Got some new electronics for Christmas 2020? Perhaps it is a Playstation 5, or an Xbox Series X, or maybe "just" a 4K TV. Well you might just need to run out and get some HDMI 2.1 cables to really take advantage of the specifications. Lucky for us at DRN, Belkin sent us a 4K Ultra High Speed HDMI 2.1 Braided Cable.
Cables Schcables, Analogue, Digital Signals, Myths and Realities
In digital signals, it is all 0s and 1s, so your cable is either carrying a signal or it is not. As long as there is connectivity, the signal will be carried when sent. Simple right? Well the reality is always a little more complicated, and the ultra short version is - analogue signals can have observational errors whereas digital never causes any kind of observational errors. Additionally, digital bandwidth requirements is high.
Why do I need an HDMI 2.1 cable? Why can't I use my existing cables? Heck why do I need to replace my cables at all? Should I pay a premium? Great questions. Since it is an absolutely awful Melbourne day outside (at time of writing), I am going to indulge in this very fraught topic a little.
In every industry there is always charlatans and scammers. The excellent liars end up making big bucks at the consumers' expense. Over the years there has been plenty of examples of upselling of expensive HDMI cables, made with an alloy of unearthly gold, Unobtainium and Adamantium, blasted by comic rays and fused in the fires of the Buran reentry engines, costing the equivalent of a small apartment mortgage for a cable about the length and diameter of a boba tea straw.
At the end of the day, the key about HDMI is that it is a digital signal. The cable itself makes absolutely zero difference in picture quality. Because in the most simplistic term, digital signal either gets there or it doesn't. It is an all or nothing deal. If you have a picture or sound on screen, you have a working cable. If you have a broken cable, dodgy plug or a way too long a run, you are going to get nuthin' muffin'. There is no linear correlation between signal degradation and picture degradation. The more involved answer would delve into the variability of the transmitter and receiver combination, repeaters, long term environmental factors. And yes in the long version there will be a DMZ between the all, and the nuthin', but this is way outside of my scope for this review.
So why is DRN talking about HDMI 2.1 cables? Well that is because HDMI 2.1 has a higher bandwidth throughput (up to 48Gbps) and the specification includes a the Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable.
Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable Certification Program
The HDMI 2.1 Specification includes a new cable - the Ultra High Speed HDMI® Cable. It’s the only cable that complies with stringent specifications designed to ensure support for all HDMI 2.1 features including uncompressed 8k@60 and 4K@120. The cable’s increased bandwidth capability supports up to 48Gbps.
The Ultra High Speed HDMI Certification Program is a mandatory certification program for all Ultra High Speed HDMI Cables; and ensures quality Ultra High Speed HDMI Cables reach the market and support 4K and 8K video, HDR, VRR, eARC, and all other HDMI 2.1 features. Cables are also required to be tested and certified to ensure low EMI to reduce the possibility of interference with wireless networks, streaming media players, Bluetooth devices and mobile phones.
Belkin was kind enough to send me a 2m Ultra HD High Speed HDMI Cable, as certified by the HDMI Org. The cable itself has a bit of heft in it, and has a double-braided jacket along the entire cable which feels solid and silky smooth. The braiding disappears into the plug end without any gaps or wriggle room. On the topic of the plug itself, it is rugged but not one of the oversized type that could cause issues with tight spaces.
I did happen to need an HDMI cable in the middle of the night to hook up my laptop to the TV. The Belkin cable gave me no fuss or trouble, plug it in and select the input channel on the TV and it just works. I don't have anything that would take advantage of the full capabilities of the HDMI 2.1 standard, and quite honestly, right now the only people that might benefit would be gamers.
But if you are in the market for new HDMI cables because of Christmas presents, then you can't go wrong futureproofing now. The Belkin 4K Ultra High Speed HDMI 2.1 Braided Cable comes in 1m($79.95) or 2m ($99.95) variants. They are available at Belkin, Amazon, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys and various other places.
4K Ultra High Speed HDMI 2.1 Braided Cable - AV10176bt
HDMI 2.1 certified
Supports speeds up to 48Gbps
Supports variable refresh rate
Supports resolutions at 4K/120Hz and 8K/60Hz
Compatible with Dolby Vision high dynamic range technology
Made for streaming devices, PlayStation 5 and Xbox X gaming consoles, and other HDMI compatible devices.
Future-proofed with 4K and 8K HDR compatibility
Durable braided exterior jacket
Two-layer shielding minimises interference