Maybe it’s the appearance of Seiki’s ultra-cheap Ultra HD displays. Maybe it’s the fact that both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will support 4K video output (for movies; not for games). Whatever the reason, 4K is certainly making more of a splash with the average consumer than I would have predicted a year ago. And to cash in on that market awareness, cable manufacturers are already introducing special, spiffy new 4K HDMI cables, targeted at the consumer who wants to be as future-ready as possible.
The problem with that? Chances are very good that if you’re pumping 1080p video through your current HDMI cable, it’s already perfectly capable of handling 4K, Ultra HD, whatever you want to call it.
Geoffrey Morrison at CNET has the breakdown about why putting 4K HDMI cables on the market now is complete nonsense:
In case you missed the tetralogy on HDMI cables, check out Why all HDMI cables are the same,Why all HDMI cables are the same, Part 2, Still more reasons why all HDMI cables are the same, and the HDMI Cable Buying Guide.
You’d think I’d have said my piece by now, but apparently not. Here’s the short version. There are only four kinds of HDMI cables:
High-speed with Ethernet
High-speed without Ethernet
Standard-speed with Ethernet
Standard-speed without Ethernet
There’s no reason to get standard-speed cables anymore, as the price difference is negligible between those and the high-speed versions. As per the current HDMI 1.4 spec, in order for an HDMI cable to be considered high-speed, it must be able to pass 3,840 x 2,160 at up to 30 frames per second (and 4,096 x 2,160 at 24 frames per second).
This means that even the cheapest high-speed HDMI cable can pass the maximum resolution possible with the current generation of Ultra HD “4K” TVs.
And guess what — this isn’t just numbers on a page, or theoretical knowledge. I reviewed one of the first 4K TVs and plugged in a $2.50 HDMI cable between it and a 4K source. Guess what? It worked perfectly. So did the cheap HDMI cable Katzmaier used in his review. I also used a 40-foot HDMI cable (with RedMere) that worked perfect.
But what about…?
I haven’t encapsulated Geoffrey’s complete argument about why 4K HDMI cables are nonsense (for now), so be sure to read the rest of the story, in which he addresses the eventual move to HDMI 2.0, the false advertising surrounding HDMI, and why there’s no such thing as an “underperforming” HDMI cables, 4K HDMI or otherwise. They either perform, or they don’t.