Updated: Oct 9, 2017

HDMI Guide - What is HDMI?

What is HDMI? HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. HDMI was created (2003) in response to the massive new digital audio and video data needs associated with HDTVs. Regular cable simply brought regular, low resolution content into your TV via a cable instead of over the air -- the picture and sound was no better than that of 1970, you just got more variety and less static. Next, DVDs brought digital video and audio to our TVs -- they looked better than regular TV (though still low resolution) and included Dolby Digital surround sound. Only in the last few years has there been a lot of HD (Hi-Definition) content available for viewing, both in the form of HD DVDs (Blu-ray is the standard now) and digital cable and satellite (which mix both HD and non-HD programming). Basically, HDMI is a standard, or agreed upon language, for sending HD signals between devices, whether between DVD player and TV, or cable box and TV, or game console and TV. HDMI replaces older connection methods like coaxial cable, RCA component cables (the ones with the red, black, and white ends) and S-Video (usually the yellow cable) and DVI (digital visual interface, looks more like a computer monitor cable) -- so what used to take a few cables and connections can now be done with a single cable. A few different versions of HDMI have evolved over the years, starting with HDMI 1.1 (referred to as HDMI 1), moving to HDMI 1.2 (referred to as 2), and now, the HDMI 1.3 (referred to as HDMI 3) standard, which is backwards compatible with 1 and 2.

When using HDMI cables, you'll get the best results when connecting 1080p HD sources like Blu-ray DVD players (which have a 6+Gbps date transfer rate), PS3 game consoles (which have integrated Blu-ray drives), and XBox 360 (Elite) game consoles to your HDTV and AV receiver. If you've got digital cable or satellite TV, more that likely your HD programming is in either 720p or 1080i HD format, one step below the full 1080p standard. These formats have lower speed data transfer needs - about 2.2Gbps, but HDMI cables still give you the best picture and sound quality, all in a single cable. For standard DVD players and non-digital cable, you don't need to worry about using fancy HDMI cables -- the plain old co-axial, RCA component, or S-Video cables work fine.

Best HDMI Cables - Monster HDMI Cables

Like most products, HDMI cables come in a variety of sizes, feature-sets, and price ranges. One of the biggest names in the cable and wiring industry is Monster (for almost 30 years). Their gold-plated wires and cables are legendary for high-end perfomance and are recommened by most audio and videophiles. They get complaints from users that their cables are expensive, but they never get complaints that their cables don't provide optimum HD performance, which is what most of us are after. So when it comes to buying HDMI cables, you have to decide how much you want to spend. If you're shelling out a couple thousand bucks on a home entertainment system, then another $100-$200 on high-tech cabling really isn't outrageous (though there are cheaper cables out there). Monster offers a variety of HDMI cables to fit various needs and budgets.
  • The basic is the Standard Speed 500HD - It has corrosion resistant 24K gold contacts like most Monster cables, and is designed for NON 1080p HD signals (720p, 1080i, digital cable and satellite). You can get it in sizes ranging from 1m to 6m (prices range from $50-$125 MSRP). We compared prices at 5 different online electronics resellers and found that they all sold at MSRP.
  • Monster High Speed HDMI Cable 700HD - these cables handle full 1080p HD signals, ranging in length from 1m to 50 feet ($70-$299 in price).
  • Monster 800 HD Advanced High Speed HDMI Cable - includes full 1080p support plus 7.1 lossless digital surround sound and 12-bit color (Dolby DTS-HD), for better sound and graphics (1-6m lengths, $80-$200 MSRP).
  • Monster 1000HD Ultra-High Speed HDMI Cable - for the largest HDTVs and projectorsm, same features as 800 plus 120Hz refresh rate (1m - 75 feet, $100 - $700)
RECOMMENDED: For most users, you really don't need anything more than the 700HD cables for full 1080p HD -- you really aren't going to see or hear much more by buying the more expensive cables. If you are the type that needs the best of everything, then by all means buy the top of the line cables -- the rest of us, let's stick with the Monster 500HD HDMI Cables (for non-1080p) or Monster 700HD HDMI Cables (1080p).

HDMI to DVI Adapters - DVI to HDMI Adapters - HDMI Splitters

How can I connect an HDMI cable to a DVI TV? Many older HDTVs have DVI jacks instead of HDMI. You can still connect HDMI cables to these TV by using and HDMI to DVI adapter. You can get adapters that go either way -- from HDMI to DVI or from DVI to HDMI. Keep in mind that DVI handles only video signals, so you'll need extra audio cables to get to or from the HDMI source (which carries both audio and video). These HDMI adapters cost around $10-$25. You'll find many HDMI DVD players that upconvert video to near HD quality -- with an HDMI connector, they are easy to cable into your HDTV that has an HDMI connector, just connect each end and that's it (unless of course you are sending surround sound through your AV tuner, then you connect the DVD player to the tuner, and the tuner to the TV).