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A new HDMI certification program will make it easier to avoid crappy cables

Michael Brown | Oct. 6, 2015
Certified cables will carry labels assuring the consumer that they’ve been tested to meet the HDMI 2.0 spec.

Certified HDMI cable
Credit: Michael Brown

One HDMI cable is as good as another, right? Wrong. The old saying “an HDMI cable will either work or it won’t, because digital is all or nothing” is a myth. A poor-quality HDMI cable can deliver a degraded signal, resulting in a snowy picture or worse. A crappy HDMI cable, especially a long one, can also cause problems that you can’t see: radiating enough electromagnetic interference (EMI) to cause problems on your Wi-Fi network.

Having said that, bad HDMI cables are pretty hard to find, at least when asked to carry 1080p video just a few feet. It can be a different story when you enter the realm of 60-frames-per-second 4K video with high dynamic range, high-resolution multi-channel audio, and perhaps even ethernet. According to the standard, an HDMI 2.0 cable should be capable of delivering “ultra-reliable performance at the full 18Gbps bandwidth.”

To that end, HDMI Licensing LLC—the group responsible for developing and maintaining the HDMI standard that’s used on nearly every TV, PC, monitor, projector, Blu-ray player, A/V receiver, and media streamer shipping today—has announced a new cable certification program. Instead of hoping for the best—or paying ridiculous prices for cables made by companies with marketing budgets that dwarf what they spend on manufacturing—you could just shop for HDMI cables labeled “HDMI Premium Certified Cable.”

Certified HDMI cable
Certified HDMI cables will carry this authentication label. Click on image to enlarge. Credit: HDMI Licensing, LLC

Cables labeled as such will have gone through expanded cable speed tests at an HDMI-authorized testing center to certify that they are capable of delivering bandwidth of 18Gbps, and that they radiate very little EMI. The certification label will have a QR code printed on it that you can scan with your smartphone to verify the cable’s certification status and that it’s not a counterfeit product.

The impact on you at home: The certification process and the labels, however, are completely optional, and manufacturers that choose to participate must pay a fee on top of the royalty they pay for the right to use HDMI in their products in the first place. Consumers will be expected to pay that cost—and probably a little more—in exchange for the assurances the certification program provides. But cables labeled “High Speed HDMI Cable” or “High Speed HDMI Cable with ethernet” (minus the “Premium Certified” and the label with the QR code) should perform just as well—provided they’re made by a legitimate manufacturer.

Certified HDMI cable
You should be able to find certified Premium HDMI cables in the first quarter of 2016. Click on image to enlarge. Credit: HDMI Licensing, LLC

 

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