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What are the Types of HDMI Cables?


At first glance, all HDMI cables look quite identical. And because HDMI cords are such utilitarian pieces, most users don’t care to give those cords a second look or observe them from close quarters.

Manufacturers, therefore, do not put much effort into making their HDMI cables look different. Though there are quite a few colorful cables, that’s pretty much all the customization you’d see with these cords.

However, when you look at these cables through the technical lens, things suddenly do not look as homogenous across the board as you initially thought. In other words, there are different types of HDMI cables that serve different purposes.

Read on to learn more.

The Types of HDMI Cables

HDMI cables connect multiple devices—for instance, a laptop to a TV—to pass audio and video signals.

HDMI is a universal standard adopted by many devices, including computer monitors, video projectors, DVD and Blu-ray players, home theater receivers, gaming consoles, media streamers, and even digital cameras and smartphones.

The wide range of applications is HDMI’s strong point. The omnipresence also implies that HDMI could be employed differently, or varied HDMI cables might exist. The following are the major types:

Standard HDMI (HDMI 1.0 to 1.2a)

HDMI port on a red laptop

Standard HDMI cables represent the earliest versions of HDMI cables. They transmitted 720p and 1080i content designed for regular cable, satellite, and HDTV broadcasting.

These cables do not support today’s standard refresh rates and high video resolution requirements as their maximum bandwidth is capped at just 5 Gbps.

Although Standard HDMI cables can still be found, they’ve been rightly replaced by High Speed HDMI cables. (More about them later.)

Standard Automotive HDMI (HDMI 1.0 to 1.2a)

HDMI cables fault

As the name suggests, a Standard Automotive HDMI Cable is made to connect in-car or portable DVD players and similar devices with video displays built into cars.

With additional shielding to suppress interference from a car’s wiring and other electrical systems, the cable transmits a stronger signal than Standard HDMI due to the one or multiple internal relays automotive systems it could be wired with.

The HDMI cable could also employ a unique vibration- and dust-resistant Type E HDMI connector with an integrated locking tab.

Standard HDMI with Ethernet

Rankie Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable
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The Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet has the same performance as the Standard HDMI cord. The cable differentiates itself from its cousin with a dedicated data channel called HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC) for device networking.

HEC permits an internet-enabled HDMI device to share an internet connection using the HDMI link without requiring a different Ethernet cord. 

Kindly note that the Ethernet functionality will work only if connected devices support the HDMI Ethernet channel.

High-Speed HDMI (HDMI 1.3 to 1.4a)

8K HDMI Cable 2.1 48Gbps 6.6FT/2M
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High-Speed HDMI Cables are a considerable leap from the regular cables. They support Full HD and 4K playback, Deep Color, 3D, etc.

The cable is ideal if you hook up a Blu-ray player with a Full HD content source to a 1080p display. The line also supports 4K at 30 Hz but not higher due to capping bandwidth transfer speeds at 10 Gbps.

High-Speed Automotive

HDMI cables

High Speed Automotive HDMI Cable employs automobile-specific features or functionalities like Standard Automotive HDMI cables do. The only difference between it and the Standard cable is the greater speed/bandwidth capabilities.

High Speed with Ethernet

HDMI Cable 6FT HDMI 2.0 (4K@60fps)
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Like the Standard HDMI Cable with HDMI, the High Speed with Ethernet HDMI Cable is similar to its High Speed sibling but comes with Ethernet capabilities (which has already been discussed above).

Premium High-Speed HDMI (HDMI 2.0, 2.0a, and 2.0b)

Tera Grand - Premium High Speed HDMI
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A Premium High-Speed HDMI Cable offers up to 18Gbps of bandwidth that supports 4K at 60 Hz streaming and 10-bit color, essential for HDR. The cable comes in both Type-D and Type-A connector types.

Though all HDMI cables are backward-compatible, the older-gen cables mentioned above may not meet the bandwidth requirements of cutting-edge or future devices as premium high-speed HDMI cables.  

The Premium HDMI Cable should have been tested by the HDMI Forum as per its Premium HDMI Cable Certification Program to qualify as “premium HDMI”. The certification’s requirements are mentioned here.

Ultra High-Speed HDMI (HDMI 2.1)

Zeskit Maya 8K 48Gbps Certified Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable
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Thanks to up to 48 Gbps bandwidth capability, ultra high speed HDMI cables are the future. They are the only HDMI cables on this list to support HDMI 2.1-specific features.

