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Save your money: You don't need fancy "HDMI 1.4" cables for 3D TV

Consumer Reports News: March 23, 2010 11:02 AM

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If you're shopping for one of the new 3D TVs or Blu-ray players we've been writing about, the sales rep may say you need a new, higher-bandwidth HDMI cables to go along with your purchase. But don't be led astray: there's no such thing as an "HDMI 1.4 cable," and chances are that you can use the HDMI cables you have now. Any high-speed HDMI cable is sufficient for sending and receiving 3D video streams.

Some of the confusion stems from the fact that 3D TVs and Blu-ray players have newer HDMI 1.4 connections. In an earlier blog, I discussed what the new HDMI 1.4 specification added, primarily new Ethernet and Audio Return channels, plus support for 3D technology, higher 4K (4,000 x 2,000) resolutions, expanded color gamuts, and new automotive connections. The 3D portion of the spec helped define the common 3D formats and resolutions (including support for dual-stream 1080p), and standardized the inputs and outputs so that any manufacturer's 3D Blu-ray player would work on another brand's 3D TV, and vide versa. (A subsequent addition to the standard, called HDMI 1.4a, adds mandatory support for several 3D formats by broadcasters.)

But contrary to what you may have read or been told, you don't need special "HDMI 1.4 cables," and frankly you shouldn't be able to buy one, because cable manufacturers are prohibited from marketing cables as such. Instead, cable marketers must label their cables using one of five new logos: HDMI Standard, HDMI High Speed, HDMI Standard with Ethernet, HDMI High Speed with Ethernet, and HDMI Standard Automotive.

If you want to connect a new 3D Blu-ray player to a new 3D TV, you'll just need a high-speed HDMI cable, which is already recommended for connecting 1080p TVs and Blu-ray players. (HDMI Standard cables are generally sufficient for handling video with up to 720p or 1080i resolutions.) And you don't have to pay a lot to get a good high-speed HDMI cable: You can buy a 6-foot cable for less than $10 from an online retailer such as Monoprice.com or Blue Jeans Cable.

So until there are new TVs or Blu-ray players that will let you combine audio/video and Internet connections via a single cable—which will require a High Speed with Ethernet cable—most of us can use the HDMI cables we already own to connect our new 3D gear. And don't let anyone tell you—or sell you—otherwise.

James K. Willcox

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