By Don Lindich
Week 51, 2015
Q. I’m currently using a Sony 3D TV. I’m considering a change to a Sony XBR 4K TV and the salesperson said I would have to replace the HDMI cable with one having a higher speed rating for maximum quality performance. My main input source is an outdoor antenna. Am I being duped or not? My present cable is a Monster Cable HDMI with 10.2 Gbps 3D rating. If a cable change is required, what do you recommend?
A. When using an antenna the HDMI cable is irrelevant. What’s more, most 4K content is being delivered through the Internet. If you used an external box to stream 4K content to your TV then HDMI could play a role, but even then any 10.2 Gbps high-speed HDMI cable can pass maximum resolution 4K content. Someday you may require an ultra-high-speed 18.2 Gbps HDMI cable, but for now there is no need to make a change.
It appears you are being set up to buy an expensive cable, especially since you already fell for the pitch once and bought a Monster Cable HDMI cable. Looking at the website of a prominent big-box store I found 5-foot Monster HDMI cables selling for $40 to $100, and I know they sell models that are much more expensive. This is a huge profit-builder for the store, and it is the salesman’s job to suggest you buy them.
There is no need to buy expensive cables. This especially applies to HDMI cables, which carry a 100% digital signal. It will either be transmitted properly, or it won’t. All you need is a good, solid connection and adequate shielding to prevent interference, and you don’t need to spend $40 to get that.
Many stores only carry expensive HDMI cables, so much of the public is unaware of what a huge scam this is and that perfectly functional, much less expensive alternatives are available. I’ll start with Monoprice, a California-based company that probably did more than anyone to bust this scam by offering honestly priced cables along with great customer service. They sell a 6-foot high-speed HDMI cable for as little as $1.99. monoprice.com
My Cable Mart of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, gets rave reviews from my readers living near there, and they sell online as well. If you really want that 18Gbps ultra-high-speed cable, they sell one for as little as $6.93 for a 6-foot length. mycablemart.com
There are tons of choices on amazon.com. I would recommend you consider their own Amazon Basics line, and the Twisted Veins brand two-pack that gets you two 6-foot HDMI cables along with Velcro cable ties for only $7.96.
I’ve always been passionate about this subject because it is such a rip-off and bald-faced lie. HDMI cables under 5 feet should cost about the same as a big box of cereal, and if a cable doesn’t pass Don’s “Lucky Charms test,” then pass. If you need one from a store for convenience’s sake, try not to spend more than $20. That will staunch the bleeding a bit.
If you would like to read more about the expensive cable scam, I have a page on my website about it here. For specific information on HDMI and 4K TVs, Geoffrey Morrison wrote an excellent article about it on CNET. You can see it at http://tinyurl.com/morrisonhdmi.