There are two kinds of people. Those who know that expensive HDMI cables are a complete rip off and those who don’t. Actually, there are might be a third type--those who don’t know whether or not a $50 HDMI cable, a $100 HDMI cable or god forbid a $250 HDMI cable is worth the money, but they figure, “Hey, I just spent $6,999 on a TV and $999 on a Blu-ray player, what’s a few extra bucks for the top of the line HDMI cable?”
Let me reiterate. It isn’t worth it. The $10 HDMI cable is just as good as the gold-plated, cryogenically frozen $200 HDMI cable that’s been blessed by the reptilian space pope. Any HDMI cable that costs more than $50 is an outright scam.
That being said, there are such a thing as shoddy HDMI cables. But if your HDMI cable isn’t up to snuff, you will definitely be able to notice it right off the bat. It won’t be a subtle difference in HD quality that you can only notice when comparing pictures side-by-side. It’ll be something glaringly obvious, like a flickering screen, picture drop out or some other malfunction that should warrant a return with a full refund. Salespeople trying to push overpriced HDMI cables on you may warn you about “sparklies” or some other loss of fidelity, but the cheap HDMI cables practically never have these issues.
But what about the add-on amenities, like a lifetime guarantee? Well, you do the math. If you buy a $10 HDMI cable and it fails within 30 days or a year or whatever the warranty is, you’ll get it replaced for free anyway. If your HDMI cable dies on you in three years--which it likely won’t--then you can just buy another $10 HDMI cable. Now, consider a $75 HDMI cable with a lifetime guarantee that never ever fails (and for $75, it shouldn’t). Even if you replaced a $10 cable once every three years--which you shoudln’t have to--you still won’t break even for decades.
Then there’s the even more insidious plot of the technology guarantee. Many non-tech savvy individuals suffer from the “just enough knowledge to hurt yourself” syndrome. It’s true, technology does evolve quickly. They make new builds of the Chromium browser every single night. But HDMI cables are different. They won’t be going obsolete anytime soon. Certainly not within the next ten years, and probably not even after that. If you spend a single extra cent on a technology guarantee that replaces your HDMI cable if the technology becomes obsolete, then you’re throwing your money away.
Need more proof? CNet, one of the most respected reviewers of electronics, uses $10 generic brand HDMI cables in their testing lab. These are reveiwers who have an obsesssive eye for detail and picture quality. Plus, they spend a lot of time plugging and unplugging components, meaning that their cheapy HDMI cables go through a lot more abuse than the average home user would subject theirs to. And those el cheapo HDMI cables are working out just fine for the CNet reviewers.
Your best bet? Buy some inexpensive HDMI cables from a reputable online electronics store, such as Frys, Newegg.com or Amazon.com. Don’t pay more than $10 for a normal length HDMI cable, and don’t pay more than $20 to $40 for extra long HDMI cables. If you notice any quality issues, return it and buy a different cheap HDMI cable, because you got a dud. But the vast majority of HDMI cables under $15 should be fine.