HDMI cables have become an essential part of most systems and are used to connect everything from Smart TVs and gaming consoles to PCs and monitors.
However, a disparity exists in the prices of HDMI cables, so MyBroadband went out to see if there was any difference in picture quality between cheap and expensive cables.
For the test, we purchased three HDMI cables – two Ellies 3-metre HDMI 2.0 cables and a 10-metre HDMI 2.0 cable.
The cheaper three-metre cable cost R99.00, and the more expensive one cost almost double at R181.00. Both had the same specifications – HDMI 2.0 with a bandwidth of 18Gbps and 24k gold-plated connectors.
The 10-metre cable was R359.
To see if there was a difference in picture quality between the cables, we tested them while gaming on a PC.
We tested each cable for 10 minutes while playing The Witcher 3, and five minutes for each cable playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
As gaming is a visually-demanding task, it was a good benchmark for a “naked eye” test.
Frame rates remained high and were consistent with what we normally experienced in these games across all the cables, and there was no difference in the picture quality or in the sharpness of colours.
In short, no differences were noticed when using the three cables.
Many third-party, more scientific tests have also been run on cheap and expensive HDMI cables to see if the price of a cable makes a difference to its functionality.
Adam Savage’s Tested reported on a test performed using multiple HDMI cables from varying price ranges.
An X-rite i1 Pro spectrophotometer and an X-rite Hubble colorimeter were used to test image brightness and colour representation on a screen using multiple cables.
The finding – no significant difference between the cheapest and most expensive cables.
ExpertReviews also tested the picture qualities of cheap and expensive HDMI cables.
They used a different methodology to perform their test, which included capturing frames, producing MD5 hashes, and comparing the frames by using ImageMagick’s Compare tool.
The results of their test also indicated there was no significant difference in the picture quality produced by cheap and expensive HDMI cables.
Buying the cables
As part of our test we posed as regular consumers and asked the store attendants who sold us the HDMI cables whether there was a difference in picture quality between cheaper and more expensive HDMI cables.
Responses from Dion Wired, Makro, and Incredible Connection salespeople are below.
The employee at Dion Wired wasn’t sure why there were price differences between HDMI cables.
We also found two HDMI cables at Dion Wired with different bandwidths – one with 18Gbps and one with a bandwidth of 10.2Gbps.
We asked the employee what the different bandwidths meant and why the 18Gbps cable was cheaper than the 10.2Gbps unit.
He couldn’t provide a reason for the difference in price, but said the 18Gbps cable was likely to produce better-quality images.
The Makro employee stated that there is no difference between cheap and expensive HDMI cables, and that they would produce the same quality picture on a TV.
He attributed the price differences to the different brands of the HDMI cables.
The Incredible Connection employee said some HDMI cables are likely to be more expensive than others because of their support for 4K output.
He added that another difference between cheaper and more expensive HDMI cables would be due to the refresh rate of the cable.