What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween… HDMI ca­bles?

Computer Active (UK) - - Prob­lems Solved -

Q This is prob­a­bly a daft ques­tion, but could you ex­plain the dif­fer­ence be­tween HDMI ca­bles? I have an HP 15-ac152sa lap­top that I wanted to con­nect to my HDTV. I tested it by tem­po­rar­ily us­ing the HDMI cable from my Sky box, which worked fine. As my TV has two HDMI in­puts, I thought I’d buy an­other cable, just for the lap­top. How­ever, on Ama­zon I see ca­bles with de­scrip­tions such as HDMI 1.4, 1.4a, 2.0 and 2.0a. I al­ways thought an HDMI cable was an HDMI cable! Which one do I need for my lap­top? My cur­rent cable has no mark­ings, other than an ‘HDMI’ la­bel. Clive Macleod

A There are many mi­nor and a hand­ful of not-so-mi­nor dif­fer­ences be­tween all th­ese HDMI cable types, but, from the per­spec­tive of the aver­age chap in the street, the key dis­tinc­tion is band­width – or the amount of dig­i­tal data that can be pumped up and down the cable.

The most wide­spread stan­dard cur­rently is HDMI 1.4, which sup­ports resolutions of 1920x1080 pix­els at a re­fresh rate of up to 120Hz. This means it’s suit­able for de­vices mar­keted as high def­i­ni­tion (HD), or ‘full HD’ (FHD). The 1.4 stan­dard does also sup­port resolutions of up to 4096x2160, so it’ll work with the lat­est 4K (or ‘ul­tra high def­i­ni­tion’) equip­ment. How­ever, at that qual­ity the re­fresh rate is limited to just 24Hz. That’s okay for TV con­tent run­ning at up to 24 frames per sec­ond, but not above. Many 4K movies and games con­soles are able to de­liver more than that.

That’s where HDMI 2.0 comes in. It ups the band­width ca­pac­ity to han­dle 4K pictures at re­fresh rates of up to 60Hz. HDMI 2.1 – the lat­est stan­dard – increases this to 4K (or even 8K res­o­lu­tion) at 120Hz. Suf­fixes like ‘a’ or ‘b’ sig­nify mi­nor re­vi­sions to the par­tic­u­lar num­bered stan­dard.

For your lap­top to your TV link, any HDMI 1.4 cable will do, but HDMI 2.0 vari­ants are barely more ex­pen­sive – Ama­zon sells them for just £5 ( www. snipca.com/27172). They’re phys­i­cally iden­ti­cal and back­wards com­pat­i­ble, so buy­ing an HDMI 2.0 ver­sion will be use­ful now and into the future.

HDMI 2.0 of­fers high band­width and will be use­ful now and in the future

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