Why Doesn’t My Long HDMI Cable Work?

It happens all the time. You have a home theater system that works just fine. Maybe for years, it has been chugging along without a problem. But suddenly, it doesn’t. You no longer have a picture! You didn’t change anything (or maybe you did, we’ll get to that). Why would it change? You run to the interwebs and they tell you your HDMI cable is the culprit. It is too long, they say. Why would your long HDMI cable not work? Let’s discuss.

You Didn’t Change Anything

It happens that you can not change a thing and your system can run into issues. It might not make sense until you think about all the gear you are using. If you are just using your TV and maybe a cable box (hello boomer), then chances are you’d be fine. But you aren’t. You are using a game console or a streaming box. You are streaming content from apps that auto-update. When they update, they may get access to higher-quality streams and better audio. Suddenly, your HDMI cable is being asked to pass along more data than it ever had before. And it can’t.

On top of that, are you SURE you didn’t change anything? You didn’t add a new box to your system? You didn’t upgrade your Internet speed? Did you change your streaming service’s settings or plan? There are a lot of changes you could have made that you might not realize could affect your system.

Why Long HDMI Cables Fail to Work

The real problem with long HDMI cables is the bandwidth. Devices that are passing through a 1080p image require a minimum of 4.95 Gbps. For a 4k movie, that jumps up to 18Gbps. If you are gaming at 4k/120Hz with VRR and ALLM, you might need up to 40Gbps. The requirements, you can see, are staggeringly different.

What this means is that your long HDMI cable that worked just fine at one resolution can fail completely at another. If your new box or streaming tier changed the resolution it is sending, your existing cable might not be up to the task. You could buy a new cable or…

Dial Back the Resolution

While this might be anathema to the videophiles out there, you can make your existing long HDMI cable work again simply by changing the video settings. Reducing the refresh rate is a good place to start. Sure, you may want to game in 120Hz, but it’ll be a lot easier to game with a picture you can see. Reducing it back to 60Hz will do that for you.

Also, look for the chroma sub-sampling setting. The max (which takes up the most bandwidth) is 4:4:4. Reducing it to 4:2:0 can save a lot of bandwidth (reduces color information by 75%) without altering the image you see. Most likely, text on top of a flat color will have some artifacting. Honestly, that’s not too much to ask for being able to see an image without buying a new cable.

It’s Not ANY of That!

But you are SURE you didn’t change anything. This isn’t a bandwidth issue. Everything is exactly as it was and suddenly things aren’t working. What is it?

It’s the connection.

The problem with HDMI is the connection. The HDMI group, in all their wisdom, decided to make a connection that wasn’t locking and required friction to remain secure. If your cable is entering your device at an angle, or the cable is weighing on the connector, this can cause problems. Most commonly the connection will loosen over time. Normally, buying another cable will solve the issue. Sometimes, the port will have become damaged necessitating either using a different port or some sort of repair. Again, replacing the cable is often the solution.

Of course, this can happen with short HDMI cables as well as long. But short HDMI cables are cheap so people usually have another lying around and swap it out. They don’t go online asking about short HDMI cables because they solved the problem. Long HDMI cables, on the other hand, are expensive and are often difficult to replace. People want a solution that doesn’t require a new cable. Alas, there usually isn’t one.

Buy a New Cable

If you want to enjoy your high framerate and image without any compromise, you’ll need to upgrade your HDMI cable. Even long HDMI cables can work, you just need to look for the correct certification. Right now, the highest certification is Ultra High Speed from the HDMI group. Look for their logo and hologram so that you can buy with confidence.

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