$80 for an HDMI Cable? Give Me a Break!

by Stacy Johnson on 21 October 2009 20 comments
Photo: Sukisuki

You go to the store to buy yourself a new HD TV. But now you need one HDMI cable to hook it up to your cable box and another to hook up your DVD. So you look around and notice that prices are all over the place: from 30 to 150 bucks. The salesman offers his advice:

“Well, let’s see. Since you just paid a $1,000 for a hi-tech TV, this is no time to scrimp. After all, the quality of the picture you see is no better than the cable that delivers it. So let’s get you a couple of nice hi-end cables. This $80 cable here, while obviously not as good as our $150 cable, will probably be ok. Unless, of course, you’re a person that demands the very best.”

This is BS of the highest order. In my opinion, it’s literally stealing and the companies perpetrating this fraud should be ashamed of themselves. Popular Mechanics did a comparison between cables costing from $13 to 300. Their conclusion? “None of our editors could tell the difference.” And CNET agreed, flatly calling $50 HDMI cables a rip-off and saying “You should never pay more than $10 for a standard six-foot HDMI cable.”

And even $10 cables are expensive! Here’s an ad from Amazon.com where you can actually buy one for as little as one cent! Granted, shipping is $2.98.

No doubt some people that read this post are going to argue that expensive cables are worth the money. Fine. Then here's my advice: skip the argument as well as doing a bunch of inconclusive research. Go buy an $80 cable from Radio Shack or Best Buy and keep the receipt. Then buy a $3 one online. Try them both and compare. If you don't see the difference, take the $80 cable back and use the $77 you just saved to pay down your debt or fatten your savings account. Then reflect on how hard you work to make an honest living but how some companies would rather mark their products up 1,000 percent than do the same.

As a consumer reporter, this crap really pisses me off…how about you?

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Guest's picture
Guest

I just bought the HDMI cable for a penny from Amazon! So for a total cost of $2.99 it was quite the bargain. Needless to say we were a little skeptical that it would do the job at that price. Works for us and so much better knowing I didn't spend an arm and a leg for it!!

Guest's picture
andyg8180

I bought mine on monoprice... but the only cables you should pay a little more for are "in-wall" rated cables and those are probalby an extra 10-20 on top of the $2 lol... and thats assuming youre sticking the cables in the wall... Thats a "just in case" scenario for fires and stuff...

Guest's picture
Betty

I almost got suckered into buying a cable for $90 from Best Buy. It turned out that I didn't buy my TV there, so I didn't buy the cable. I went to a mom and pop appliance store and bought my TV. I asked the man about purchasing a cable, and he told me FIOS (Verizon) would give me one for free. They hooked up 3 TVs for me, and I never bought a cable! I imagine the cable tv companies are the same. Free is even better than Amazon!

Guest's picture
lvlln

Scientifically speaking, there is NO argument anyone can make for the higher priced cables. HDMI is digital, which means that the signal is all-or-none. There is no room for degradation in quality - if the image isn't perfect, the image is not there.

Higher quality might guarantee that the signal goes for longer distances, but when dealing with the standard 3-6ft range, there is no difference.

Guest's picture
JimmyDaGeek

Strictly speaking, if the digital information being sent isn't coming through properly, the protocol, that is, the standard being used to send the information is usually designed to make up for this missing information by either sending it again, or filling in the holes.

When a cable is poorly-made, the digital information can't get through in a timely manner and you will see dropouts, that look like colored squares, appear on the screen.

So it really isn't all-or-nothing for the entire picture. But it does seem to be easier to make cheap digital cables than analog cables.

Guest's picture
Khürt

When I bought my HD TV a few years ago I went into CompUSA and Best Buy looking for HDMI cables. Prices were around $100 for a Monster HDMI cable and I just could not justify it. A little Googling and I found one for $20 that has never failed me. Instand $80 savings.

Guest's picture
Rhonda

I generally find that often Best Buy will have a great price on the big stuff, the computer or printer or camera or tv, etc. but be much higher on the peripheral stuff, cables, cases, earphones, etc. Not every single time, but often enough that I tend to price them at other places before I buy.

Guest's picture
Colin

You realize that these cable manufacturers are blowing hot air when you find a gold-plated fiber optic cable. (I have picture proof.)

Bicker about cables all you want, but when broadcasters jack up the compression (and the ABSOLUTELY do) you lose A/V quality and no cable will fix that.

Guest's picture
Guest

Sadly, this is how Best Buy gets you. You can buy a TV for cheap but they nail you on accessories. They prey on a consumer's lack of knowledge and it's very aggravating. They not only do this for HDMI cables, but also for many other accessories like component cables, speaker cables, etc...

I typically recommend to people if they don't want to buy online (and there's no other electronic store in town) to check out Home Depot or similar hardware store for cables. Their prices are reasonable for having it that day and you're not being ripped off.

