Are you creating the ultimate 4K video gaming setup? Have a new home theatre? Maybe you have a Raspberry Pi and would like to connect to a monitor? With so many different HDMI applications, knowing which cable is suitable for you can be difficult.
There are some expensive ($50+) cables out there and they are almost always unnecessary. Here are some of the more common situations you might find yourself in, what to consider in a cable for each scenario, and how to avoid overspending. In general, you should first focus on the monitor, computer, media player, TV, etc. that you want then think about the best cable for your device. Said another way, first buy the device you want, then buy the cables based on the device.
Depending on which Raspberry Pi you have you will need a different HDMI cable.
For Raspberry Pi 1, 2, and 3, you will need a standard HDMI to HDMI cable such as either of the two below. These Raspberry Pis have HDMI connector type-A ports.
Here's an HDMI 1.3 cable that will be suitable for your Raspberry Pi 1-3 needs.
This HDMI 1.4 cable works great too if you'd like something shorter with high resolution and refresh rate capabilities.
For Raspberry Pi 4, you will need an HDMI to Micro-HDMI cable.
The one below is an HDMI 1.3 cable and will be great for your Raspberry Pi 4.
Here's the official Raspberry Pi 4 HDMI micro to HDMI cable from the Raspberry Pi store:
Increasing the Resolution and Refresh Rate on a Pi
1080p (1920x1080) @60Hz is the max default resolution for a Raspberry Pi. This means that with an HDMI 1.3 or 1.4 cable, the Pi will automatically be set to 1080p at 60Hz.
If you want to change your Raspberry Pi's resolution to be even higher or configure the resolution settings check out this guide here. You have the option to go up to 4K (3840 x 2160) however you will need to change some settings to do this. HDMI 1.3 and 1.4 cables can handle this resolution at 10 GB/s and a refresh rate of 30Hz. If you are looking for a higher data and refresh rate consider an HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 cables. Please refer to our cheat sheet for the specs and cable you are looking to aim for.
Follow these steps for finding the right HDMI cable when planning your home theatre or TV setup:
Step 1: Measure the distance from your TV to the media player you'd like to connect.
Step 2: Buy a Category 2 "High-Speed Cable" for more simple setups or a Category 3 "Premium Certified High-Speed Cable" for more bandwidth and a higher refresh rate. Try to buy a cable that is no longer than 6 feet and definitely no longer than 10 feet. Read on to the next section about "Extenders" if you need a cable that is longer than 10 feet. This will ensure your cable is suitable for your home theatre setup.
You will know your cable is a Category 3 Premium Certified High-Speed cable because it will have the following on the packaging.
For 8K set ups, you will want an Ultra-High-Speed cable. Here is the label for Ultra-High-Speed HDMI cables.
The below Category 3 cable is suitable for most 4K HDTV setups.
Additionally, with Home Theatre and TV setups, it's important to get a cable that is not too long. As I'll cover later in this guide, HDMI cables that are too long can often lead to blinking on the screen due to due to the weakened DDC signal that HDCP requires.
Do you need a cable longer than 10 feet? Consider the below section on Active HDMI cables and extenders.
An HDMI extender is a single device (or pair of devices) powered by an external power source or with the 5V DC from the HDMI source. You can buy special devices that connect and power multiple HDMI cables. Active HDMI cables use electronics within the cable to boost the signal and allow for HDMI cables of up to 30 meters (98 feet).
For more tips on home theatre setups check out this article.
For any 4K gaming setup, your best options will be between HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 2.0. DisplayPort is a separate cable type and protocol from HDMI. Here are the different specs of each when making your decision of which type of cable to go with:
- Bandwidth: 48 GBPS
- Resolution: 4K @ 120Hz
- Better for gaming consoles like XBox Series X and PlayStation 5
- Backward compatible
- Bandwidth: 80 GBPS
- Resolution: 4K @ 144Hz
- Device Charging support
- Display daisy chaining
- Better for PC gaming
- Backward compatible
The Bottom Line
Use HDMI 2.1 or 2.0 cables for connecting your TV with your gaming console. Be sure your TV supports the bandwidth you are looking for. Most gaming consoles cannot support Display Port 2.0.
Use DisplayPort 2.0 for PC gaming, especially if you are looking for high-resolution support like 8K and a bandwidth of 48 GPBS or higher. Make sure your monitor supports DisplayPort 2.0.
If your computer supports USB C, save yourself the trouble and get a monitor that supports USB C. It will reduce your cable clutter as you only need one USB C cable for display, audio, and power plus no adapters are needed. For more info on USB C and cable types, check out our Guide to USB below.
If your computer and or monitor do not support USB C, DisplayPort 2.0 is the next best option due to the daisy-chaining, and device charging capabilities it provides.
You can display your iPhone, iPad or iPod to a projector, TV or monitor with an HDMI to lightning cable adapter. This adapter supports up to 1080p resolution.
Some cars now have HDMI ports where you can plug in a video device to display on your car's navigation screen. This feature typically only works when the car is stationary for safety reasons. Due to most car screens being small, a high-speed HDMI cable such as version 1.3 or 1.4 will be more than adequate as a high resolution and bandwidth are not necessary for a small screen.
Why would you want this feature? The below video shows a Honda transformed into a gaming den. Additionally, you could use your car as a mobile entertainment center! Just be careful to not drive distracted.
For displaying older PC laptops and computers: VGA and DVI to HDMI
Many older computers still use DVI and VGA. To display these devices on a monitor, projector, or other display that has an HDMI input you will need an HDMI to DVI or VGA adapter and an audio cable such as the one below.
When looking for an HDMI to DVI or VGA adapter, consider that you will need an additional audio cable, such as a 3.5mm stereo cable, to transmit the audio from the source as the DVI or VGA cable cannot transport audio.
With all the mess that HDMI cables can cause, a wireless solution could be a game-changer for your home entertainment center. How does a wireless HDMI transmitter work? Unlike Apple's Airplay which requires WiFi, wireless HDMI works via transmitting at microwave frequencies. This technology works similarly to Bluetooth. As such, this signal can be easily obstructed. Additionally, this solution is not recommended for gaming or situations where high bandwidth is needed. The technology is still developing and many products still have serious latency. Read more about wireless HDMI solutions here.
Do you have a display, TV, or some other older device that isn't compatible with your HDMI devices? Additionally, you may have an older gaming console like a Game Cube which you may want to display on your HDMI device. The below adapter will allow you to convert from RCA to HDMI.
Now that you have the HDMI cable of your wildest dreams, it's time to talk about the most common issues and pitfalls with HDMI cables, sources and displays.