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Are expensive HDMI cables a rip-off?

There are few products that look the same and do the same thing, but range in price from 1 cent to $300.

By Stacy Johnson Apr 6, 2012 1:57PM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyIf you're in the market for a new television set, Best Buy is selling a Toshiba 32-inch flat-screen HDTV for $290. Not a bad deal, right? But you'll need something called an HDMI cable to get that high-definition signal from your cable box or DVD player to your new TV. Best Buy sells those, too. For example, you can buy a 3-foot-3-inch AudioQuest HDMI cable -- for $295.


You read that right. The cable costs more than the TV. But did you know that cheap generic cables are just as good as pricey name brands? Stacy Johnson explains why in this video report. Check it out, then read on for more.

Of course, Best Buy sells cables that cost less than $295. A 4-foot Monster cable costs $120 -- it's longer and cheaper. So what's the difference? And why does RadioShack sell a 20-foot Monster cable for $200? That's five times longer for less than twice the price.


Even more confusing, you can buy HDMI cables for as little as $10 for 6 feet or as much as $1,100 for 65 feet. 

 

Another triumph of marketing over common sense

If people are willing to pay $60,000 for a bottle of water, I guess it should come as no surprise that they'd pay $300 for a TV connection cable. But at some point common sense has to win over silly hype. 


Lest you harbor doubts about what Stacy said, here's the Popular Mechanics comparison he mentioned. These are the cables they compared:

  • 13-foot generic, $13.
  • 13-foot Monster HDMI 1000 HD, $200.
  • 16-foot Honeywell with CURxE Light Technology, $300.

The price difference is significant. But what about the audio and picture quality?

 

"None of our editors could tell the difference," the magazine said. "The fact is, HDMI is digital, meaning you either get the feed or you don't. High prices and gimmicks like gold-plating don't affect 1s and 0s."


Image: Throwing money down a hole (© Art Glazer/Stock Illustration/Getty Images)Here's the kicker: The Popular Mechanics study dates back to 2008. It's four years old, yet the price of HDMI cables in electronic stores is still off the charts. Obviously, people who don't know better continue to take their advice from commissioned salespeople rather than experts.


More evidence: In 2010, tech website CNET agreed with Popular Mechanics. Two years ago, it declared:

The editors at CNET are so confident that cheap HDMI cables offer identical performance, we've been using inexpensive Monoprice HDMI cables in the CNET Home Theater Lab for more than a year with no issues. ... If cheap HDMI cables are good enough for the eagle-eyed video professionals at CNET, we're betting they're good enough for your home theater.

CNET says you shouldn't pay more than $10 for one, and I agree: I bought a 1.5-foot cable from Monoprice for $3 a few years ago, so I could hook my Xbox 360 up to my computer monitor. It works just fine, but it turns out I overpaid. Because you can buy HDMI cables for 1 cent, plus a couple of bucks for shipping, at Amazon.

Bottom line? If you feel the need to throw money down the tube -- or behind it -- with expensive cables, well, it's a free country. But if you paid more than $100 for your HDMI cables, I've got a bottle of water you might be interested in.


More from Money Talks News and MSN Money:

8Comments
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I'm more than pleased with our $10 HDMI cable. Paying anything more is ridiculous.
Apr 6, 2012 3:09PM
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I bought all my HDMI cables off eBay. For less than $10.
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I'm more than pleased with our $10 HDMI cable. Paying anything more is ridiculous.
Apr 9, 2012 3:29PM
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Like many others, I bought a few 6' cables from an Ebay merchant for about $1 each, including shipping. They arrived in good condition and work well for my TV, DVD and media players. I've been using them for a couple of years now and they continue to function properly. There's only one probable explanation for the apparent ability of merchants to sell the expensive cables described to consumers and it certainly isn't very flattering for the consumer!
Oh, then there are undercoating, upholstery protector, extended warranty, etc. for that new car.  Actually, there's that new car itself, especially if it's leased through the dealer!  There's a reason why car dealers bought exemptions from the new Consumer Protection law from Congress.

Apr 15, 2013 10:00PM
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This is nothing.. in the Audiophile world, people are paying over $2k for third party power cords.
And $1100.00 for HDMI and USB cables.
10' of hospital grade Fiber Optic cable $89.00 from a company that supplies it those in the science industry.
10' of the same grade Fiber Optic cable from a company that supplies cables to the high end audio community: $795.00.
I would love it if someone would investigate the high end audio industry.
From cable lifts for your speaker cables, to component racks for as much as $10k, to pens with green ink used on CD's to control the laser beam.... and the list just goes for ever.


Apr 19, 2012 9:30AM
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Nothing new here. Not sure about HDMI Cables for $1 including shipping as the post below states. Wouldn't the shipping cost more than that?

Anyway, I do agree with the Article in that anything over about $10 is too much. in Australia I get my HDMI Cables from these guys...

http://www.spacehifi.com.au/

Apr 9, 2012 2:20PM
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Articles like this are misleading and very frustrating for someone who knows what they are talking about.  First, paying for expensive cables for normal devices (cable tv, dvd players, game consoles) is silly and unnecessary.  However, there are several points in this article that are false:

 

1) Digital signal isn't "either get the feed or you don't" as they put it.  You can easily have too much data traveling over a cable that gets corrupted and causes visual fragmenting, loss of signal and other issues.  Ever seen a digital cable or HD signal get box fragmenting or lost completely?  Of course you have, digital doesn't mean crystal clear perfect or not there at all. 

 

2) There are devices on the market (3D TVs and newer Audio Receievers 2010+) that require a higher amount of bandwith from a cable to function.  If you get one of these devices they will not function with a cable that is unrated or rated for less than the bandwith required (most often HDMI 1.4 at 10+ gb per second).  They aren't super common, but it is a fact that cheap HDMI cables will not work with these devices and it was tested at CES a couple years ago and duplicated in my store when I was still working in sales.

 

What you end up paying for in a nice cable is rated throughput.  Instead of a couple gigabytes per second you get upwards of 15-20 gigabytes per second, which using 3D and audio return channel requires to function.  There is a big difference between selling someone something they need and trying to pad your wallet, personally I was always of the opinion that honesty creates more return customers.  I'm no longer in sales (I'm using my Bachelors) but it bugs me to see patently false information spread through articles like this with little more than opinions as proof. 

 

So go ahead and buy those monoprice cables for your Xbox or PS3 or cable box, but when you go buy a high end reciever and  some nice speakers and you can't figure out why your 3D TV doesn't work anymore don't come looking to me for answers because I won't have any sympathy for you.

May 3, 2012 9:45AM
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I have never paid that much for HDMI cables.  I get all my cables here.  They are the cheapest in the midwest.

http://www.callcct.com
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