The HDMI Cable Scam

August 23, 2010

MSNBC’s Gary Merson posted an article this weekend regarding some of the outlandish claims made by HDMI cable manufacturers.  Picture a generation ago, when telephones were largely corded to a wall, an industry popped up claiming their telephone cord could give you improved sound and frequency response.  And it only costs 23x more than your standard telephone cable. Sound crazy?  That’s the scam happening with HDMI cables today.  Required to connect current generation HDTVs to set-top boxes, DVD, Blu-Ray, and PC-based devices, HDMI was heralded as a solution to the up to 5 cables you used to have to connect for audio and video.  It’s all in there, in a neat little package.  But retailers count on HDMI cable profits to boost margins on HDTVs and other equipment and have a nasty habit of working with cable manufacturers to confuse consumers with tech speak on the packaging – the higher the number, the better the quality right?  Tip #1: Ignore the claims of better Hz performance and do a little comparison shopping of your own.

To quote Gary:

Only two types of HDMI cables are included in the HDMI licensing spec: “Standard” (aka category 1) or “High Speed” (aka category 2). The latter is required to assure the cable passes 1080p signals (including 3-D), which is the highest bandwidth video signal available now and for the foreseeable future.

Tip #2: Buy Online.  Let’s say you need a 6ft cable to go from your cable box to your HDTV.  You go to “Best Mart” and they offer you a 6.6′ cable ranging in price from $229.99 to $29.99.  You pick the $29.99 cable thinking you avoided the ripoff right?  Wrong.  Best Mart just played to your sense of immediacy, of frustration the equipment manufacturer didn’t include the cable.  The retailers know this because the same quality cable can be had for $3.83 online from sites like Monoprice with extra length to boot.  At these prices, it makes sense to buy a few to keep around the house for when CE purchase “gotchas” happen to you or your friends.