Part II – HDMI Demystified: Understanding the Cable Versions

November 06, 2023 Part II – HDMI Demystified: Understanding the Cable Versions

Recap from Part I

In our previous instalment of the HDMI Demystified series, Understanding the Numbers, we explored the significance of the various HDMI version numbers, delving into their evolution and how they’ve shaped the world of audio-visual technology. We explained that the different specification numbers address the entire signal path, from the output HDMI socket of the source device to the input HDMI socket of the display and all the components in between, such as cables and repeaters.  

In this article, we focus on HDMI cables specifically. HDMI cables have different versions, which have evolved alongside the electronics versions to enable the latest HDMI technology to work effectively. However, instead of numbers they have names. We know. Why not just use the numbers?! So allow us to walk you through it. In this article we’ll learn what these cable names mean, from the basic Standard HDMI Cable to the Advanced Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable, and how you can make more informed choices and select the right HDMI cables for your devices in your next project

An introduction to HDMI Cable Versions

HDMI cables are essential conduits that have evolved over time to keep pace with the ever-advancing world of audio-visual technology. It’s worth noting upfront that every HDMI cable is designed: 

  1. for backwards compatibility with previous versions, and  
  2. to effectively support every HDMI feature.  

Before we delve into the details, here’ a quick summary of the evolution of HDMI cable versions, highlighting their key developments: 

2003: Standard HDMI Cable – Up to 1080p and 720p 

The ‘Standard HDMI Cable’ made its debut alongside the HDMI 1.0 specification, ushering in a new era of audio and visual connectivity. Initially this only supported up to around 4.95Gbps. This cable was designed for basic audio and video needs and supported resolutions up to 1080p and 720p. 

2006: High-Speed HDMI Cable – 1080p, 4K 30 Hz, 3D and Deep Colour 

The introduction of the ‘High-Speed HDMI Cable’ represented a significant advancement. This versatile cable could handle resolutions up to 1440p, 4K at 30 Hz, 3D content and deep colour, catering to cinephiles, gamers and those seeking enhanced viewing experiences. 

2009: Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet 

As our technological needs grew, HDMI introduced the ‘Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet’. This cable not only supported the same resolutions as the Standard HDMI Cable but also came equipped with Ethernet capabilities, simplifying setups and reducing cable clutter. 

2009: High-Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet 

Building upon the capabilities of its predecessor, HDMI then introduced the ‘High-Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet’ in the same HDMI 1.4 specification. This cable combined high-resolution support with networking capabilities, making it a valuable addition to modern home theatres and multimedia setups. 

2009: Standard Automotive HDMI Cable 

HDMI took to the open road with the ‘Standard Automotive HDMI Cable’. This was specially designed for in-car entertainment systems. Honda was one of the first adopters of this cable type, installing it into the Honda Odyssey. 

2015: Premium HDMI Cable 

The HDMI Premium Cable was the first optional certification, a departure from the previously mandatory certifications required to use the HDMI mark. These cables support a wide range of resolutions, including 4K and advanced features like 4K60, HDR and expanded colour spaces. 

2017: Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable 

The current pinnacle of HDMI cable technology was reached in 2017 with the ‘Ultra High-Speed Cable’. Engineered to handle the most demanding tasks of today’s technology, this cable boasts support for 8K resolutions, high frame rates, dynamic HDR and more, making it ideal for future-ready setups that embrace the latest advancements in audio and visual quality. 

All these cable versions are still on the market and can still be used to this day for appropriate devices, so let’s now delve into the cable versions in more detail.  

Standard HDMI Cable: Up to 1080p and 720p 

As always, it makes sense to start this story at the beginning. So our exploration of HDMI cable versions begins with the ‘Standard HDMI Cable’, the foundation for HDMI technology. This cable is designed for simplicity and reliability, making it a popular choice for various applications. 

The Standard HDMI Cable is tailored to meet basic audio and video needs, offering a versatile and straightforward solution. It supports resolutions up to 1080p and 720p (for a quick refresher on data rates, click here), ensuring clear and satisfactory audio-visual experiences. While it may not venture into the realms of ultra high-definition, it remains an efficient choice for many scenarios. 

