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The 4K HDMI Cable rip-off: What You Truly Need to Know About HDMI 2.0 and Ultra HD Cables


Ever since Apple announced their Mac Pro with four times 4K Ultra HD support the term "4K" or "Ultra High Definition" became increasingly popular. Today a whole industry is mad about the new 4K hype and is offering 4K TV sets for home cinema, 4K displays for personal computers and – of course – things like a 4K HDMI Cable. But do you really need that?

4K HMDI Cable or HDMI 2.0 Cable – Don't believe in it. There is no such thing!

4K HMDI Cable or HDMI 2.0 Cable – Don't believe in it. There is no such thing!

4K – Technical hurdles for HDMI Cables

Attention, alphabet soup! 4K, 4K2K, Ultra High Definition, Ultra HD, UHD, Quad Full HD, QFD, 2160p: Everything means the same! Namely next generation HD-TV (let’s call it “4K” to keep it simple) with a maximum resolution of 4.096px x 2.160px = 8 million pixel = four times Full HD resolution. Of course these large data amounts require appropriate hardware.

Not only the TV set must support this ultra high resolution (which is usually done through sheer size), but also other components such as graphic cards and software (drivers) must handle these huge amount of information. Especially 4K ready HDMI cables are key as the serial interface between the 4K signal source and the high-end television set.

Does every HDMI Cable support 4K Ultra HD?

To make it short: No, not every HDMI Cable supports 4k. But luckily most cables which you can buy today support HDMI 2.0 or HDMI 4k already. Just make sure they are properly classified as HDMI High Speed cable.

After the version numbering for HDMI cables has been dismissed a few years ago, HDMI cables are today only classified in either Standard HDMI cables or High Speed HDMI Cables. Both types differ in their maximum transfer rate (i.e. bandwith):

  • Standard HDMI Cable: 1,782 GBit/s (74,25 MHz × 8 bit × 3, Type A)
  • Highspeed HDMI Cable: 8,16 GBit/s (340 MHz × 8 bit × 3, Type A + C)

As you can see HDMI High Speed cables provide a much higher performance than Standard HDMI Cables. Luckily most of the HDMI cables which you can buy in stores today are High Speed HDMI Cables by default. Watch out for the term HDMI High Speed on the cable itself or on the HDMI cable packing:

Watch out for the claim "High Speed" on your HDMI cable for 4K support

Watch out for the claim "High Speed" on your HDMI cable for 4K support

HDMI High Speed was introduced with 4k in mind. All HDMI cables that carry the HDMI High Speed Logo do support the HDMI 2.0 Standard and can transmit ultra high resolutions with 2160p @ 24 Hz (=4k).

The HDMI Licensing Org. confirms this explicitly:

All High Speed HDMI cables will support 4K functionality when connected to 4K devices.

— <a href="http://www.hdmi.org/manufacturer/hdmi_1_4/4k.aspx" target="_blank">hdmi.org</a></p>

In return this does mean that HDMI cables which are not explicitly called “High Speed” cables do not ultimately support 4K resolution.

Do HDMI High Speed Cables Provide Enough Bandwith for HDMI 2.0?

Up to now HDMI High Speed cables support a maximum bandwith of 8,16 GBitps. HDMI 2.0, however, requires 18 GBitps. So how is that done? The HDMI Organisation provides the answer:

HDMI 2.0 specification defined a new, more efficient signaling method, for speeds above 1.4b limits (10.2Gbps), to allow higher bandwidths (up to 18Gbps) over existing High Speed HDMI Wire Cables.

— <a href="http://www.hdmi.org/manufacturer/hdmi_2_0/hdmi_2_0_faq.aspx#144">hdmi.org</a>

This means: When you buy an HDMI High Speed Cable today you can be sure that it supports 4k and tomorrow’s high bandwidth requirements of HDMI 2.0.

How do I recognize a high Speed HDMI Cable?

If you want to make sure that your HDMI cable supports Ultra HD 4K resolution, you have to look for the HDMI High Speed Logo on the cable’s packing.


The cable itself normally does not carry the logo but should rather read the claim “HDMI High Speed”. If you want to be 100% sure you might want to shop a new HDMI cable with explicit HDMI High Speed support.

Since all HDMI cables provide the same display quality you don’t want to worry too much choosing a new cable. As long as it carries the high speed logo and has a fair price, everything is fine!

HDMI Versions vs. HDMI Cable 4K

Full 4K support was introduced with HDMI version 1.4. However, you can only be sure with cables certified as "High Speed" to support the high bandwidth requirements of HDMI 2.0. Cables classified Version 1.3 mostly don't work for HDMI 4K functionality. The following list will give you a rough orientation.

