HDMI Cable Scams

As part of the ongoing setup of my new work laptop, I had to get an HDMI cable to connect my laptop to my monitor. We ended up with a reasonably low-cost one from an online vendor. When it arrived, I was surprised to see the cable’s packaging claim that the cable “drastically reduces signal distortion” by using silver-plated, oxygen-free solid-copper conductors.

Right, see, that’s a load of crap. Let’s start with the fact that HDMI signals are digital. The signal is a series of voltage changes indicating ones and zeros. What does it mean to “reduce signal distortion”? That cheap cables send 0.8s instead of 1s? And oxygen-free copper? Yes, oxygen turns copper green and flaky, but cables don’t oxidize, especially now that they’re wrapped in a snuggly blanket of foam polyethylene dielectrics. Using oxygen-free copper over regular copper buys you nothing. Or as a friend of mine sarcastically said, “Yeah, the 1’s in binary are scientifically proven to prefer copper with extra oxygen.”

Expensive audio cables are notoriously burdened with mystical woo-woo explanations of how they prevent analog signal distortion, when the truth is that you’d do just as well with lamp cord. Now that hand-wavy approach has apparently spread to video cables, and done so in the digital realm, where the vague tissue of plausibility regarding distortion doesn’t apply.

It gets worse when you realize how much mark up stores add to cable prices. We saw this back when Misty worked for Apple while based in a CompUSA. CompUSA gave her access to employee discounts. We could buy most things from them for some 5% over cost. Looking at the store’s cost for cables versus what they were charging the public was eye-opening.

You need HDMI or DVI cables? Go to some place like Monoprice. They’ll sell you six feet of HDMI cable for under $13. Heck, even Apple (!) will sell you a six foot HDMI cable for $20. For comparison, Best Buy will happily sell you a six foot HDMI cable for $60. If you’re really looking to be fleeced, they’ll sell you a 4 foot Monster cable for $80.

I know which one I’d go for.

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