How to save a fortune on cables

If you’ve wondered about buying HDMI cables at monoprice.com rather than buying expensive cables at retail, PC Magazine did some testing, and came to a conclusion: they don’t matter.

Paying a premium price for HDMI cables and other cables is almost never worth it.

This isn’t surprising, of course. Cables make some difference with analog signals. I also remember really cheap IDE cables causing problems a decade ago, though I personally experienced a lot more problems with cheap cables falling apart or fitting poorly than I did with data loss. But for the most part, it’s not worth it to pay extra for premium-brand cables. At least, not a lot extra. For example, in the bad old days of 1998-99, the price difference between a good IDE cable and a cheap one was around $5.

I’ve explained it before–I think I’ve explained this very topic before–but it’s worth explaining again. The margins on most consumer electronics are very thin. Retail stores make up for it by selling high-margin add-ons, and cables are an obvious place to do it. You can go without an extended warranty, but if you buy an HDTV and a Blu-Ray player, you need a way to connect them. And, chances are, you want to hook them up today. So you might not like paying $20, $30, or $120 for a cable, but what choice do you have?

And that’s why cables are never in the box anymore. The vendors save about a dollar, and the retailers get an opportunity to turn a $19 profit on a $20 cable after turning a $20 profit on a $400 television.

You can buy cables online at a substantial discount. Of course that means you’ll either drag boxes home and let them sit while you wait for cables to arrive, or you’ll have to plan ahead. If there’s a major electronics purchase in your future, figure out the cables you’ll need ahead of time and order them. And order extra. If you’re ordering a $3 HDMI cable, you might as well order two. That way you have an extra if you ever buy something else that needs one, or if your cable gets the worse end of an unfortunate accident, or if a friend or relative forgets to buy one and you want to be a hero. It never hurts to order a spare Ethernet, USB, and/or SATA cable too, to save for a rainy day or the holidays.

To keep those extra cables untangled and organized, store them in toilet paper tubes in a box. You won’t win any decorator points that way, but we’re talking about a way to store them in a drawer or on a shelf somewhere, not to put them on display.

One thought on “How to save a fortune on cables

  • May 16, 2011 at 11:21 am
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    The last time I ordered from Monoprice I got 5 6′ HDMI cables for $20, about half the price that Best Buy was charging for a single cable (the cheap ones; don’t get me started on Monster Cables). At the time I only needed one (for my living room television), but I’ve since upgraded to an HDMI computer monitor and purchased a Boxee, both of which use HDMI cables. Buying 5 at a time from Monoprice is still cheaper than buying one locally, and by having a few spares around the house I’m not tempted to overspend on one when I buy a new device that requires one.

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