By John Virata
Other than price and packaging, there is no real difference.
Now that you’ve picked out your new HDTV and Blu Ray player, the next step is to figure out what kind of cabling that you wish to purchase to get the best audio and video out of your system. Do you go for the super expensive and fancifully packaged branded cables that the TV salesman at your local electronics store pushes you to buy, citing unseen superiority, or do you opt for the less expensive but equally proficient HDMI cables from others that don’t have the marketing dollars to push their product? There is no doubt that the purveyors of the higher priced cables would have you believe that their offerings offer superior quality, but do you really want to spend $120 for a so called name brand cable or $15 for a no name brand cable that also meets the HDMI 1.3 (for consumers, there is no difference between 1.3a and 1.3b) specification? That is the key with these cables. If you run a 1080i/720p TV, opt for a Category 1 certified HDMI cable. If you are running a 1080p TV, get a Category 2 certified HDMI cable, also known as High Speed HDMI. Or you can buy a category 2 cable for both types of TVs.
To try to see what the difference is between a $15 HDMI cable and an expensive brand name cable, I obtained a six foot HDMI to HDMI v1.3 cable from Optimized Cable Company, and compared it with an existing six foot Monster cable that was purchased by my father at Best Buy when he purchased a 52-inch Sony Bravia LCD TV and Sony Blu Ray player. The content used was Planet Earth. The test involved watching several minutes of a whale shark feasting on baitfish, and then swapping out the cables. Could I see the $100 difference? I could not. In fact, both sequences looked identical.
You can read all you want about the differences the high end cables are purported to have over their less expensive cousins, but in my eyes, and at least with these two cables, I couldn’t denote any discernable difference, other than the price. I also connected a 13-inch MacBook Pro to the Sony Bravia via an Optimized Mini-DisplayPort to HDMI adapter using both the Monster HDMI cable and the Optimized HDMI cable. I played some movies downloaded from iTunes, and again, could not see any real difference in video or audio quality between the two cables.
There is a lot of information online with regard to the expensive and inexpensive HDMI cables. You can find fancy white papers, videos with fancy video test equipment, and customer testimonials, but in my opinion, as well as the opinions of many others that can be found online, including the editors at CNET, you won’t find any real difference in video and audio quality between a $15 HDMI cable and a $120 HDMI cable, except the price. You can get inexpensive, high quality HDMI cables online from many reputable websites. You can also buy the more expensive cables from the bigger manufacturers. Check out reader feedback on the companies you wish to purchase from. If you get overwhelmed by all the hype, go back to the basics and get more information on HDMI, and the HDMI specification at http://www.hdmi.org/learningcenter/faq.aspx