If you’re in the market to buy a new HDTV (think 4K), you may have heard that your current HDMI cable may not support a newer UHD (4K) TV.
You may have heard from a salesperson or an ‘expert’ that you would need to buy a special HDMI cable for a 4K TV.
Is this true? Not really.
Before we go on, let’s first check out the two types of common HDMI cables available to home users – a standard HDMI cable and a high-speed HDMI cable.
The following HDMI standards are set by the HDMI Forum Technical Working Group
Standard HDMI Cable
A standard HDMI cable is also known as a Category 1 cable. This cable can perform at speeds of 75 Mhz, up to 2.25 Gbps. A Category 1 standard HDMI cable is suitable for the transmission of a 1080i or 720p video signal.
High-Speed HDMI Cable
A high-speed HDMI cable is also known as a Category 2 cable.
This Category 2 Cable can support 340Mhz and up to 10.2Gbps
This cable supports 1080p video signals with a refresh rate of 30Hz.
Usually, high-speed HDMI cables also support 4K resolution.
Based on the above specifications, do you need a new ‘special’ high-speed cable if you’re purchasing a 4K TV?
Surprisingly, the answer is No.
Why? Chances are the HDMI cable you’re using for your Full HD TV is sufficient to support your new 4K TV.
How to Find Out Whether You Have a High-Speed HDMI Cable?
The thing with HDMI is that when you plug it into your TV from a 4K or 1080p source, it would either work or it wouldn’t.
If you plug in your existing HDMI cable into your 4K TV and you get stable picture and sound, yours is a high-speed HDMI cable.
If there are dropouts and sparkles on your screen, then your HDMI cable is of the standard type and you would need to get a 4K compatible cable, but not necessarily a special HDMI for 4K, as will be explained below.
How Come a Full HD HDMI Cable Works with 4K TV?
This has got to do with HDMI cable versions. Broadly speaking, for the home user, there are two versions of HDMI cables.
The one before 2009 and the one after it. Before 2009 was HDMI 1,0, HDMI 1.1, HDMI 1.2, HDMI 1.3.
These cables don’t support Full HD 1080p video, much less 4K video.
However, if you’ve bought the cable after 2009, chances are you have an HDMI 1.4 cable.
Briefly, this cable version supports not only 1080p video but also 4K video at 24/30 fps.
And most 4K video content out there is available at 4096 x 2160 at 24fps or 3840 x 2160 at 30 fps which HDMI 1.4 supports.
This 4K standard is expected to be a mainstay in the coming years.
So, even if your 4K TV comes with an HDMI 2.0 port, you don’t have to go out and buy an HDMI 2.0 cable if all you’re going to do is watch 4K content at the resolution mentioned above. It would not make a difference in terms of video quality.
The latest special HDMI cable for 4K is backward compatible. If your content is 4K at 24/30fps, then that’s what the pricy special HDMI cable for 4K is going to deliver and nothing more, except that you pay significantly more for it.
You’ll only be needing a special HDMI for 4K (HDMI 2.0 cable) if you’re going to watch 4K content at 60fps.