Everything You Need to Know About HDMI Cable Types

Are all HDMI cables the same?

HDMI Cable Assortment
HDMI.org

HDMI cables are the primary way to connect devices in a TV or home theater set up. HDMI cables can pass video, audio, and limited control signals.

Devices that may have HDMI connections include:

  • TVs, Video Projectors, PC Monitors
  • DVD, Blu-ray, Ultra HD players
  • Cable/Satellite Boxes and DVRs
  • Home Theater Receivers
  • Media Streamers
  • Game Consoles 
  • PCs/Laptops
  • Select Digital Cameras, Camcorders, and Smartphones
Home Theater Receiver HDMI Connections Example
Onkyo USA

HDMI Cable Types

HDMI cables provide different capabilities depending on their signal transfer speed (bandwidth) and the HDMI version they are associated with. 

For full details on the features of each HDMI version, refer to our companion article "What is HDMI? – Versions 1.0 through 2.1 Explained"

Here are the different types of HDMI cables.

Standard HDMI Cable: These cables are designed for common HDTV broadcast, cable, and satellite TV resolutions (up to 720p and 1080i) with bandwidth capacity up to 5 Gbps – Optimized for HDMI versions 1.0 to 1.2a.

Standard Automotive HDMI Cable: This cable type has the same capabilities as a standard HDMI cable, but is used to connect portable or in-car DVD players and other devices to in-car video displays. Extra shielding is also provided to suppress interference from other car electrical systems and wiring.

High-Speed HDMI Cable: This type of cable is designed to handle video resolutions of 1080p and 4K (30Hz) as well as providing support for 3D, and Deep Color. Bandwidth transfer speeds up to 10 Gbps are supported – Optimized for HDMI versions 1.3 to 1.4a.

High-Speed Automotive HDMI Cable: This type supports the same features as High-Speed HDMI cables but is optimized for the automotive environment.

Premium High-Speed HDMI Cable: This cable type is designed for reliable transfer of 4K/UltraHD resolution video, including 4K/60 Hz, HDR, and expanded color range. Cable bandwidth support is 18 Gbps and is optimized for HDMI versions 2.0/a/b.

Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable: This cable type includes all of the capabilities of the others with added support for 8K video with HDR. It supports up to 48 Gbps bandwidth (transfer speed) and is less susceptible to EMI (electromagnetic interference) caused by some wireless devices. This cable type is optimized for HDMI version 2.1.

HDMI Connector Types
HDMI.org

HDMI Cables with Ethernet Built-in: There are also Standard, High-Speed, Premium High-Speed, and Ultra High-Speed HDMI cables that may support an additional HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC). This is designed to allow multiple HDMI-connected devices to share a single traditional Ethernet connection to a broadband router at speeds up to 100 Mb/sec. However, this feature is not normally implemented on devices.

Ethernet Over HDMI Illustration
HDMI.org

HDMI Connector Types

In addition to cables, there are four types of HDMI end-connectors, depending on the application. 

Regular Size (Type A): An HDMI cable with a regular size connector is typically used to connect source devices, such as DVD/Blu-ray/Ultra HD players, computers, media streamers, cable/satellite boxes, and video game consoles to TVs, video projectors, and home theater receivers. 

HDMI 2.1 Connection Cable Example
Accell Cables

Mini Size (Type C): HDMI cables with mini connectors are used on DSLR cameras and standard sized tablets. The end that connects to the camera or tablet is a mini HDMI connector, while the other end of the cable is a standard size connector that plugs into a TV, PC monitor, or video projector. 

HDMI and HDMi Mini Comparison
Accell Cables

Micro Size (Type D): Micro HDMI is used on smaller portable devices such as digital cameras, smartphones, and smaller tablets. A micro HDMI cable has the micro connector on one end and a standard size HDMI connector on the other. 

HDMI and HDMI Micro Comparison
Accell Cables

Automotive (Type E): There is a special connector for Automotive HDMI cables. 

HDMI Cable Example with Type E Connector
Amazon

Combining HDMI with Select Non-HDMI Connections

HDMI can also be used in combination with other types of connections. For example, there are HDMI/DVI, HDMI/Display Port, HDMI/USB-C, and HDMI/MHL adapter connectors and cables should you need those options. 

More HDMI Cable Features to Consider

HDMI cables may also include additional features designed to improve signal transfer between devices.

Passive HDMI Cables: Most HDMI cables are passive, one end into a source, the other to a home theater receiver or video display, and the signal is transferred. The cable is also bi-directional, meaning you can connect either end to an HDMI input or output connection. Passive HDMI cables should be able to provide a stable signal for lengths of up 15 feet.

Active (Amplified) HDMI Cables: Longer HDMI cable lengths may require an added boost to transfer a stable signal. Active HDMI cables contain amplification circuitry inside one of the connection heads. In most cases, power is provided internally, but you may run into an active cable that connects an external power source via a small cable that connects from one of the HDMI connector-ends to a USB power or AC adapter power source. 

Optical HDMI Cables: In a similar manner as digital optical audio connections, optical HDMI cables transfer signals via fiber optic cable, in this case both video, and audio. Optical HDMI cables have the same types of connection ends as other HDMI cables. An optical HDMI cable can be made very thin but can transfer stable signals over a much longer distance than other HDMI cables without the need for external power.

Active and Optical HDMI Cables are directional. This means one end is labeled source or 1 and the other end will be labeled TV or 2. The cable has to be connected in the proper direction in order to work.

There are also other ways to transfer an HDMI signal across long distances using both wired and wireless solutions

HDMI Cable Buying Tips

  • Buy cables with the right connector for your device(s).
  • Buy the right cable length. Don't buy a cable that is too long, but you want to make sure that the length isn't so short that it will not allow you to move components enough to provide easy connection access. 
  • Don't pay more than you have to. Don't pay $100 or more for a 6-foot HDMI cable. Price does not always reflect HDMI cable quality. You don't want to buy inferior cables, but if the packaging has an official certification logo, they will work with reference to the other specifications listed. There are good quality HDMI cables priced as low as $10 for 6 feet. If you buy online go through a reputable site such as Amazon, Accell, Monoprice, or CablestoGo.

Premium High and Ultra Hi-Speed Cables will be priced higher.

HDMI Premium Certified Package Label
HDMI Licensing
  • Buy HDMI cables that support the capabilities of your devices. For example, if you have or upgrade to a 4K TV/video projector, home theater receiver, and Ultra HD Blu-ray and/or streaming player, make sure all the HDMI cables used between those devices are Premium-rated high-speed cables.
  • Know what to do if you run into HDMI connection problems.

You can use older HDMI components with newer components, you just won't be able to access newer HDMI features (depending on what the manufacturer chooses to include into a specific product).