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HDMI Connector Guide
- The Port And Cable Explained

The HDMI connector has quickly become the standard interface for connecting your audio-visual devices together.

However, many people are confused by this connection type, so here we look at some common issues and explain it in more detail.

What does the HDMI connector look like?

Two HDMI connections on a device

The HDMI connector on the back of your TV or Blu-ray player looks like this.

It's a bit like a USB port on your computer - but a bit taller and wider. Er, and it's not a rectangle. Ok, so it's nothing like a USB port on your computer!

The connection is designed so that HDMI cables will only fit one way round.

What does the HDMI cable look like?

HDMI cable

The HDMI cable that is used to connect two devices looks like this.

You just need one cable between devices to transfer the sound and the picture.

The HDMI connectors are often silver, although some brands come with gold-plated HDMI connectors. 

Do I need a gold-plated HDMI cable?


Oh, you want more of an explanation?

The theory is that a gold-plated connector will be more resistant to oxidisation, and will conduct the signal better. The truth is you are hardly likely to get much oxidisation going on in your living room (or is your HDTV in the garden?) - and there is such a small amount of gold in the gold-plating that it won't make much difference anyway.

Still, it looks nice and shiny.

By all means buy an HDMI cable with gold-plated connectors, but I really wouldn't pay extra just for this feature.

What is the best HDMI cable?

When you are looking to buy a new cable, there are a seemingly endless number of variations to choose from and it can seem impossible to choose the best HDMI cable - different colours, different lengths, different materials, different specifications, different prices.

It can make your head spin.

Fortunately it's not too difficult once you just concentrate on the important stuff.

  • Colour? That's up to you - I'm not sure it will make much difference to the sound and picture! Some people will go for a colour that is unobtrusive and can be easily camouflaged amongst their equipment. Most will just get a black one!
  • Length? Very important. Please take a few seconds to think where the cable will need to run, and how far that will be. As a rule of thumb, the shorter the better, as really long cables can have a detrimental effect on the signal. If you get one too long, it might be hard to run the cable in a confined area. Get one too short and......
  • Materials? Some brands will come with fancy nylon braided cord. This should make the cable slightly more flexible and easier to manoeuvre in tight spaces. Otherwise, it just makes it looks nice. For most people it shouldn't really matter either way.
  • Specifications? These days, you just need a category 2 'high speed' HDMI cable. This will ensure that the cable has been certified to transmit data up to 4K resolutions - and all current audio formats.
  • Price? You can break the bank and buy a really expensive one if you like. However it won't perform any better than a decent quality budget cable. The AmazonBasics range will probably be sufficient - or if you want a braided model then these Twisted Veins HDMI cables are popular. 

What does an HDMI connection do?

HDMI cables transmit digital video and digital audio signals between devices.

They support high-definition and Ultra HD video signals and surround sound audio (5.1 Dolby Digital and high-definition audio soundtracks found on Blu-ray players).

When should I use HDMI?

As a general rule, this is the best connection to use to link most modern audio visual devices together... assuming each device has an HDMI port of course!

Most devices made in the last couple of years will probably have these, older devices may not. Remember, the HDMI connection sends the video and the audio signals, and so one cable is all that is required.

There may be some situations where you can't just use HDMI to connect all your devices. For example, you may have HDMI on one device and a DVI connector on another.

In this situation, then it is possible to buy DVI to HDMI adapters like those pictured below to change one end of a cable from one connection type to another. Therefore, you can use a normal HDMI cable, but put the adapter on one end of it and plug the adapter into the DVI connection. Bingo!

HDMI to DVI Gold-Plated Adapters HDMI to DVI Gold-Plated Adapters

 Remember, if you use an adapter like this then you will only be able to transmit the picture as, unlike HDMI, DVI only supports video signals. In this particular instance, you would have to send the audio via another connection type like coaxial or optical audio.

The DVI device may also need to be HDCP-enabled in order to send certain signals like encrypted Blu-ray movies. All HDMI devices support HDCP.

What else can you tell me about HDMI?

HDMI allows the transmission of all video signal types (including high-definition signals up to full 1080p) - plus up to 8 channels of uncompressed digital audio (such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio).

There have been different versions of the HDMI specification over the last few years. The version currently in widespread use is HDMI v.1.4, although HDMI 2.0 has now been released. The older versions have some limitations as to the features they support, and therefore the HDMI inputs and outputs on older devices may not have the same functionality as newer devices.

Dual HDMI output connections on a device

HDMI cables are often described as version 1.3 or 1.4 etc. However, HDMI cables really only come in two versions - 'standard' speed and 'high' speed. As a rule of thumb, a category 1 'standard' speed cable will be fine for 720p and 1080i signals, whereas a category 2 'high' speed cable will be more suitable for higher data rates such as 1080p and 4K signals.

Before you buy an HDMI device, you should check that it has been certified to the most recent version to be sure it will support the latest features. Of course, if you don't need these features then it doesn't matter so much.

The main features of each version are:

HDMI 1.0: release version supported data transfers up to 4.9 Gb per second and the playback of standard Blu-ray disc video and audio at full resolution.

HDMI 1.1: support for DVD Audio.

HDMI 1.2: support for SACD.

HDMI 1.3: supported bandwidth increased to 10.2 Gb per second. Added support for streaming high-definition Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio to external AV receivers for decoding. Additional (rarely used) functionality such as Deep Colour and auto lip-sync.

HDMI 1.4: support for 3D TV control codes, higher video resolutions (up to 3840 x 2160 4K resolutions used in consumer Ultra HD at 24/25/30Hz) and an HDMI ethernet connection between two devices.

HDMI 2.0: supported bandwidth increased to 18Gb per second, added  support for Ultra HD 4K resolutions at 60 frames per second, support for 21:9 aspect ratios.

HDMI 2.0a: added support for HDR (high dynamic range) video.

For more detailed information go to the HDMI FAQ.

What are HDMI right-angle adapters used for?

In some situations you may find it difficult, or even impossible, to plug your HDMI cable into your device. The most common scenario is where you have your flat screen TV mounted on a wall.

Unless the HDMI ports are on the side of the TV, there will often be no room between the back of the TV and the wall itself to plug in your cable. Oops.

Drum roll please. Step forward, the life-saving right-angle HDMI adapter!

HDMI 90 Degree/Right Angle Adapter HDMI 90 Degree/Right Angle Adapter

This useful little device will connect on the end of your existing HDMI cable and create a 90 degree connector - thus allowing you to plug in the cable even in the tightest of areas.

If you are really on-the-ball (and I don't doubt it for a minute), and know that you are going to run into this issue beforehand, then you can also buy HDMI cables with a right-angle connection already fitted on the end, thus saving the added expense of buying adapters.

Can I connect HDMI to VGA?

It's your lucky day, indeed you can.

If you have a device with an HDMI output, like a laptop for example, and you need to connect it to a projector that only has a VGA input - then on the face of it you're a little bit stuck.

However, thanks to the wonders of modern science, there's a fairly easy solution to the problem. There are a number of HDMI to VGA converters available that will suck in the HDMI signal and spit it out disguised as VGA.

Did I mention I'm not too technical?

HDMI to VGA Adapter/Converter

All you need to do is plug the HDMI connection into the HDMI output of your laptop (or whatever device you need to send the signal from), and then connect the VGA into your display device - be that a projector or TV for example.

The model above supports resolutions up to 1920x1080 at 60Hz, and also comes with an external power supply which can be useful if you are connecting to a device that is low powered.

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