HDMI 101: The Staple of Home Entertainment Systems

HDMI 101: The Staple of Home Entertainment Systems

The days of analog are over. Now, almost all audiovisual electronic devices can produce hi-def sound or picture quality. And, in order to transfer HD data, you need an HD-compatible connection. That is why we have HDMI!

What is HDMI?


HDMI stands for “high-definition multimedia interface”. HDMI cables can transfer both audio and visual information, and was specifically developed for hi-def data transfer. The specifications for HDMI first released in 2002. The current update, HDMI 2.1, release in November of 2017 and continues to be the leading industry standard for HD devices. With the latest spec standards, HDMI can support 8K60 and 4K120 refresh rates, resolutions up to 10K, and 48Gbps bandwidth.


There are many different types of HDMI connections:


  • Type A: This is the original HDMI 1.0 cable featuring 19 pins. It is the most common connection type; You probably use type a at home for your bluray player or gaming console
  • Type B: The type B connection is slightly larger than type A with 29 pins, allowing for increased bandwidth for extremely high-resolution displays. This type became obsolete after the development of the HDMI 1.3 specification.
  • 'Mini HDMI' Type C: This connector has the standard 19 pins in a smaller port for portable HD devices.
  • 'Micro HDMI' Type D: This connector was designed for small devices like smartphones and tablets, with all 19 pins in a compact connector that is even smaller than type C.
  • Type E: This is a larger connection designed specifically to prevent disconnection from vibration in automotive applications.


Additionally, all HDMI cables are available in 2 categories:


  • Category 1: This is the standard for HDMI, certified at 74.5 MHz and appropriate for almost all consumer applications.
  • Category 2: For industrial or commercial applications with high-speed requirements, category 2 HDMI is certified at 340MHz.


What is HDMI Used For?


HDMI is so widely used because of its versatility and compatibility with all types of audiovisual electronics. At this point, it is simply a staple when it comes to home entertainment. HDMI is most commonly used for these types of media devices:

  • DVD players, bluray players, and Ultra HD players
  • media streamers like the Firestick and Apple TV
  • smartphones
  • digital cameras and video cameras
  • computers and laptops
  • home theatre receivers
  • gaming consoles
  • TVs, projectors, and HD monitors and displays


Does Cable Length Matter?


One of the most common questions when it comes to HDMI cables is whether cable length impacts the connection quality. The answer is -- yes and no. The picture and sound quality itself will not degrade with cable length, but the reliability of the signal will. This means, as long as you are getting a signal, it is a high-def signal. But an excessively long cable may cause the signal to cut out intermittently, or simply not reach the final destination at all. Depending on the cable quality, you may run into connection issues with lengths of around 20 feet or more. However, if you need to run an HDMI signal over long distances, there are ways to do so.


The first is a high-quality HDMI cable. Yes, cable quality matters! Cables can be designed to protect a signal over long distances with improved electromagnetic shielding and thick gauges. A strong HDMI cable should be able to send a signal up to 50 feet. Additionally, for even longer distances, there are fiber HDMI cables. These, while more expensive, can run signals up to 100 metres. This is because fiber cables convert the HDMI signal into an optical signal and then convert it back to HDMI. This is why these cables are often referred to as 'optic' or 'fiber optic'. They do come at a cost, so long fiber optic cables are usually only used for large home theatre installations or commercial applications.


The second way to produce a reliable HDMI signal over long distances is with repeaters or boosters. These devices decode and regenerate an HDMI signal, allowing for a long-distance signal, but you need an additional HDMI cable for each extender you use.