Last Updated on May 18, 2022 by Dave Farquhar
The markup on cables is huge. The markup on premium cables is even bigger. That’s why the cable you need to connect your device to your TV frequently doesn’t come in the box. Making matters worse, it’s hard to know which cable to buy. Are expensive HDMI cables worth it? Are they worth the extra money?
It’s more complicated than it used to be, since an 8K HDMI cable is different and does cost more to make than a 4K HDMI cable. But all other things being equal, there’s no difference in audio and video quality between two cables with the same specs and a different price.
Do more expensive HDMI cables really make a difference?
People like me have been saying for years to just buy the cheapest HDMI cable you can find. That’s still true for an inexpensive 720P or 1080P HDTV. It’s almost true for the more expensive TVs.
The availability of 4K, 5K, and 8K TVs changes up that conventional advice a bit. You can expect an 8K-rated cable to cost more than one rated for 4K, and for the 4K-rated cable to cost more than one rated for 1080P. Ideally the packaging should say whether the cable is suitable for 4K or 8K. If it talks about speeds, you need 10 Gbps for 4K and 48 Gbps for 8K.
And it does make a difference in that case. If you plug an old cable for a 1080P TV into an 8K TV, you get 1080P quality.
But as long as both cables are rated for the type of TV you have, there’s no difference in audio and video quality between a cable that costs $10 and one that costs $40. It’s digital, and the thing about digital signals is they’re either getting through or they’re not.
The only reason to pay more than $2 per foot for 4K or $3 per foot for 8K is convenience. The more you pay over that base price, the more someone’s ripping you off. The profit margins on the older cables that top out at 1080P are lower so those cables are difficult to find now. You can use a cable rated for 4K on 720P and 1080P sets.
Monoprice cables rated for 4K, or 8K are always a safe bet. And if can wait, the even cheaper cables from overseas are fine.
Are expensive HDMI cables worth the money?
So are expensive HDMI cables worth the money? Back when we used analog audio and video connections, arguably expensive cables like Monster Cable made a slight difference. But even in the 1990s, they were overrated. The whole reason for switching to digital was to eliminate the signal degradation that gave premium cables room to make a difference.
When it comes to USB cables that you plug in and unplug every day, I think it’s worth buying something a step up from the stuff people sell out of the back of a van parked at an abandoned gas station. Monoprice and Amazon Basics are fine. Anything you can find at retail at stores other than dollar stores is going to be fine.
That’s because USB cables take a lot of wear and tear from being plugged in and unplugged every day. HDMI cables are a little different. Frequently we plug a device into a TV and leave it that way for years.
Arguably there’s some wisdom in buying an 8K cable even if you don’t need it, just in case you need it someday. But I also don’t blame you for waiting to see if that 8K cable costs less in a few years when you need it. That’s a very real possibility.
But don’t let a salesperson talk you into buying a $40 cable over a $10 cable with the same rating on the package. The picture looks the same either way. And don’t buy a 10-foot cable when you can get by with 3. It’s not a bad idea to have a foot of slack in your cable length, but buying cables significantly longer than you need just makes it harder to manage your cables.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.