Is the HDMI connection vastly superior to analog components?

The HDMI cables are able to transmit a clear and uncompressed digital signal at high speeds of up to 10.2 GB per second with their 1.3 versions and up. However, that should not lead you to believe that the input in the viewing area will always be superior to a digital-to-analog signaling component. Even though it can create a better display via its specific encoding and conversion methods, the end result can just as well be a totally pixilated image that you cannot make much of. The trick to attaining that true crystal clear and impeccable display also depends on the capacities of your device as well.

One of the most appreciated features of the HDMI is the CEC that enables user control over other devices connected via the remote control of, for example, the TV. However, this does not usually work very well with devices that do not include a HDMI interface. Therefore, users that have separate audio and video interfaces will either need to put some effort into adapting their system to the cables or purchase new equipment. The simplest way to make the necessary adjustments would be to purchase a cable that includes HDMI at one end and DVI at the end you connect to the device. However, even though you will obtain a better display, you will not have audio support.

It is important to note that the video signal you can get via the HDMI will have an enhanced appearance to S-video or non component video devices, in most cases. Whilst the last ones are limited to an aspect ratio of 4:3 and a resolution of 704×480 pixels, the HDMI in modern HDTVs can go as high as 16:9 aspect ratio and a 1920×1080 pixels. The reason for this is that whilst analog signals will travel as a constantly varying electrical current, the digital signals of the HDMI are commonly considered distinct electrical impulses.

Moreover, even though they are considered superior because they can transmit a full 1080p display, the truth is that you can get the same broadcasting via the component video cables, VGA and DVI as well. In addition, the length of the HDMI can pose problems when you do not choose the right bandwidth for it. Considering the information above, you simply cannot state that the HDMI is superior to other connections in all circumstances, but rather that it has some strong points in certain areas.

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Do you need an HDMI extender?

The HDMI cables are the most widely used when it comes to connecting HD equipment and they are the ones that can transmit audio and video digitally over a single cable. Despite their many advantages, they are not foolproof and if you want to link a source to an HDTV or another display over a distance of 15 meters or more, you can run into problems. The HDMI licensing does specify the maximum length of the HDMI cables, but most writers believe that a cable longer than 10 meters could cause problems and since the HDMI cables carry digital signal, the consumer will see this problem as no signal at all.

In order to connect an HDMI-enabled source such as a Blue-ray player of HD DVD player to an HDTV with an HDMI cable, where the source and the display are more than 15 meters part, you are going to need an HDMI extender. The HDMI extenders (also called amplifiers, equalizers and repeaters) use the 5V DC from the HDMI source or external power source and allow for chaining two or more HDMI cables together. There are cables with built-in boosters too, which cables could work even if they are 30 meters long and then there are Category 5 and 6-based extenders, which work in up to 250 meters distance. For commercial or private applications, where the distance is greater than 250 meters, optical-fiber based extender could be used since they could transmit the signal over 300 meters distance.

In most cases, when you try to use a very long HDMI cable, you will either see no picture at all and hear no sound or you will have pixelization. Luckily, there are quite a few companies, which offer HDMI extenders and they are not overly expensive either. These extenders cost anywhere from a few to a few hundred pounds and could help you with your home theater setup – keep in mind that the extenders still need to be powered up (higher electricity bill) and they have to be HDCP compliant if you are intending to transmit and watch HDCP content. On the other hand, they are very easy to install and in most cases, all you have to do is run one HDMI cable from the source to the extender, plug it in, then run another HDMI cable from the extender to the HDTV, turn the source the TV, and the extender on, and you are good to go!

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Is HDMI the best HDTV connectivity?

There is a countless number of TV, DVD, Blu-ray players and other electronic equipment and each one of them with their own goals and agendas, trying to push this or that technology. The complete standardization of the TV and PC video and audio formats is definitely still in the future and the consumer is left with countless choices and no direction. When it comes to setting up a home theater, you can choose to connect your equipment with DVI, HDMI, Component Video and many other cable types and even if you know what each one of them does and does not, picking the best one is still challenging. The truth is that all these interfaces have their advantages and weaknesses and for different setups, a different one might be appropriate. For instance, many people believe that they should not use Component Video since it is analog, but the analog canals are capable of transmitting a signal over much longer distance than a digital HDMI cable.

