choose the right HDMI cable length?
You should aim to buy a cable that’s as short as possible for your needs. The shorter the cable is, the less chance there is of signal degradation. Shorter cables will also look neater, and you won’t have an unsightly loop of extra cable to try and hide under your TV unit. However, make sure you measure and give yourself enough extra length to comfortably plug in without putting any strain on the port. Guessing at the length you need is risky, so use a tape measure and add a little. Cable thickness is measured in AWG (American wire gauge) and lower numbers denote thicker cables.
What else do I need to consider?
There are many different standards and features that you might want support for. Say, for example, you want to enjoy HDR with a PlayStation 4 Pro or DTS-HD Master Audio through your connected soundbar, you’ll need the right cable. Always read the description of the cable you’re considering and make sure the standards and features you want are supported before you buy.
Here are the best HDMI cables:
Best HDMI cable overall: Monoprice Certified Premium High Speed cable
Best long HDMI cable: Monoprice Cabernet Ultra Series Active HDMI cable
Best angled and flat HDMI cable: UGreen 4K Right Angle HDMI cable
Best slim HDMI cable: Monoprice Ultra Slim Certified Premium High Speed HDMI cable
Best HDMI cable for 8K: Monoprice DynamicView Ultra 8K High Speed HDMI cable
Best strong HDMI cable: Austere III Series HDMI cable
Prices and links are current as of 05/27/2020. We added new cables based on testing and research. We also talked to an expert to explain what to look for in an HDMI cable.
The best HDMI cable overall
Simon Hill/Business Insider
The Monoprice Certified Premium High Speed HDMI Cable offers lots of bandwidth and the features you need at a low price.
This sturdy, reliable cable delivers everything most people need in an HDMI cable at a very reasonable price. It tops our list because it’s the cheapest cable with proper Premium High Speed HDMI certification, which means it has been independently tested and meets all the required features of the specification. There’s an official HDMI certification badge with a QR code on the packaging.
It’s quite a thick cable at 28AWG. AWG stands for American wire gauge and the lower the number, the thicker the cable is. It comes in black or white at lengths of 3 feet all the way up to 30 feet. As it’s quite thick, it’s not very flexible, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing the length you want. The plug ends are thick, plain, molded plastic and tight angles will be an issue.
This cable can deliver up to 18Gbps bandwidth and it supports all HDMI resolutions up to 4K (3,840 x 2,160p @60Hz), including 3D and Multi View video. There’s also support for 21:9 cinema aspect ratio, up to 32 audio channels, most high-definition audio standards, YCbCr 4:4:4 chroma sampling for color, and a host of other specifications.
Whether you’re looking to hook up your 4K TV to a game console or a streaming device, or your computer to a 4K monitor, this cable should meet your needs. We tested the 3-foot cable with an LG OLED TV and a PS4 Pro and had no issues getting 4K with HDR.
At this price for the 6-foot cable, proper certification, and decent build quality, this HDMI cable is the right choice for most people. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can always test one out and return it for a full refund if it doesn’t meet your needs. Monoprice also offers a lifetime warranty, so you can get one free replacement if anything goes wrong.
Pros: Fully certified, 4K@60Hz, HDR, 18Gbps, very affordable
Cons: Thick, not very flexible
The best long HDMI cable
Simon Hill/Business Insider
Offering durability and reliable performance in longer lengths, the Monoprice Cabernet Ultra Active Series HDMI cable may be your best bet for a long HDMI cable.
It can be difficult to find good, reliable, long HDMI cables. Over a certain distance, the signal quality inevitably starts to degrade. It’s also tough to find properly certified HDMI cables when you go beyond 25 or 30 feet. The Monoprice Cabernet Ultra Active Series cable is available in lengths of 25 feet all the way up to 100 feet.
This is another thick cable at 28AWG for the shorter lengths and 26AWG or 24AWG for the longer lengths. The cable is black, with two-tone plastic connectors in matte black and shiny red cabernet. The source end connector is shorter, while the TV end is longer, so you’ll need some space to plug it in. The cable is not very flexible either, so it will not work with tight angles. It feels like a durable, well-made product.
Just like our top pick, this cable can deliver up to 18Gbps bandwidth, supports all HDMI resolutions up to 4K (3,840 x 2,160p @60Hz), 21:9 cinema aspect ratio, up to 32 audio channels, most high-definition audio standards, YCbCr 4:4:4 color, and many other specifications. However, it’s important to note that there are some limitations on the longer length cables. Over 50 feet, you’re not going to get 4K@60Hz.
At 50 feet and below, this cable should serve you well, offering 4K and HDR for TV to game console or other device connections. It’s still going to be useful for a lot of things over that length, just be aware that the longer cables aren’t going to hit the top performance standards.
We tested the 30-foot cable with an LG OLED TV and a PS4 Pro and had no issues getting 4K with HDR. There’s no official certification label on this one and, as far we’re aware, longer cables, over 30 feet, with proper certification are hard to come by.
The prices vary based on cable length and Monoprice offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and a lifetime warranty.
Pros: Variety of long lengths, 4K@60Hz, HDR, 18Gbps, durable build
Cons: Thick, not very flexible, longer lengths don’t meet top specifications
The best angled and flat HDMI cable
If you have a wall-mounted TV, or you want a cable to fit an awkwardly tight spot, then try the UGreen 4K Right Angle HDMI cable.
Anyone wall mounting a TV or trying to plug cables in with limited space will appreciate this angled HDMI cable. It has a right-angled connector to plug into the back of your TV and the cable itself is flat, so it’s perfect for running down the wall. You can buy this cable with a 90-degree elbow or a 270-degree elbow, which determines which way up the HDMI connector faces. Make sure you check the port on your TV before you choose.
You can buy this cable in 6-foot or 10-foot varieties. The cable is black and flat, so it won’t tangle. The plugs are matte black plastic and zinc alloy. It’s worth noting that UGreen also does a normal Right Angle cable with the same specs, except that the cable itself isn’t flat. It comes in 3, 6, 10, and 15-foot varieties, and it’s a fairly slim 30 AWG cable.
The manufacturer promises 4K at 60Hz and up to 18Gbps bandwidth. There’s also HDR support, ARC, HDCP, and support for a variety of audio formats. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be officially certified.
We’ve been unable to test this cable ourselves, so we’re not sure it will meet the top stated specifications. It has positive user reviews on Amazon and seems to work well between TVs and Roku or Apple TV devices.
It comes with an 18-month warranty, which can be extended by another 12 months if you register. This is one of the best-rated angled cables around, but if you have concerns about the lack of certification or possible performance issues, it might be better to opt for an adapter pack like this Cable Matters Combo Pack, which includes a 270-degree and a 90-degree adapter that can be used with any HDMI cable, including our top pick cable.
Pros: Right angle connector, flat cable, 4K@60Hz, HDR, 18Gbps, durable build
Cons: No certification, possible limitations with some devices
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