For instance, 4K at 120 Hz and uncompressed 8K at 60 Hz streaming, variable refresh rate (VRR), enhanced audio return channel (eARC), etc., are a walk in the park for these ultra high-speed cables. The cord also supports 10K resolution and 8K with HDR.

These HDMI 2.1 cables are (as of February 2022) relatively new and not considered standard. The Premium HDMI Cables are carrying out HDMI duties for most devices currently.  

It’s like 5G, the next giant leap in telecommunications but not widely implemented yet.  

Different Types of HDMI Connectors

The end connectors of an HDMI cable have variations too. They vary, albeit marginally, in their dimensions and pin placements. The following are some of the common types:

Type A (Standard)

Man plug HDMI cable into laptop
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The Type A type is your regular 19-pin HDMI cable connector linking computers, video games, media streamers, satellite boxes, etc., to televisions, home theater receivers, video projectors, and other display-bearing devices.

If you’ve used an HDMI cable on any of the devices mentioned above, you’ve used the Type A connector either in the male or female format. 

Type C (Mini)

When the need for a smaller HDMI connector arose, the Type C connector was introduced.

The Type C mini connector has the same 19 pins as the standard connector and keeps all the Type A connector capabilities, but it’s smaller in size. It is commonly employed on tablets and DSLR cameras.

A Type C HDMI cable could have both sides in the Type C standard, or one of the sides could be regular HDMI. The mini connector end plugs into the source device. The other end hooks onto your output devices.

Rankie Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable
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Type D (Micro)

Micro HDMI to HDMI Adapter Cable,
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The Type D HDMI connector is smaller than the Type C kind. Since its size is quite similar to a micro-USB connector, it’s also commonly referred to as “micro-HDMI”.

Despite its much smaller size, it retains the 19 pins. However, the configuration or assignment of those pins is different.

Introduced alongside HDMI 1.4, the connector supports smaller digital cameras, tablets, and smartphones. It was designed mainly to facilitate audio-video connections in mobile phones and similar small, portable devices.

Type E (Automotive)

Also introduced with the HDMI 1.4 standard release, Type E connectors are made specifically for the automotive HDMI cables mentioned above. The locking tab discussed earlier is found on the Type E connectors.

HDMI Cables: Passive, Active, Optical

Besides the above classifications, HDMI cables can also be categorized as the following:

Passive HDMI Cable

A long orange HDMI cables

A passive HDMI cable is your standard HDMI cable. It’s the most commonly used HDMI cable. One end of the cord plugs into an input source, and the other is attached to an output device.

The cable is bi-directional, or either end could be hooked onto an output or input device. The length is usually 15 feet (4.5 meters) or less. There are much longer passive HDMI cables, but they may have issues with signal stability.

Active HDMI Cable

Monoprice HDMI High Speed Active Cable
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Active HDMI cables do what regular HDMI cables cannot do and more. In other words, an active HDMI cord can afford to be longer than 15 feet or more without posing signal stability concerns, thanks to its built-in amplification circuitry.

The boosters installed in the connector heads help the signal travel further than usual. Therefore, unlike passive HDMI cables, active cables don’t need a converter box to help the signal travel longer.

The active cable circuitry powers itself using the 5-volt power supply provided by the active HDMI port. When the input source is turned on, the circuitry’s power supply goes off as well.

In some cases, the cable could use an outside power source using a small cord, which hooks on to one of the connectors and an AC adapter power or USB power source.

Optical HDMI Cable

Amazon Basics High-Speed Fiber Optic HDMI Cable
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An optical HDMI cable transmits signals through fiber optics. Unlike digital optical audio cables that only transfer audio signals, optical HDMI does audio and video.

The cable can manage longer distances than an active HDMI cable without external power.

Kindly note, both active and optical HDMI cables are directional, or the connectors are designated to be plugged into an input or output device only. They aren’t swappable like the case is with bi-directional passive HDMI cords. 

Generally, the cables’ ends are labeled to help with the identification.

Which Type of HDMI Cable Do I Need?

A long black HDMI cable

The kind of HDMI cable you need depends on the connector type your device supports, how long you want the cable to be, and your bandwidth requirements.

If you need to plug an HDMI cable into your digital camera, you need a Type D cable. Also, the cable must be long enough to connect your devices and not feel stretched too far.

On the other hand, if you’re a hardcore gamer who has plugged their latest gaming console into a 4K TV that can do native 120 Hz refresh, you would need the HDMI 2.1 standard supporting Ultra High Speed HDMI cable.

For 4K at 60 Hz, Premium High Speed HDMI cables would be good enough.