  • HDMI cable 1.0 – 1.2 – no 4K Ultra HD support
  • HDMI cable 1.3: Probably no 4K support depending on the cable
  • HDMI cable 1.4: 4K support very likely, but not guaranteed
  • HDMI High Speed Cable: 4K Ultra HD support guaranteed

Conclusion: No need for a 4K HDMI Cable if you choose High Speed

Don’t let you fool by shops or cable merchants with expensive HDMI 2.0 Cables or “4K HDMI Cables”. There is no such thing and there never will be! Just go for a reasonable HDMI High Speed Cable and save your money. High Speed Cables provide 100% compatibility for now and for future HDMI 2.0 contents. The display quality is all the same. You don’t need any new fancy cable hardware.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: What about length considerations? I sure don't think every high-speed HDMI cable will perform well with increase in length, say over 30ft. Surely you do need special 4k branded cables to prevent signal loss in such instances. Right?

Answer: For HDMI 2.0 cables the length should not exceed 30ft. While longer cables could eventually work as well, they are not officially supported by the HDMI standard. The brand does not make a difference; both branded and unbranded cables will struggle here.

Question: Can HDMI 2 support adding Atmos to 4k?

Answer: HD Audio is also supported by HDMI 2.0

Question: What about the refresh rate of a monitor? That should be taken into account if you are into games.

Answer: If your equipments supports high refresh rates (60Hz) @ 4K, you should make sure that the HDMI cable supports these refresh rates as well for 4K resolutions.

Question: Is there any such thing as a proprietory HDMI cable?

Answer: No there aren’t any proprietary HDMI cables. But mind different versions such as Highspeed and Premium HDMI Cables. Not every cable supports all features that HDMI is capable of.

Question: Well, these days everyone should be equipped with proper HDMI 2.0 cable to support 4k@60?

Answer: If you are buying a new cable and don't care too much about the price - probably yes. However, if you just want a cheap solution for your existing equipment, think twice.

Question: Is HDMI 2.0b even a real cable? Is HDMI high speed over Ethernet called by Verizon the "2.0b"?

Answer: The addition „b“ is relevant when using content with HDR (high dynamic range) color spectrum. Otherwise, there’s not much difference to HDMI 2.0/a

Question: What is a good HDMI cable tester?

Answer: Your eyes and ears! Honestly, you don’t need special equipment to check the quality of your HDMI cable. If your signal is flawed you will notice so by screen artifacts, display lags or audio jumps.

Question: Do you need a sky HDMI cable to work a 4K tv with the skybox?

Answer: No, any HDMI cable will do.


Shiva on July 21, 2020:

What do you mean by an active HDMI cable and Passive HDMI cable?

Tobias (author) from Germany on July 06, 2020:

@Adeymcg The 1.3b Splitter isn’t enough for HDMI 4K. Replace with a splitter that supports HDMI 2.0 at least.

Adeymcg on July 06, 2020:

Hi, hope someone can help, recently bought a hdmi 3 way port splitter for my 4k TV and DVD player plus 4k cable TV. Now the picture is grainey 4k the seller says it's not the splitter but what I can find the splitter supports HD 1.3b, supports 1080p, supports 250MHz/2.5Gbps what is 1.3b? Never heard of it is it that old? Seriously are these specs enough to support 4K???

joseph C on October 10, 2018:

Do you know any specific manufactures to look out for in particular who are trying to sell the HDMI 2.0 Cables/4k HDMI cables that do not actually support 4k?

Also I am a little confused, are you saying that manufacturers of these cords are actually saying they are hdmi 4k cords and they do not support it - or are you saying that you can get the same kind of cord for way cheaper and the manufacturers are trying to pull a fast one by jacking up the price of the 4k cables?

Tobias (author) from Germany on July 22, 2018:

KM, thanks for your comment. To which inaccuracy are you referring concretely?

Will Hansen on April 11, 2018:

Stay with top end on the new HDR tv's. Fusion4k is a safe bet and decent price for what you get.

Tobias (author) from Germany on February 21, 2018:

Richard, the 17.8 Gbit is a good indicator. To be completely sure, however, you'll need to test it. Alternatively you could look for cables that explicitly support HDMI 2.0(a/b).

Richard Howard on February 18, 2018:

The following is from a supplier and only mentions 1.3 and 1.4 compatible in the description. Will it be 2.0 compatible so I can get 60fps? I need for 4K content on my ps4 pro. Is the key the 17.8 gigabit and therefore everything else should be ok?

