What is HDMI?
Technically speaking, HDMI (which stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface) is a global connectivity standard developed by a consortium of major electronics manufacturers including Hitachi, Panasonic, Philips, Sony, Thomson (RCA), Toshiba, and Silicon Image. HDMI establishes a "future-proof" foundation for the transmission of high-definition video and multichannel audio among a wide variety of audio, video and computer products. Today, more than 800 companies have adopted the HDMI standard and are building HDMI into their products.
For you, this means that there is a high-quality, single-cable, all-digital solution you can use to interconnect all the components of your home entertainment system, regardless of manufacturer. And because HDMI is a two-way platform, it also means that your individual components can "talk" to each other, exchanging critical information that allows optimizations and adjustments to be made automatically for easy, trouble-free operation of multiple components.
Why should I use HDMI?
Simply, because it's the best and most convenient audio/video connection you can buy. For practical purposes, HDMI is also the only way you can experience 1080p "full HD" video in your home.* This means that if you want to enjoy the full video potential of sources like Blu-ray players, HD set-top boxes and upconverting DVD players, you must connect each of them with an HDMI cable.
There are a host of reasons why HDMI is superior to other connections:
All-digital signal transfer
Unlike older kinds of video interconnect cables such as component video, S-video and composite video, HDMI carries an uncompressed, all-digital representation of the data transmitted between components. Since the vast majority of this information originates in digital form and is displayed digitally on today's HDTVs, the HDMI interface eliminates the need for complex digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital processing stages before and after the cable connection, so the information remains in its purest form throughout the signal chain. The end result is an essentially perfect transference of all picture information for consistently dazzling image quality.
HDMI offers the same all-digital signal transfer for audio signals up to eight simultaneous channels of high-resolution audio, that is and it does so within the same single cable/connector configuration. Before HDMI, you'd need as many as three individual video cables, plus at least one individual audio cable, just to hook up a single audio/video component to your TV. With HDMI, all that information travels flawlessly through a single, reliable cable. In today's typical home theater, with its multiple source devices (cable and satellite boxes, Blu-ray and DVD players, gaming consoles, etc.), this translates to a much cleaner, less confusing system of wires behind the scenes.
The surging popularity of HDTV and other high-definition technologies has made the HDMI connection a de facto standard on wide array of consumer electronics products. Today, virtually every HDTV, projector, receiver, DVR, Blu-ray player and cable or satellite box sold comes standard with at least one HDMI connection. You'll also find HDMI on multimedia PCs, laptops, gaming consoles, camcorders and digital still cameras, to name a few.
*The Sony PlayStation 3 console is a notable exception here; its proprietary component-video cable does transmit 1080p video. However, there is no current recognized standard for 1080p content over component video, and its use outside the PS3 universe is limited.
What should I look for in an HDMI cable?
Each HDMI connector integrates 19 cable pairs that must be of precisely the same length (and other corresponding factors) in order to accurately transmit the digital bits that make up digital audio and video signals. These bits must arrive at their destination in a perfectly synchronized fashion in order for the components on the receiving end to properly interpret the data. Therefore, all commercially available HDMI cables are designed, manufactured and tested to extremely tight tolerances before they can be emblazoned with the official HDMI logo.
However, all HDMI cables are not created equal. Especially when dealing with cable that runs longer than about 10?, quality matters. Differentiating factors include:
Construction and materials Characteristics like conductor thickness, quality of shielding and insulation, and innovative internal design features intended to enhance the performance and reliability of the cable.
Speed rating All HDMI cables Best Buy sells are rated to handle a continuous throughput of at least 10.2Gbps, which is certified to be compatible with HD signals up to 1080p resolution (including full HD 3D). Higher speed ratings indicate increased bandwidth to support additional video, audio and intercommunication features of emerging and future technologies.
Bit depth rating Better HDMI cables offer higher bandwidth and are therefore certified to pass more nuanced color information than lesser cables. Basic HDMI cables typically handle a stream of 8-bit color information, whereas more sophisticated, high-bandwidth models are optimized for 10-bit, 12-bit or even 14-bit color depth.
Connector enhancements Higher-end HDMI cables often sport connectors fabricated of zinc oxide for improved EM and RFI shielding and/or electroplated in gold for reliable electrical coupling and corrosion resistance.
In-wall rating Like other types of household wiring, HDMI cable that?s fished behind walls or between floors is required to meet certain criteria related to fire resistance and other safety concerns. Be sure to verify that the cables you buy are "in-wall rated" if this is how you intend to install them.
Specific feature support This is the single most critical factor, and we encourage you to consider it above and beyond any technical specification. Make sure that the HDMI cables you buy support the specific features and benefits you expect from your interconnected HDMI equipment. These might include features like 1080p (or greater) resolution, high frame rates like 120Hz or 240Hz, Deep Color, Automatic Lip Sync, specific types of surround-sound formats, or readiness for future feature implementation. The chart linked below compares the different HDMI cable lines currently in our assortment across a wide range of technical characteristics and feature support capabilities.
How do I determine the proper cable lengths to use?
As with any cable, it's generally best to use the shortest HDMI cable possible for each connection you make both to ensure optimal signal integrity and to minimize clutter in your setup. For most component-to-component connections (behind your equipment rack), a 3'-4' HDMI cable should suffice. Connections that travel outside your rack or entertainment center will obviously require greater length. HDMI hookup cables are commonly available in various lengths of up to about 12' (or the rough metric equivalent); heavily insulated in-wall rated models may run up to 35' or more.
Of course, your situation is unique. But here are a few hypothetical setups to give you a rough idea of what a typical HDMI home theater might require:
How many HDMI cables will I need?
The answer to this, of course, will depend upon the number of HDMI-compatible components you intend to connect, the number of HDMI inputs and outputs available on the equipment you have, and the configuration you plan to achieve. However, assuming that all of your components are HDMI-equipped and that your receiver (if applicable) has enough HDMI inputs to accommodate all those components, you'll need just one HDMI cable between each component to be connected. That's because HDMI carries all the HD video and multichannel audio information in a single cable, with a single connector. And believe us, you'll see the difference when you go to set up your system.
How can I be sure my HDMI cable will be compatible with 3D?
Every HDMI cable currently offered by Best Buy is rated to handle a continuous throughput of at least 10.2Gbps. You can be confident that any HDMI cable you purchase at Best Buy will support HD signals up to 1080p resolution, including full HD 3D.