The Cable’s Length and Cost

Orange hdmi cables on a red wall

Talking about length, again, get a cable that’s adequately (and not too) long. For instance, if your setup warrants a 10-feet cable, get a 10-feet cord.

When your HDMI cables are longer than required, they cause cable clutter. And with longer cables, you step into the “active” cable territory, which will cost you more. 

For someone who doesn’t need a longer cable, the additional spend on the active technology is a waste of money. 

At the same time, do not cheap out or buy the most inexpensive HDMI cables out there. Although a high price doesn’t necessarily imply a great cable, a shockingly cheap HDMI cable is likely sub-par.

If buying a premium cable is an unnecessary splurge, picking one up that sells for a dollar a pop is the other extreme or plain asinine.

In-Wall HDMI Cables

BlueRigger 4K HDMI Cable
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To run the cable behind a wall, you must specifically look for one that’s officially rated to take the path through that wilderness.

Certified in-wall HDMI cables conform to National Electrical Code certifications or are rated for fire and heat protection, deeming them safe for installation inside a building’s wall. Non-rated lines will break or cause safety issues.

An in-wall HDMI cable is not specific to any HDMI standard. But it’s supposedly an active or optical cord due to the added length of these in-wall cables. There, however, are shorter, passive type in-wall HDMI cables as well.

The following are some in-wall HDMI cables if you’re planning to get one for your setup: 

Amazon Basics CL3 Rated High Speed 4K HDMI Cable (18Gbps, 4K/60Hz) - 15 Feet, Black
Rocketfish 12' Ft. In-wall Hdmi Cable 18gbps Ultra Hd 4k X 2k 1080+ with Ethernet High Speed
Postta HDMI Cable(75 Feet Blue) HDMI 2.0V with Built-in Signal Booster-Support 4K,3D,1080P,Ethernet,Audio Return-1 Pack
Amazon Basics CL3 Rated High Speed 4K HDMI Cable (18Gbps, 4K/60Hz) - 15 Feet, Black
Rocketfish 12' Ft. In-wall Hdmi Cable 18gbps Ultra Hd 4k X 2k 1080+ with Ethernet High Speed
Postta HDMI Cable(75 Feet Blue) HDMI 2.0V with Built-in Signal Booster-Support 4K,3D,1080P,Ethernet,Audio Return-1 Pack
Amazon Basics CL3 Rated High Speed 4K HDMI Cable (18Gbps, 4K/60Hz) - 15 Feet, Black
Amazon Basics CL3 Rated High Speed 4K HDMI Cable (18Gbps, 4K/60Hz) - 15 Feet, Black
Rocketfish 12' Ft. In-wall Hdmi Cable 18gbps Ultra Hd 4k X 2k 1080+ with Ethernet High Speed
Rocketfish 12' Ft. In-wall Hdmi Cable 18gbps Ultra Hd 4k X 2k 1080+ with Ethernet High Speed
Postta HDMI Cable(75 Feet Blue) HDMI 2.0V with Built-in Signal Booster-Support 4K,3D,1080P,Ethernet,Audio Return-1 Pack
Postta HDMI Cable(75 Feet Blue) HDMI 2.0V with Built-in Signal Booster-Support 4K,3D,1080P,Ethernet,Audio Return-1 Pack

Do Different Types of HDMI Cables Matter?

Multi-color hdmi cables on a red wall

Yes, different types of HDMI cables matter since some of them serve specific purposes and aren’t compatible with all devices that use HDMI.

Then there are devices with different data speed and bandwidth requirements that also call for specific HDMI cords.

And if you’re sending the cable behind the wall, you need an in-wall HDMI cord, as mentioned above.

Conclusion

Different size of hdmi cables

When shopping for HDMI cables, the only kind you need to look for is the one specified by the HDMI Forum.

Some cable manufacturers could rechristen HDMI cables to make them look different from the existing pack. Those cables are certainly not unique. They are one of the HDMI cable types mentioned above, packaged and decked up to look proprietary. 

Fortunately, well-established brands do not resort to such buyer-fleecing techniques. Therefore, steer clear of no-name brands or extremely pricey cables. 

Also, make sure you buy an HDMI cable only if you need it. If you’ve got the premium cable, don’t buy the ultra premium cable, except if all your devices are HDMI 2.1 rated. But you don’t need the added bandwidth, your premium cable would work just fine since HDMI is backwards-compatible.   

Most devices come with HDMI cords in the box. If your TV or camera did not come bundled in with one, put money into a new HDMI cable.

And you can pretty much ignore those “gold-plated connectors”. 

Last update on 2022-08-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.


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