Does Length Matter with HDMI Cables?

You may have heard that longer HDMI cables can be problematic. A few seconds of shopping will reveal that longer HDMI cables are more expensive. Does that mean that they are somehow better? Or are shorter cables the best? If you want the best picture quality, do you need to worry about the length of your HDMI cable? Let’s discuss!

Perceived Problem

If you are familiar with running analogue cables, you know that cables can affect the quality of what goes through them. A speaker cable, if it is of the wrong gauge and long enough, can affect the audio quality. Composite and component video cables, if not properly shielded, could pick up interference. Surely the same could be true for HDMI.

The obvious solution is the shortest possible cable. The shorter the cable, the less likely it will have a problem. The signal doesn’t have to go as far, there is less chance for outside interference, and they cost less. So when shopping for an HDMI cable, you should look for the shortest length possible. Right?

It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing…

Digital is Not Analogue

Digital is much different than analogue. With an analogue signal, you can experience audio or video degradation with a poor or overly long cable. Digital is not like that. Because the signal is sent through in ones and zeros, the playback device will either be able to decode it or it won’t. The vast majority of the time, your HDMI cable will either work, or it won’t. There is no “better” HDMI picture. There is either a picture that looks exactly as it should or there is no picture.

Buying a shorter HDMI cable doesn’t really give you a better picture than a longer one. The length of the HDMI cable only makes the manufacturing process easier. The longer HDMI cables are more difficult for manufacturers to make and therefore are more expensive.

How to Shop

When shopping for HDMI cables, there are a few things to consider. If you have a newer gaming console (an Xbox Series X or PS5) or gaming PC, you’ll need an HDMI cable that is Ultra High Speed Certified. If you are viewing 4k and/or HDR content but don’t need the gaming features of HDMI 2.1, you’ll need an HDMI cable that is Premium High Speed Certified. In both cases, the HDMI cable has been tested and certified to pass content at the given length. HDMI.org has a complete list of the different HDMI cables and their capabilities here.

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