If you happened to read our article on gaming video cables and you’re now in the mindset to improve your setup, you may be tempted to splash out on a fancy new HDMI cable. Tread carefully as there is a scam afoot.

Most consumables have a premium alternative, bread, milk, toothpaste, marketing companies spend millions every year trying to get us to buy near identical products at a higher price. In some cases the cost is justified, in the case of HDMI cables however, it is almost always not.

Here are a couple of choices you could make when buying a new HDMI cable:

  1. The Amazon basics High Speed HDMI 2.0 Cable £3.99
  2. The CSL Ultra HD 4K HDMI Gold Plated £10.85
  3. The IBRA High Spped PRO Gold Black £199

Now what I hear you ask is the difference between these three HDMI cables?

Well other than the length, materials and price. Absolutely nothing and if you fall for the more expensive of the three, the marketing people have got you hook line and sinker.

There has been a lot of research done into why the more expensive HDMI cables are a con but rather than bore you with too much technical data, the simple reason why they’re all functionally identical is down to one word. Digital. The signal emitted by an HDMI cable is purely digital, the data they send to your TV is done so in 0’s and 1’s. In very basic terms when your device wants to light up say a red pixel, it sends a 1 to the red pixel on the TV and it lights up. If it doesn’t want that red pixel to light up it sends nothing, or 0.

There is no in-between. A fancy gold plated HDMI cable cannot illuminate a pixel any faster, brighter or clearer than a standard HDMI cable, there is no 0.1,0.2 and so on, it’s all or nothing, 0 or 1, on or off, digital signals either work or they don’t. The sad thing is millions of people believe that they are getting a clearer picture using one cable over the other, it’s simply not true and a placebo effect probably brought on by the holes in their pocket. The signal cannot degrade either, nor can you be missing pixels or get less pixels with different cables. The HDMI standard is set up in such a way that if there is any fault in the signal, nothing will be shown at all.

I’ve even seen pages and pages of rants from people who have bought a cheap £2 cable and “compared it” with their £1000 Monster branded HDMI cable, with angry red faces and the caps lock key left on, they’ve sworn on their families lives that there is a clear visual difference between the two…I’m sorry, but there’s not, it’s scientifically impossible.

The fascination with gold plated connectors comes from the analogue age, where interference and less accurate machining processes meant that a gold plated connector could offer you a very slight improvement in shielding and conductivity, but even then the differences were so marginal you were still being taken to the cleaners. Sadly the trend lives on today and people are still buying into it.

What’s more alarming is that sales agents in stores are trained to up-sell these cables and they will flat out lie to your face about how they improve sound and picture quality, don’t feel too angry towards them though, the margin on these cables is huge so it’s only natural that stores will try to improve profits and those agents are doing as they’re told.

Premium cables also use robustness as a selling point. I guess it’s true that if a cable is wrapped in Kevlar and diamonds then it will last longer, but how often do you swing your TV set around the room with all the cables attached? If breakage is an issue, why buy one cable for £200 when you could buy 100 for £2?

So beware the HDMI thieves and if you’ve already splashed out on a fancy HDMI cable, don’t beat yourself up, millions of marketing dollars were spent convincing you to do so.