This cable version is particularly suitable for older devices and setups where high-definition content isn’t a primary concern. If you have an older TV or a straightforward audio arrangement, the Standard HDMI Cable can effectively serve your needs

One of its standout features is affordability, as this cable has been around for over two decades. Standard HDMI Cables are often the most budget-friendly option in the HDMI cable spectrum. This accessibility ensures that basic AV connections are within reach for a wide range of basic HDMI applications where higher resolutions and performance aren’t required such as CCTV monitors etc.

High-Speed HDMI Cable: 1080p, 4K 30 Hz, 3D, and Deep Colour 

The ‘High-Speed HDMI Cable’ is a versatile and dependable choice designed to meet the demands of higher resolutions and advanced features. This cable is engineered to excel in multiple aspects of audio-visual transmission, enhancing overall viewing and entertainment experiences. 

With its introduction more connector types were offered, including the Type C mini and type D micro. These connector types proved very popular with compact HDMI-enabled devices, such as digital camera and camcorders, allowing them to be plugged directly into display devices.   

One of the key strengths of the High-Speed HDMI Cable is its capability to support resolutions up to 1080p. This makes it particularly suitable for Full HD displays, and at the time of its launch, allowed viewers to experience content with remarkable new clarity and detail.  

In addition to Full HD support, this cable offers compatibility with 4K content at 30 Hz. This means that users can take advantage of the increasing availability of 4K content, which provides even higher resolution and more detailed images. While it may not match the 60 Hz capability of higher-speed cables, the High-Speed HDMI Cable still works for those who have 4K displays and are reluctant to upgrade their cable due to physical limitations, such as it being permanently installed in a wall! 

Furthermore, this cable is specifically designed to support 3D content. On the whole, 3D content has been a passing fad that had a life span of only a couple of years or so. The demand for 3D content has been eclipsed by the promise of 8K resolution. 

One notable feature is its support for deep colour. Deep colour technology expands the spectrum of hues that can be displayed, resulting in more vibrant and lifelike images. This enhancement is especially valuable when viewing content that relies on a wide range of colours, as the technology allows compatible displays to resolve the significant difference between the darkest blacks and the brightest whites, resulting in more defined and visually striking images. Deep colour ensures that you see content as intended by its creators, with rich and true-to-life colours and high contrast ratio colours

Standard HDMI Cable and High-Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet 

The ‘with Ethernet’ cable version takes the capabilities of the standard and high speed versions and expands them to include integrated networking features. In practice, the need for both audio-visual and internet connections in a single cable is relatively rare. However, it potentially simplifies cable management significantly by combining audio, video and networking functions into one streamlined solution. The original design was well-intended but generally not adopted by device manufacturers, so it never gained traction in the market. 

In modern multimedia setups, both the Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet and High-Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet offer the possibility of supporting the latest eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) features using the additional twisted pair that was destined for the ethernet functionality. 

Kordz’ Standard HDMI Cables with Ethernet include the ONE series HDMI cable 5 and 10 metre variants.  

Kordz’ High-Speed HDMI Cables with Ethernet include the ONE series HDMI cable 0.5 to 3 metre variants. 

Standard Automotive HDMI Cable 

For the sake of completeness, it’s worth mentioning the ‘Standard Automotive HDMI Cable’, which is a specialised HDMI cable designed for in-car entertainment systems. Unlike regular HDMI cables, these are specifically manufactured by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) who specialise in automotive components. This tailored approach ensures that these cables meet the unique demands of the automotive environment. 

One of the standout features of Standard Automotive HDMI Cables is their ruggedised construction. This is critical because in-car entertainment systems are subjected to vibrations, temperature fluctuations and potential exposure to liquids. These cables are built to withstand these challenges, ensuring consistent signal quality and reliability. 

Available in various lengths, these cables can accommodate different in-car setups, from compact vehicles to larger ones. Moreover, they are compatible with in-car entertainment systems from various automakers. This versatility allows passengers to connect a range of devices, such as tablets, gaming consoles and media players, to the car’s display screens

Safety is a top priority when it comes to in-car entertainment and these cables are no exception. They are manufactured with safety considerations in mind to meet automotive safety standards. This ensures that using these cables will not compromise the safety of the vehicle or its occupants. 