Ideal For Gaming, HD and 3D Viewing

FULL HD 1080p, 1440p, 2160p Compatible

Lab tested to 17.8 Gigabit

3D Ready

Tobias (author) from Germany on January 14, 2018:

James, your existing HDMI High Speed Cables should work. However, if you want to be sure, you can buy one of the $6 HDMI High Speed Cables linked in the article above. They will work with 60Hz@4K because they completely support the HDMI 2.0 Specifications.

James on January 13, 2018:

Hey Tobias, could you explain what you mean by the 'HDMI connector itself'? I am about to buy the 4k player, and considering upgrading cables as want to achieve 60fps. My cable is high speed with ethernet - how can i know if i need a new one or not?

Thank mate.

Tobias (author) from Germany on December 14, 2017:

Techie - that is true, but only for the HDMI connector itself. Talking about cables you can use the ordinary HDMI Highspeed Cables for HDMI 2.0 and 60 fps without any problem most of the times.

Techie on December 08, 2017:

This is a dangerous article as it doesn’t mention that 8Gbps hdmi will limy you to 30 FPS. HDMI 2.0 transfers at 18 Gbps that allows 60 FPS.

bo huggabee on May 19, 2017:

i bought a 10$ 2.0 hdmi from walmart. i had a high speed sony cable before it about 5 years old now. the shorter cheaper cable has superior bandwidth, and if you know what that does for gaming with a 4k tv, then you need it. i noticed it instantly. the picture quality wasn't changed very much except for the benefits of the 80 dollar cables color technology. sharper smoother shading. the two cables have different tones though. very subtle only maybe an artist will notice. the 2.0 cable allows you to use your proper refresh rate with you tv, is the point. instantly i noticed a massive change in quality all around. my sony cable still sells today for 77$ on amazon. i bought the 10$ ge cable from walmart. thats the advancement in tech. while the picture quality holds up over time. the overall benefits of bandwidth greatly outweigh a choked signal. you get to see the beauty more often. and if your tv has a good refresh rate, you'll be seeing a consistent 60 fps compared to the inconsistent and subtle drops i had before. i am looking for a cable that combines the benefits of both.

Timmy cross on April 15, 2017:

if hook a top of the line high speed hdmi up to a regular 1080 TV will make it better or do nothing at all

Asrar Hassan on January 17, 2017:

All I know is I'm using a cheapo $4 HDMI cable and getting 4K 60hz ;)

Tobias (author) from Germany on January 10, 2017:

Hi Jeffrey, the cable linked in the article above is completely fine for "high speed" applications. No worries :-)

Jeffrey Shelley on January 09, 2017:

I noticed the cables you have the link for on Amazon don't have the "high speed" logo on them. Is this what I need for my 4k TV? Thanks.

hi on December 21, 2016:

HDMI Versions vs. HDMI Cable 4K

Full 4K support was introduced with HDMI version 1.4. However, you can only be sure with cables certified as "High Speed" to support the high bandwidth requirements of HDMI 2.0. Cables classified Version 1.3 mostly don't work for HDMI 4K functionality. The following list will give you a rough orientation.

•HDMI cable 1.0 – 1.2 – no 4K Ultra HD support

•HDMI cable 1.3: Probably no 4K support depending on the cable

•HDMI cable 1.4: 4K support very likely, but not guaranteed

•HDMI High Speed Cable: 4K Ultra HD support guaranteed


SandyJ-60601 on November 24, 2016:

Marcy, the content displayed may also make a difference. Is your source really 4k resolution or is it 1080p (or lower) being displayed at 4k resolution? You may be getting a pixelization effect. They are probably displaying 4k or 1080p content that was specifically made to show off great resolution or great cinematic effects. If you are trying to compare that to the quality of reruns of Family Feud or MacGyver (circa 1980's) then their's just no comparison.

Dave on November 19, 2016:


Their TV is calibrated, yours is not. If this "electronics store" was Best Buy, they have their signals coming in through a source with much better quality than you do. They also have their lighting set up with TV picture quality in mind. You can pay to have your TV Calibrated to look as good as it can, but for the most part, it will always look better in the store.

robert on September 28, 2016:

you should go back to the store and buy the new hdmi high speed 4.9 cable..youll see

Marcy G on September 24, 2016:

I bought a vizio M SERIES 4k 55 inch tv and it's great but when I go into a electronics store and see a D series vizio with better resolution than mine??? I ask how is that more clear than my new 4k tv ?? He said did u hook up a HDMI high speed 4k cord and I said no and he showed me several it was 29.00 at target I brought it home and there's no difference what am I doing wrong?? Can someone,tell me wazzz up please.

Thank you


Dane on July 11, 2016:

mmmmh...I see Amazon basic selling HDMI High Speed Cable as 1.4. I think people should also look for HDMI High Speed Cable and 2.0 together. Some companies will put HDMI High Speed Cable and actually mean HDMI 1.4