However, most people would heartily recommend HDMI cables for your home theater, and in most cases, they would be right. The HDMI cables carry digital signal, which does not require conversion and carry audio and video over a single cable, which would make your setup much neater. In addition, the latest version HDMI supports 4K × 2K resolution, which is actually not supported by any hardware yet. This means that the HDMI interface is ready for devices that are going to be manufactured in the fixture and will support newer and more bandwidth-intensive TV and PC video formats. Another advantage of the HDMI cables over other types is the fact that they support the most widely used audio codecs and formats and could help you get the best surround sound from your audio system. The only drawback of the HDMI cables seems to be the relatively short distance that they work over, but for most users this is not an issue at all. When linking a video or audio source to a TV only five or six meters apart, the HDMI cables will give you excellent quality audio and video as long as both devices are HDMI-ready. However, if you want to connect a video source, which is more than ten meters away from your TV, then you might (or might not) run into problems. A single HDMI cable should work over 10 to 15 meters distance, but longer length might require extenders or the use of active HDMI cables.

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HDMI 1.3 – everything you need to know

HDMI 1.3 was released in 2006 and it introduced a number of changes, additions, and improvements over the earlier versions. Since its first, 1.0 version, the HDMI interface and specifications have been constantly updated in order to stay abreast with the video and audio technological developments. Since the 1.3 is backward compatible with previous versions, for most users which cable version they use will make no difference.

What are the new features of HDMI 1.3?

Deep Color support – the version adds support for 30-, 36-, and 48-bit RGB (Deep Color) and even though most of the today’s displays have 24 bits RGB color depth, many of the future ones are expected to support Deep Color and when they do, the HDMI cables will be compatible with them.

Support for xvYCC – Extended-gamut YCC or xvYCC is a color space, which supports 1.8 times as large gamut as the sRGB color space.

Auto lip-sync – this feature ‘aligns” the audio and video of a movie, regardless of the way the audio is transferred and processed. For instance, if the display takes longer to process the video, then the feature will make sure that both audio and video are in perfect sync.

Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio bistream capabilities – Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio are lossless multi-channel audio codec and lossless audio codec respectively and widely used. Their support by the HDMI 1.3 ensures that the user will get the best of their audio systems.

3D over HDMI – although there is no single 3D standard yet, the 3D over HDMI capability allows the HDMI cables to be used with the most popular 3D-enabled sources and TVs. The HDMI cables are capable of transmitting the necessary bandwidth and as long as the source and the TV are compatible with the interface as well, they will ensure perfect 3D experience.

A few CEC commands were added in 1.3a, and with the release of 1.3b, 1.3b1 and 1.3c, guidelines for testing HDMI-enabled products were specified.

The latest, HDMI 1.4 version is not much different from 1.3, and it only comes with support for 4K × 2K resolution, as well as Ethernet channel and Audio return channel (ARC). None of these three features is supported by hardware yet, so they have been introduced in order to anticipate the direction that future video and audio devices are likely to take. As already mentioned, unless you need an 1.4 or 1.3 specific feature, every HDMI cable is likely to work and give you excellent picture and sound, regardless of its version.

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HDMI versus Component Video

HDMI and Component Video are two interfaces (standards), which enable users to connect various video and audio sources to TVs or other displays and build their home theatre systems. While Component Video is analog and older video standard, it is not necessarily worse than HDMI and in some situations, it could be the most appropriate one to use. The HDMI cables deliver the data digitally, the same way compeers do and when linking one digital source to a HDTV, then there is no need for this data to be converted or processed in any way. However, the HDMI cables are not designed to work over very long distance and a cable, longer than 10 meters might not deliver any picture or sound at all. Of course, this depends on a number of factors, the used video and audio source, the used display, as well as the quality of the cable itself.