One of the key advantages of Standard Automotive HDMI Cables is that they offer a plug-and-play solution. They are designed for easy installation and use, making them accessible for both manufacturers and end users. 

However, it’s important to note that these cables are typically limited to ‘standard’ resolutions. While they are perfect for in-car entertainment, they may not support the highest resolutions available on other HDMI cables. In the context of a moving vehicle, where the primary focus is on entertainment and not ultra-high resolutions, these cables deliver a dependable solution for passengers to enjoy their favourite content during their journeys. 

Premium HDMI Cable: Elevated High-Definition Experience

The HDMI Premium Cable offers a high-end solution for those who demand a best-in-class audio-visual experience. Until this point all other certifications were mandatory for brands to use the HDMI mark. Premium certification was the first ‘optional’ certification program

Premium cables prioritise quality. Crafted with precision, they feature exceptional build quality, utilising superior materials and advanced manufacturing techniques. The result is consistent, reliable performance, making them a worthwhile investment. Another key attribute is their wide-ranging resolution support, accommodating Full HD, 4K and 8K displays, enabling users to enjoy high-definition content to the fullest. Engineered for durability, these cables feature robust connectors and reinforced shielding for a prolonged lifespan. Premium HDMI cables excel in maintaining signal integrity over extended distances, making them ideal for expansive home theatres and complex AV systems. They also support advanced features like 3D, deep colour and high dynamic range (HDR), enhancing the overall viewing experience with richer colours and sharper contrasts. 

While not obligatory, HDMI Premium Cables are geared towards enthusiasts and professionals looking for the highest audio and visual quality. With up to 18 Gbps support, they can deliver 4K/UltraHD, including advanced features such as 4K60, HDR, and expanded colour spaces, including BT.2020. 

Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable: Embracing the Pinnacle of AV Excellence 

Finally, the current pinnacle of HDMI cable technology is the Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable. This finely engineered cable stands ready to tackle the most demanding audio-visual tasks, ensuring AV setups remain on the cutting edge of technology for some time to come. 

At the core of this cable’s prowess is its remarkable 48Gbps data transfer rate, which gives it capacity to handle resolutions as high as 8K and 10K at 120 Hz refresh rate. This is possible through the combination of a new transportation protocol called Fixed Rate Link (FRL) and a lossless compression technology called Display Stream Compression (DSC). Whether you are a film enthusiast, content creator or avid gamer, the Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable ensures that you experience visuals of unparalleled precision and detail. High frame rates and dynamic HDR enhance your visual journey, bringing scenes to life with vibrant colours and sharp, immersive contrasts. 

While HDMI technology continues to advance, the Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable remains your unwavering companion on the path to the latest in audio and visual quality. In 2023, it is the cable of choice for those who wish to ‘future-proof’ their AV setups and align with the newest advancements

Kordz’ Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cables include the PRS4 Ultra High Speed Passive HDMI Cable and PRS4 Ultra High Speed Active Optical HDMI Cable

In Summary

Just as HDMI specification versions have evolved with our technological advancements, HDMI cables have evolved beside them to ensure seamless integration of the latest audio-visual technology. Understanding these cable versions empowers us as integrators to make informed choices for our AV setups.

This handy reference table lists the key capabilities and associated professional-grade products Kordz ranges: 

From the foundational Standard HDMI Cable to the cutting-edge 8K capabilities of the Ultra High-Speed Cable, HDMI cables cater to a wide range of specific needs and budgets. These cables enhance our entertainment experiences, providing the crucial link between our devices and the vivid worlds they bring to life. Whether it’s basic connection or the pursuit of high-definition perfection, quality HDMI cables play a vital role in delivering the audio and visual quality we desire for AV installations

To find a distributor of Kordz HDMI cables, click here.

If you haven’t read our first instalment of the HDMI Demystified series, Understanding the numbers, please click here.  

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