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Are HDMI Cables All the Same?

Find out if HDMI cables are all the same or if some are different/better than others. Learn about the different types, versions, and qualities of HDMI cables.

Are HDMI Cables All the Same? Brandon Jones / TechReviewer

Last Updated: March 18, 2023

Written by Brandon Jones

HDMI cables may all look the same on the outside, but there are different types, versions, and qualities of HDMI cables. While many people say they're practically the same since they all have the same purpose, some HDMI cables are better for different needs.

In this article, I discuss the differences between HDMI cables so you can find the right one for your setup.

If you're wondering which HDMI cable to buy and want to get straight to the point, then I'd recommend going with an HDMI 2.1 cable since they'll work well both for new and older displays. You can find my recommended HDMI 2.1 cables below.

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Types of HDMI Cables

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There are two main types of HDMI cables, one made with copper and others made with fiber optic cable. While these both work the same and have the same port type, fiber optic HDMI cables can reach farther at higher speeds than ones made of copper.

Higher HDMI cable speeds can help with higher resolution displays and a fast refresh rate, improving motion quality. If you need an HDMI cable that needs to reach across a large room and have a 4K TV, then a fiber optic HDMI cable would be a good choice.

Cable Matters Certified 8K Fiber Optic HDMI 2.1 Cable Cable Matters Certified 8K Fiber Optic HDMI 2.1 Cable Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Standard HDMI cables are made of copper and have limited ranges and speeds, which you can learn about in my other article: Max Length of an HDMI Cable.

If you'd rather use standard HDMI cables but still want to extend their reach, sometimes even farther than fiber optic HDMI cables, check out my other article: How to Extend HDMI Cables Beyond Their Limits.

HDMI Versions

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Most HDMI cables sold currently are either HDMI 2.0 or 2.1, even though older HDMI 1.4 cables are OK to use for older displays. If your display is newer, you should stick with a higher version of cable (HDMI 2.1).

HDMI 2.1 is an upgrade from the HDMI 2.0 standard and has many significant upgrades compared to HDMI 2.0. The main difference is that HDMI 2.1 added many additional features and improvements and increased data transfer speed.

In the table below are the main new features of HDMI 2.1 cables.

Below the first table are two other tables listing which resolutions and refresh rates are supported when using an HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 cables.

HDMI 2.1 Features

New Features With HDMI 2.1
HDMI 2.1 Feature Benefit
Increased Bandwidth Adds support for 4K, 5K, 8K, 10K resolutions at 120 Hz.
Auto Low Latency Mode Enables ideal latency setting to be set automatically. Allows smooth lag-free and uninterrupted viewing and interactivity.
Dynamic HDR Lets a display alter the HDR metadata on a scene by scene or frame by frame basis.
Variable Refresh Rate Eliminates stuttering and frame tearing in games.
Enhanced Audio Return Channel Improves support of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio standards.
Quick Media Switching Decreases the delay when switching video sources.
Quick Frame Transport Reduces latency for smoother gaming without lag and real-time interactive VR.

HDMI 2.0 - Resolutions / Refresh Rates

Max Supported HDMI 2.0 Refresh Rates
60 Hz 120 Hz 144 Hz 240 Hz
1080p Yes Yes Yes Yes
1440p Yes Yes Yes No
4K Yes No No No
8K No No No No

HDMI 2.1 - Resolutions / Refresh Rates

Max Supported HDMI 2.1 Refresh Rates
60 Hz 120 Hz 144 Hz 240 Hz
1080p Yes Yes Yes Yes
1440p Yes Yes Yes Yes
4K Yes Yes No No
8K Yes No No No

Qualities of HDMI Cables

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You might not always notice the difference between a cheap 6 ft HDMI cable and an expensive one, but there are still varying qualities that you should know when looking. If you get a very cheap cable, it can have a higher chance of breaking, having signal loss/interference, or other issues.

When buying an HDMI cable, you should buy one that has EMI (Electromagnetic interference) shielding, high-quality insulation in the cable, and a robust connector. While not all cables will advertise these qualities, it's good to keep these in mind. If it's a cheap cable, it's less likely to have higher-quality components.

Which HDMI Cable Type Should You Get?

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Since HDMI 2.1 is backward compatible with older HDMI versions, it's probably best to buy an HDMI 2.1 cable for future-proofing. You will ensure that you'll get the most out of your display without worrying about which one to buy. HDMI 2.1 is also needed for devices that support eARC, for better quality audio to soundbars and audio receivers. If you want to make it even easier, be sure to check out my recommended HDMI 2.1 and 2.0 cables below.