It should be noted that although the HDMI has an advantage over Component Video since it delivers both video and audio over a single cable and allows for neater setups, both standards support similar video resolutions and break up the images in a similar fashion. Component Video supports both 720p resolutions and 1080i, but cannot support 1080p, which HDMI supports. For users, who are planning on watching 1080p content, the HDMI is the obvious choice, but for most users both types of cables could deliver the same experience.

However, if you have purchased most or all of your equipment in the past few months and all pieces are HDMI-ready, then is makes sense to use HDMI cables. They allow you to transmit the audio and video over a single link and enjoy excellent quality picture and sound. If you are planning to have a setup, where one of the sources is 15 or more meters away from your HDTV, then you could link two HDMI cables with the help of an HDMI switch if one cable will not work. The HDMI cables support Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio and if you want to get the best out of your audio setup and use Component Video cables, then you would have to purchase separate Optical Toslink or another audio cable. In conclusion, the equipment on the either side of the cable is often far more important than the cable itself and is the most common source of issues as well.

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HDMI explained

While most of us know well what HDMI cables are and look like, very few know that HDMI is far more than that. It specifies a number of rules that all HDMI-compliant equipment and manufacturers have to follow, aiming at making setting up a home theater system and connecting different pieces of sources and displays easy. The interface has gone through a number of versions and is keeping at pace with the development in the video and audio technology. In fact, the HDMI 1.4 not only supports virtually all PC and TV video formats, but also the most widely used audio codecs and formats as well. It also comes with features, not yet present in any equipment, but likely to be available in the devices, released in the next few months or years.

The TVs progressed from older TV sets, using the standard 4:3 format to the HDTVs, which have 16:9 native aspect ratio, faster refresh rate, and more pixels. This means that the newer HDTVs need more data, which data needs to be transferred from the source such as HD DVD players, Blu-ray player, set-top box, etc. and if this data is transferred digitally, then the display does not need to convert it. The HDMI cables meet these high bandwidth requirements and they could make quite a bit of a difference in home theatre setups. HDMI 1.4 comes with 4K × 2K resolution, DTS-HD Master Audio, and Dolby TrueHD support and it will work with virtually every setup, as long as all devices are HDMI enabled. Typically, when using HDMI cables problems could arise only if one of the devices is not HDMI-ready, when trying to watch HDCP locked content, or when trying to use very long cable. HDMI offers HDCP support, but in order to be able to watch HDCP content, the display needs to be HDCP-compliant as well. When it comes to the cables’ length, if you are trying to use cable longer than 10 meters, you might run into problems. In such case, you should look into buying active HDMI cables (with internal boosters) or purchase a repeater and chain two or more HDMI cables.

Most consumers of not need to know how the HDMI cables and devices work and they do not really have to. As long as you are connecting HDMI ready equipment like Blu-ray disk players, set-top boxes, or HD DVD players to your HDTV, you are likely to simply plug in all the cables, turn the sources and the TV on, and enjoy perfect video and sound!

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Optimal number of HDMI inputs on an HDTV

The HDMI cables are the de facto standard when it comes to home theaters and most users have long replaced their older cables with HDMI cables. In addition, almost every video and audio equipment, which has been manufactured in the past few years is HDMI-ready, making it easier to connect different sources to your TV, video projector, or other display. Most of the plasma and LCD TVs are also HDMI-ready and the latest models typically come with two or more HDMI inputs.

How many HDMI inputs do you need?

The answer is quite simply – the more, the merrier. If right now, you have only your HD DVD player connected to your HDTV, a few months from now, you might purchase a gaming console, Blu-ray disk player, or another source, which you would want to use as well. This means that if your TV has only one HDMI input, you would constantly need to unplug one of your devices and plug in the second one. Of course, instead of doing that you can always buy and use a switch and since they are relatively inexpensive, you are not going to have to spend an arm and leg on your setup either. However, the switch will have to be power too and that means yet another device that contributes to your monthly electric bill and in addition, if you are trying to transmit HDCP content, then the switch needs to be HDCP compliant as well. However, this is true for the HDMI inputs of the TV too and you should make sure that they are HDCP complaint if you want to be able to watch HDCP encrypted content.

