Much like just about any other cable standard, HDMI boasts a mess of different possible features and specs, with plenty of companies doing anything they can to persuade to splash out on a more expensive cable.

The good news is, for the most part you don’t have to – you can get almost identical performance from a budget lead as you can from one that costs the same as a small car. Still, there are other concerns – from design and durability to future-proofing your setup. Here’s what you need to know.

HDMI cable buying advice

High-definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is, and has been for a while, the undisputed standard in video and audio cables. It’s most likely what you’ll use to connect up TVs, games consoles, PCs, set-top boxes, and even some sound systems. It’s so widely used now that most of us don’t even have enough HDMI ports on our TVs to support everything we want to connect – though there is a way to add more HDMI ports if you need them.

With that in mind, we’ve got good news for you: as long as you stick to a reputable brand, you can basically buy any cheap HDMI cable and you’ll be good to go.

Don’t get lured in by promises of gold-plated this or nylon-braided that – the core cable will be basically the same no matter what, and any quality difference from a more expensive cable will be imperceptible (most of the time).

The one caveat is that you do need to make sure you’re buying a new cable. Video standards are continuing to change rapidly, with the recent rise of 4K and HDR already beginning to give way to 8K and beyond.

If you’re still using the cable that came with the TV you bought eight years ago, it might not work at all with a 4K video source like an Xbox One X or an Ultra-HD Bluray player, and if it does work, it might introduce errors or image distortions. The same is true (more so) for HDR. Luckily, this is easy to test – just connect everything up with your cable and check if your TV gets a signal, recognises it as 4K and/or HDR, and displays it without distortion. If it does, you’re good to go. If not, you’ll have to buy a new one.

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Version numbers

One thing you might see when shopping for HDMI cables are the various version numbers floating around – these days mostly HDMI 2.0.

The first thing to note is that the version numbers actually apply to devices – TVs and video sources – and not the cables themselves. What really matters is the cable’s speed capacity – look out for anything rated for 18Gbps to keep up with 4K HDR, which should be just about any cable sold as ‘high speed’.

The next version to come is HDMI 2.1 – with 48Gbps ‘ultra high speed’ cables to match – but you really don’t need to worry about that. This is intended to support 8K video (and up to 10K), but it’ll be a couple of years at least before there are widespread compatible devices. Don’t waste money on an expensive 48Gbps cable now – you can always buy one once you have an 8K TV, by which time the cables will be way, way cheaper.

Design and durability

Beyond specs, design and durability are the main concerns. In terms of design, the main thing you probably want to consider is just making sure the cable head is slim – some TVs pack their HDMI sockets in pretty tightly, so avoid snazzy looking cables that might just block your other ports.

Durability will matter more or less depending on whether this is a cable designed for portable use, or just to sit behind your TV untouched. If you do need it to be durable though, look both for tough, braided designs and (just as importantly) flexible cable heads – this is the most vulnerable part of any cable, and a rigid design is much more likely to split.

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Finally, think about length. Resist the temptation to buy ultra-long leads ‘just in case’ – speeds drop beyond a certain point, though should be fine in any domestic setup. 1m/3ft should suit most TV setups, but measure what you’ll think you need (and maybe go one size up just to be safe).

AmazonBasics HDMI Cable

AmazonBasics HDMI Cable

Syncwire HDMI Cable

Syncwire HDMI Cable

Belkin HDMI Cable

Belkin HDMI Cable

UGreen 90-Degree HDMI Cable

UGreen 90-Degree HDMI Cable

Laptone Flat HDMI Cable

Laptone Flat HDMI Cable

Caavo Spotlight HDMI Cable

Caavo Spotlight HDMI Cable





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