With that said, to get all of the features and speed increase, be sure to check if your display and device (PCs, game consoles, etc.) both support HDMI 2.1 and its features.

Keep in mind that HDMI cables can only go up to specific lengths. If you want a very long HDMI cable, you may need to go with HDMI 2.0 instead and follow one of these HDMI extension methods.

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Shorter HDMI 2.1 Cable

Longer HDMI 2.1 Cable

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Shorter HDMI 2.0 Cable

Longer HDMI 2.0 Cable

Max HDMI Cable Length

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Each type of HDMI cable has a limitation of how long it can reach. There's no specific "max" length a cable can go, but a limitation from the material they're made with.

Most newer copper HDMI cables reach around 15 to 25 ft (5 to 7.5 m). HDMI cables made with fiber optic can reach much farther. On average, fiber optic HDMI cables can reach around 50 to 200 ft (15 to 60 m).

Below are the three types of copper HDMI cables with their average length limits and resolutions they can handle at their max cable length:

Max Length of Copper HDMI Cables
Type Max Cable Length Speed Supported Resolutions
Standard HDMI 49 ft (15 m) < 10 Gb/s 720p 60 Hz | 1080i 60 Hz
High Speed HDMI 15–25 ft (5–7.5 m) 18 Gb/s 1080p 60 Hz | 4K 30 Hz
Ultra High Speed HDMI 10–15 ft (3–5 m) 48 Gb/s 4K | 5K | 8K | 10K 120 Hz

Why HDMI Cables Have a Max Length

Most HDMI cables are made of copper, limiting the cable's length because it loses signal strength the farther it reaches. Signal loss can happen with cables made of other materials also. This signal loss (attenuation) is measured in decibels per distance—the greater the distance, the more signal loss.

The signal level may not be high enough if an HDMI cable is too long due to too much attenuation. If you need to support a longer distance, you'll need an extender, repeater, or fiber optic HDMI cable. Otherwise, you will need to find a way to use a shorter HDMI cable.

How to Extend HDMI 2.0 Cables

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HDMI Repeater

An HDMI repeater extends the connection for shorter runs by connecting two HDMI cables and amplifies the signals for better transmission.

Determining the max length when using a repeater depends on the HDMI repeater and the HDMI cable type, but I give the average ranges below. Remember that HDMI repeaters are directional, so be sure to use the device's correct input/output sides.

HDMI Repeater Range
Resolution Length
4K @ 60 Hz 60–100 ft (18–30 m)
4K @ 30 Hz 100–130 ft (30–40 m)
1080p @ 60 Hz 135–195 ft (40–60 m)

To be safe, assume a repeater can reach only the shorter end of those ranges.

Fiber Optic HDMI Cable

Fiber optic HDMI cables are like standard HDMI cables but made with optical fiber inside the cable and meant for farther distances up to 164 ft (50 m) for 4K @ 60 Hz.

These cables aren't meant to be used with an extender, repeater, or switch and should be used alone. They also must be installed in the correct direction, with the output/display label connecting to the side with the display.

Learn more about fiber optic HDMI cables in my article: What Is a Fiber Optic HDMI Cable and Is It Worth Getting?.

HDMI Over Ethernet Extender

The HDMI over Ethernet extender is similar to an HDMI over fiber optic extender but uses an Ethernet cable for a shorter extension. An HDMI over Ethernet extender can extend the connection up to 130 ft (40 m) for 4K @ 60 Hz or 230 ft (70 m) for 1080p.

Learn more about HDMI over Ethernet in my article: HDMI Over Ethernet - How to Extend HDMI With Cat 5e/6a.

HDMI Over Fiber Extender

An HDMI over Fiber extender uses an optical fiber cable to transmit the data to reach a much farther distance. You could use an HDMI over Fiber extender to extend the connection up 1,000 to 3,300 ft (300 to 1000 meters) for 4K @ 60 Hz.

Learn more about HDMI over fiber in my article: HDMI Over Fiber - How to Extend HDMI With Fiber-Optic Cable.

Learn About TVs

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Want to learn more about TVs? Check out the articles in my TV series:

Learn About HDMI

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Find answers to your HDMI questions by checking out the articles in my HDMI series:

A Note From the Authors

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