HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) cables are the must-have interconnection for the HD era. This streamlined high-tech system effectively replaces the old analogue SCART and supersedes separate component video and digital audio connections in one cable.
The specification has been evolving since launch and now stands at version 1.3. Most current HDMI cables should meet the v1.3 criteria, so even if you upgrade your hardware, good quality HDMI wiring should still be fine. It's important to know if your cables can cope with high-bandwidth 1080p video signals, particularly if you need several metres' worth.
Compatibility issues aside, a controversial aspect is that some people believe all HDMI cables are the same because they deal with digital signals that will either work perfectly or not at all. We put this to the test with a real-world trial. We used an HD DVD player, a 42in HD plasma TV and nine HDMI cables costing various amounts, taking price into consideration only after checking for picture quality. Can you really see a difference between them?
Price: From £32.60 for 0.5m to £228.44 for 15m More info: Better Cables Key features: 1080p compatible up to 15m; v1.3 compliant; triple shielded; precision silver-coated conductors; protective nylon braid
The BetterCables brand uses large silver conductors to minimise resistance and, it's claimed, reduce the chance of digital dropouts that the cheaper cables can introduce. The Silver Serpent is also triple shielded to protect from interference, which can still affect a digital signal to some extent. Either way, the results are noticeably good, especially for colour fidelity, with superbly natural skin tones and subtlety in detail.
Sturdy cable; meets the full HDMI spec; pleasant picture quality Minus points
Relatively expensive compared to some high end cables
Price: From £84.95 for 1.5m to £695 for 40m (with inline amplification) More info: Chord Company Key features: 1080p compatible up to 40m; v1.3 compliant; gold-plated contacts, PVC outer jacket, heavy gauge silver-plated oxygen-free copper conductors
Chord has just updated its award-winning Silver Plus HDMI cable with a v1.3 compliant edition. Handmade in England and comparable to the Supra model in build quality, this is a seriously good upgrade that builds on the already fine reputation of the previous Silver Plus. Pictures appear smooth, pristine and noise-free, contrast and detail are superbly defined and the colours are gorgeous, rich and natural. Overall, it's a powerful route to near-perfect pictures.
Very well made; superb picture quality that cannot be faulted Minus points
Not the cheapest but you do get what you pay for here
Price: From £79.99 for 1m to £219.99 for 15m More info: IXOS Key features: 1080p compatible up to 15m; v1.3 compliant; high-grade conductors; patented 4-layer PC board to stabilise impedance; cast metal plug; protective nylon braid
The IXOS 1080p and HDMI v1.3 compatible cable is a solidly built item with cast metal plugs and nylon braid cable protection. Besides the expected clean outlines and minimal picture noise that you get with good HDMI connections, the contrast is particularly vibrant using the XHT458. It's ideal if you like more naturalistic hues as its colour reproduction does not seem quite as warm as with some of the cables here.
Robust construction; excellent contrast Minus points
Expensive; colour reproduction might be a tad cold for some tastes