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Do I Need New HDMI Cables and Gear for My New 4K TV?
Oct 18, 2018

If you’ve purchased a new TV recently, the salesperson might have pitched you on the idea that you need the newest whiz-bang HDMI cables or auxiliary components to get the most out of that screen. But do you actually need all that new stuff to take advantage of new features? Possibly—so let’s look at when new cables or gear are called for.

HDMI Cables Don’t Have Versions

Either by word of mouth from a salesperson or looking at advertising online, you may have seen cables labeled as “HDMI 2.0” or specifically billed as upgraded cables designed for HDR video, 4K video, Ultra-High-Def video, or whatever other buzzword the manufacturer or salesperson felt like throwing around.

That’s great, except there’s no such thing as an HDMI 2.0 cable. HDMI cables are not, and have never been, released using a numeric designation. The HDMI standard itself has different versions, and the hardware you connect the cables to—the TV, AV receivers, Blu-ray players, and so on—has numbered versions, but the cables are not.

In fact, there are only four cable designations that are legitimate and recognized by the HDMI organization:

  • High Speed without Ethernet

  • High Speed with Ethernet

  • Standard Speed without Ethernet

  • Standard Speed with Ethernet

In short, Standard Speed cables have the bandwidth to handle up to 1080i and High Speed cables have the bandwidth to handle 1080p, 4K, and the advanced innovations associated with newer HDTV sets like 3D and HDR. The with/without Ethernet designation simply indicates that the cable has the ability to carry an additional signal for data networking, so that your TV or AV receiver can act not just as an audio/video hub but a data hub too, sharing an internet connection with the various connected devices.

With that in mind, there’s a very good chance that your old HDMI cables will work fine with your new 4K TV. In fact, unless your HDMI cables are veritable dinosaurs of the digital TV age (purchased before 2009 or earlier) you should just plug them in and give them a try.

Because HDMI is a purely digital signal either the cable works or it doesn’t. There’s no situation where you get a partial or fuzzy 4K signal, there’s only a situation where it works and everything looks great. If it doesn’t work and the cable is so old it can’t support the signal you need (e.g. you’ve got an ancient Standard Speed cable), it won’t cost much to rectify the situation. 


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