Guest's picture
Guest

I remember an article a couple years ago on a tech website comparing HDMI cables. They hooked the cables up to an oscilloscope and sent test signals through so you could see how badly the signal got degraded. The fuzzier the scope picture, the more degraded the signal. IIRC the results were that even the cheapest 3' and 6' cables were fine for any HD signal. Increase the length to something like 9-12' and the cheapest couldn't handle 1080p reliably, but did 1080i and 720p just fine. I might be a bit wrong on the lengths, but what I understood was that for most cases, cheap cables are more than good enough, and for longer runs (like across the room) a lower-mid-range cable is plenty.

Guest's picture
Jim

I bought a $10 cable from Newegg myself and it works just fine.

I wrote about the same thing myself not long ago: Don't over pay for HDMI cables.

The only place the expensive higher quality HDMI cables might matter is if the cable is longer than 6' or if in the future you've got a higher signal like something above 1080p.

Guest's picture
Maureen

I just purchased a small HDTV from Amazon that qualified for free shipping. The cable for .01 was from another supplier and when added to my order brought the shipping to almost $20.

Guest's picture

I've bought HDMI and other cables from Cable Wholesale (http://www.cablewholesale.com) in the past and have had no problems. Worth checking them out, free shipping right now, too.

Guest's picture
booleyhitt

As a former RadioShack manager, I can attest to the high markup on cables. I was a manager just before HDMI was came around, so composite, s-video, component and coaxial were the norm. Our costs for a high end Monster S-video cable were fairly cheap, around $10 (if I remember correctly) and we would sell them for $60-70. Even the high-end store brand cables were marked up at a ridiculous percentage. Profit profit profit. I loved selling them (at the time) but I wouldn't set foot in any big box retailer to buy a cable unless I absolutely had to. I buy all my cables online. If I know I'm buying a new HDTV, I'll order the cables online before I buy the TV.

Guest's picture
BravoBilly

As a Former Radio Shack employee, who is now on unemployment because I did not sell enough cell phones and HDMI Cables...I now start looking on the internet for the best prices for things so that I can survive financially now...With a back ground in amateur radio and as a former radio engineer, something sort of stuck in my craw when I would steer people to the high end Cables, but I still did as I was trying to get my sales up there for the day...Generally I was service oriented and so helped the customer, when I had time figure things out for himself...

Guest's picture

All it needs is common sense. The HDMI protocol is digital. So there either high or low signal, there is NOTHING in betweeen. So you either have an image or you don't. Ok, technically there could be issues of high frequency signals, thats means a very crappy cable could make the image bad when information gets dropped. But there is absolutely nothing to make a digital signal "arrive" better where it should go to.
Monster cable already showed that the only way to see a difference if to trick the customer:

http://gizmodo.com/268788/the-truth-about-monster-cable-part-2-verdict-c...

Yes, it does make me angry.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm just now getting into audio sales and like some other people here, I have a bit of a guilt trip selling monster HDMI, I asked my manager what the best way to sell these cables was and he told me "recommend the 500 series for upconverting dvd players, the 700 for cable boxes, and the 800-1000 series for blu-ray" knowing full well the 500 series would handle blu ray just as well as the 1000 series. He adds "also ask them what the refresh rate of their tv is" I say "that doesn't even matter" he says "yeah, but they usually don't know that" pfft..

Guest's picture
Josh

I made the mistake of buying one of those expensive HDMI cables at best buy a few weeks ago. They sure did pressure me to get one after buying my TV. I later found out you can get HDMI Cables cheap online. They're the same thing!

Guest's picture
Smarter Now

Proven FACT!!  The price on HDMI cables are a DIRECT REFLECTION on the amount of data transfers speeds they allow!!  If you choose to use a $10 HDMI cable (at about 3.7 gigabits per second data transfer speed, you will get LESS of your high definition picture to your expensive TV than if you were to use a $70 cable with a transfer speed of 10.2 gigabits per second!!! )  I can't believe how many people fall for the old "cheap is just as good as expensive" argument in this day and age.. When has "cheap" ever been better than "expensive" (read, quality) ? Just as in everything else-you really do get what you pay for!! (I did the test myself, $13 on-line cable versus $50 cable-HUGE difference in both video and audio quality as well as reduced interference from other cables behind the TV-) DO YOUR RESEARCH, PEOPLE!!! 

Guest's picture
Guest

Well, keep in mind that a "corporation" is not a separate entity any more than the "government" is run by only 3 people sitting around a table covered in pastries. The money spent on the HDMI cable is paying for a LOT of overhead cost, including most American's paychecks. The recession we are currently experiencing is a perfect example of the correlation between "making things cheaper" and "not being able to afford to employ". Can't have it both ways. It is simple economics.

That being said, if you don't mind contributing to your country's economy, make sure you are an informed consumer first! For HDMI cables, check out this video walk through, that discusses HDMI and conversions to analog (or splitting, even):

http://www.vgatohdmicable.com