Picture Pipes: The 7 Best HDMI Cables

There’s a lot of voodoo, misinformation, and hack science that surrounds the world of wires, and HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cables seem to get the worst of it. Every manufacturer claims that their product will somehow produce better picture, better sound, and the ability to exorcise malevolent spirits haunting your equipment. In truth, most HDMI cables – from the cheapest to the most expensive – are going to offer you exactly the same quality when it comes to moving pictures to your favorite glowing box, because they all have to meet certain industry benchmarks.

Just because they use the same standards does not mean that all of these cables are created equal. You have standard cables and high-speed cables, with high-speed able to deliver 4K at 30 frames-per-second (or 60 fps, but no TV can use that speed yet). Older cables might meet the HDMI 1.0 to 1.4 standard, which had a slightly lower transmission rate (1.3 Gigabits per second to as much as 10 Gbps for high-speed choices). Newer HDMI 2.0 cables run as high as 18 Gbps at the top end, but they’re meant more for future tech. Besides these differences, you should look at durability, interference reduction, and other features. To help you decide, we’ve found the 7 best HDMI cables.

AmazonBasics HDMI Cables

AmazonBasics HDMI Cables

Pro: Small and flexible
Con: Can suffer from interference

Buy It Now: There’s no reason to go outside of the Amazon house brand for an entry-level cable. These are an HDMI 1.4 with Ethernet and audio return capabilities, so long as you choose the option. They’ll give you basic 4K and 3D should you pick the high-speed variety, and that is plenty for modern home theater setups. The body is flexible and easy to run wherever you need it to go as well as wrap it up for entertainment on the move. They go as high as 25ft. but we’ve found interference and some jitters can occur as you get more distance between your devices. You’ll also get Amazon’s bulletproof customer service and a nice 1-year warranty which might not enhance your viewing, but adds a little more peace of mind. [Purchase: $5]

BlueRigger HDMI Cable

BlueRigger HDMI Cable

Pro: Extremely tough
Con: Thick and difficult to flex

In-Wall Commando: Rated CL3 for in-wall mounting, this is a set-and-forget cable that is intended to cope with the stresses that happen behind the scenes in your home. Flame retardant and capable of withstanding smoke damage, you’ll find that this will be the last thing destroyed should disaster strike. Jacketed in soft PVC materials, even rodents don’t tend to chew on these which saves you repair dollars should you find yourself with an infestation. Besides being tough as a pair of work boots, the BlueRiggers have everything you could need in an HDMI cable for years to come. Meets HDMI 2.0 standards with a 10.2 Gbps transmission rate for 4K and 3D televisions, audio return, and Ethernet connectivity. [Purchase: $5+]

Mediabridge Ultra

Mediabridge Ultra

Pro: Ready for emergent and upcoming technologies
Con: Overkill for most buyers

True 2.0: Even if you plug the Ultra into the hottest gaming laptop or super-secret television on the market today, you still won’t be using it to its full potential. Rather, you purchase this if you are future-proofing for the Next Big Thing to come out. This is an HDMI 2.0 that will deal with the upcoming 4K televisions that work at 60 frames-per-second. A full 18 Gbps worth of transfer speed complete with audio return channel and Ethernet give the Ultra plenty of room to grow at a tiny price. The conductors are 28 AWG and made of pure copper wrapped in triple-shielded insulation with gold-plated connectors. This is the Monster killer of note for gadget fiends that need the best right now for any and all purposes. [Purchase: $9+]

Twisted Veins

Twisted Veins

Pro: Attractive design
Con: No in-wall rating

Snazzy: You can get the same performance out of almost any cable on the market, but Twisted Veins does it with a particular sense of style. On the outside is a braided look to the sheath that allows you to run these front and center without them looking like a tired old black cord. Inside are all the specs you expect from the best: HDMI 1.4 rating, gold-plated connectors, Ethernet, audio return, 4K and 3D compatibility, and 10.2 Gbps transmission speed. They even come with some velcro ties to add to their eye-catching aesthetic appeal, so don’t worry that they’re just another pretty face. We also discovered TV’s customer service department is knowledgeable, helpful, and will move heaven and Earth to make you happy. [Purchase: $10+]

Monoprice High Speed With Ethernet

Monoprice High Speed With Ethernet

Pro: Designed to prevent cuts and wear
Con: Very basic appearance

Complete Connection: Generally used as an in-wall option thanks to its CL2 fire safety rating, these are a nice all-around option if you want something a little thicker and more durable. Using an active chip that will give you better clarity at a distance than passive HDMI cables, you’re free to stretch these to the max without stressing about quality drop-off. That active chip also helps the Monoprice work better with a few older components like the PS3, Xbox 360, tablet, Chromebook or early DVD/Blu-Ray players that don’t pump out the power to give you maximum clarity across the room. 3D and 4K options let you see all the latest in HD movies and television at full color clarity. Not only are these well insulated, they have a further mesh jacket that prevents cuts or abrasions from breaking through for a little extra insurance against the slings and arrows of the world. [Purchase: $12+]

Audioquest Pearl

Audioquest Pearl

Pro: LGC conductors
Con: Expensive

Insulation Excellence: Could you get the same picture and sound quality from a less expensive cable? Without a doubt. Where the HDMI 1.4 Pearl shines is in its superior construction which includes outstanding protection against interference seeping in from outside. If you are planning on running your cable beside a mass of other cords, or letting it lie near to high-output electronic equipment, you’re likely to get some degradation in signal quality which will reduce your picture and cause jitters and jumps. This uses long grain copper on the interior that helps keep the signal tight inside the HD polyethylene covering. Only recommended for component-heavy houses. [Purchase: $29+]

BJC Series Belden

BJC Series Belden

Pro: Works well over long ranges without signal loss
Con: Not very portable

Long Runner: Usually we’d let you just pick the length you’d want, but in this case we want to point to the 50ft. Belden line from Blue Jeans Cable as being particularly impressive. A lot of HDMI cable manufacturers cut off at 25 feet because the longer the cable, the more can go wrong. The Belden is a behemoth that can be run over hill and dale without distortion or signal bleed. Holding an ATC certification up to 45 feet, you’ll be able to get all of your standard HD goodness pumped for yards and yards. CM rated for in-wall installation, the Belden line employs a better-than-braided cable style to keep your bitrates running high. They have a bonded data pairing which keeps transmissions from breaking down. Add that with the unbreakable exterior and this should be your dedicated long-distance carrier. [Purchase: $163 (50-Foot)]

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