The HDMI standard has so many versions and names that it’s easy to get confused. How to choose the right HDMI cable, what are HDMI specifications, what is the difference between Mini, Micro and simple HDMI?

What is HDMI?

The abbreviation HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface, which means “High Definition Multimedia Interface” in English. It is a standard for transmitting picture and sound simultaneously with a single cable.

An HDMI cable transmits a digital signal, for example, from a Blu-ray player to a TV. A digital signal consists of a sequence of electrical states – that is, zeros and ones. There are no “intermediate states”. In addition, the audio and video signals transmitted via the HDMI cable are encoded using HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) technology. The player encrypts the signal, and the TV decrypts it.

What is HDMI?  Comparing cable types

Encoded data is sent over the cable with some “redundancy”, in case even along the way some of the zeros and ones are “lost”. The signal on the TV can be completely decoded and reproduced as expected. If the transmission of the HDCP signal is so bad that there is not enough information to decrypt it, there will be no “useful” signal at all. On a TV, these “gaps” will appear as audio and/or video artifacts—screeching sounds and/or square-like errors in the picture. If the disturbances in the signal exceed a certain level, the image and sound disappear completely.

Since 2002, the HDMI transmission standard has been developed in collaboration with major technology manufacturers, including Philips, Sony and Toshiba. Now version 13 of the HDMI protocol has already been released. The numbering goes from 1.0 to 2.1, but for several years now cables have been sold without a number, as these numbers only confuse inexperienced buyers. The rule “the higher the version number, the more functions” does not work here, and for this reason, HDMI cables began to be sold with new names.

Compare types of HDMI cables

The manuals for TVs and other HDMI devices usually indicate which version of the protocol they support. HDMI cables are sold under the following names:

HDMI Standard

  • Resolution is 720p at 60Hz or 1080i at 60Hz.
  • Transmission speed – from 1.782 Gb / s to 2.25 Gb / s.
  • All HDMI versions up to 1.3 are supported.

HDMI High Speed

  • 2160p (4K) resolution at 30Hz.
  • 3D content is transmitted in Full HD.
  • Deep Color technology enhances color depth.
  • The transfer rate is at least 8.16 Gbps.
  • All HDMI versions up to 1.4 are supported.

HDMI Premium High Speed

  • 4K UHD resolution at 60Hz.
  • 3D content is also transmitted in UHD.
  • HDR and 32 audio channels are supported.
  • Transfer rate – 18 Gb / s.
  • All HDMI versions up to 2.0 are supported.

HDMI Ultra High Speed

  • Resolution up to 8K at 60Hz.
  • Transfer rate – 48 Gb / s.
  • All HDMI versions up to 2.1 are supported.

HDMI with Ethernet

If the term Ethernet is present in the name of an HDMI cable, it means that it can be used to establish an Internet connection. Such an HDMI cable can completely replace the Ethernet network cable.

Full specification of HDMI cables

HDMI specification 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 2.0 2.0a/b
sRGB Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CEC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
DVD Audio No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
SACD No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
deep color No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Lip Sync No No No No Yes Yes Yes
Dolby TrueHD No No No No Yes Yes Yes
DTS HD No No No No Yes Yes Yes
CEC+ No No No No Yes Yes Yes
3D over HDMI No No No No Yes Yes Yes
ethernet No No No No Yes Yes Yes
ARC No No No No Yes Yes Yes
4K No No No No Yes Yes Yes
4K 50/60p No No No No No Yes Yes
4K 50/60p No No No No No Yes Yes
4K 3D No No No No No Yes Yes
1536 kHz Audio No No No No No Yes Yes
1080p 3D HFR No No No No No Yes Yes
21:9 No No No No No Yes Yes
Multistream No No No No No Yes Yes
18 GBit/s No No No No No Yes Yes
HDR No No No No No No Yes
ITU-R BT.2020 No No No No No No Yes
Multi-Stream Sync No No No No No No Yes

HDMI Type A, Type C, Type D: What’s the difference?

Laptops are getting thinner, which is why there are smaller versions of the HDMI connector. Please note that you will need an adapter or cable with the appropriate plug to connect to Micro- or Mini-HDMI.

What is HDMI?  Comparing cable types

If your laptop has a Micro-HDMI port, you’ll need an HDMI Type D cable. For Mini-HDMI, you’ll need a Type C cable. A standard-sized HDMI connector is referred to as Type A.

What to Look for When Buying an HDMI Cable

The completeness of information transfer over HDMI is a matter of the standard supported by the cable, and not its cost. New cables that are certified to the current HDMI 2.1 standard don’t have to be expensive. Depending on the length of the cable, the name of the manufacturer and the appetites of the seller, prices start at about 300 rubles. and reach approximately 50 thousand rubles.

HDMI guarantees uninterrupted data transmission at a distance of up to 10 meters. Even longer HDMI cables are available from some stores. Extending this distance requires an HDMI extender that can amplify the signal.

Sellers very rarely indicate the thickness of the insulation of HDMI cables. Such wires only require extra tight wrapping when they run directly next to the power cable. Thin insulation in this case can lead to noise in the image.

What is HDMI?  Comparing cable types
The packaging of an expensive HDMI cable (below) lists its benefits in detail – the same as a cheaper cable (above), but they are modestly outlined in the specifications on the back of the package.

Cases of HDMI cable damage to devices are not yet known. The only threat looms over your wallet if you succumb to persuasion to buy a cable at an inflated price. For modern HDMI cables, there is one minimum requirement: the marking “High Speed”, or “High Speed”.

$350 2m cables that meet this requirement will provide the same picture and sound quality as $5,000 or even $50,000 cables, as they will all support TMDS distortion-corrected digital streaming technology.

If there are problems, then there is not just a slight decrease in quality, but immediately noticeable distortions: either the image is lost, or a lot of dots on the screen, or the whole line flashes in white.

At the CHIP test center, we tried every new and old, short and long HDMI cable we could get our hands on. Just one of them, a short ribbon cable, caused such distortion when transmitting an image in 4K. But this only happened at 60 FPS when displaying the menu of our 4K Blu-ray player, and the actual 4K movie at the usual 24 FPS for movies with HDR played without any problems.

What is HDMI?  Comparing cable types
Buy only HDMI cables that meet at least the 2.0a standard (“High Speed” mark). Version numbers may or may not be on the packaging.

Cables longer than 10 meters are required, for example, for a ceiling-mounted projector. Then, you may have to spend more than expected, namely the purchase of an active HDMI cable. Such cables (15 meters long, for example) cost about 3,000–5,000 rubles. The voltage for HDMI is 5 V, but here the connectors are equipped with built-in active amplifiers. If you buy a similar cable, check the quality of the connection before laying it.

Fiber optic cables are used to transmit the HDMI signal over even longer distances up to 100 meters. In such cases, it will be easier and cheaper to place the playback device closer to the screen, and not to entangle the entire apartment or country house with wires.

Read also:

  • How to save money on buying USB, LAN and HDMI cables?
  • Which HDMI cable to buy: looking for the difference between budget and expensive solutions
  • HDMI 2.1 is the future: new standard, new compatibility issues

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