If you are on the market for a HDTV right now, then getting one with three or more HDMI inputs is probably a wise move – you will be able to plug in your HD DVD player, gaming console, and set-up box without having to worry about unplugging and swapping cables all the time or paying for a switch. If you have only one DVD player right now, then it does not really hurt to get a TV with two or more inputs since you are likely to need that extra input sooner than you think. Since most manufacturers are quick to catch up on the latest trends, most of the available TV models are well stocked on HDMI ports and this does not inflate their price either.

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HDMI and Component Video – which one is better?

The HDMI interface allows the transition of digital audio and video over a single cable and according to many, the HDMI cables should be your first choice if you are setting up a home theater system. Since all of the latest displays and video and audio sources are HDMI-ready, connecting them with a single HDMI cable easy and far less messy. When it comes to the quality of the picture and sound, the HDMI cables do not necessarily outperform other cables, they just make your setup neater.

The main difference between the HDMI and Component Video lies in the ways they deliver the signal – HDMI is digital and Component Video is an analog format. This difference is often cited by writers, who claim that digital is always better since the analog signal is subject to degradation, but the truth is that the analog signal is rarely depreciated over short and even longer distance and most home users will obtain perfect picture even when using Component Video cables for their home theatres. While there is some truth to the assumption that using HDMI or DVI cable to link source that uses digital recording to a digital display is likely to ensure greater quality since there is no conversion, quite often the digital signals are encoded differently and scaling and processing does occur. On the other hand, using a Component Video in a setup, where a native digital display is used, the signal needs to be converted from digital to analog and this means that its quality might be altered.

One of the main disadvantages of the HDMI cables is that they cannot be run over very long distances. While the exact maximum length of the HDMI cables is not specified, most writers agree that cables, longer than 10 meters could be problematic. This depends on many different factors and for some equipment and setups, running a 15-meter HDMI cable might not be a problem at all, while in other cases, even a 6-meter cable might not work. In comparison, the analog signal can be carried over 50 to 90 meters over cables without the use of boosters. For both HDMI and Component Video cables, the quality of the cable and especially its impedance will determine if they can be used for longer distances. Most users need only short HDMI cables for their setups, but if you find yourself trying to connect source and display, which are more than 20 meters apart and want to use an HDMI cable, then you will have to buy an extender and use two or more separate cables.

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The truth about the 120 Hertz HDMI cables

Since the HDMI cables are used in almost all home theatre setups, many merchants are trying various techniques in order to sell their products. You can find cable advertised as super high speed, ultra-speed, gold, platinum, and priced at more than a hundred pounds. The truth is that in 99% of the cases, a good quality HDMI cable, which you would not pay more than twenty pounds, is likely to work just as well as the super expensive ones. The labels that some merchants use are misleading and at times, in violation of the HDMI Licensing.

Let us take a closer look at the so-called 120 Hertz HDMI cables. Every video consists of a number of frames, which are displayed quickly and they give the illusion of “moving pictures” – for instance, the video content in an NTSC-based country is shown at 30 frames per second and the video content in the PAL-based countries at 25 frames per second. However, film is recorded at 24 frames per second and in order to be displayed properly, it needs to be converted to 30 frames. This is done by using a 3:2 pulldown process. After the LCD and plasma TVs appeared, they started using a technology, which introduced the refresh rate. The refresh rate denotes the number of times a television image is reconstructed per second and the idea is that higher refresh rate delivers better quality picture. When the frames per second meet the refresh rate, things get even more confusing – for instance, a TV with 120 Hz refresh rate repeats each frame 5 times every 24th of a second in order to display 24 frames per second.

Since the 120 Hz signal has twice the frame rate of a 60 Hz signal, the consumers are misled to believe that they would need a special, 120 Hz HDMI, which is the only one that could handle the increased bandwidth. The truth is that the cable simply transfers the signal from the source (Blu-ray Disk Player, HD DVD player, etc.) to the TV and whether the TV is 120 Hz or 60 Hz, this bandwidth stays the same. Most sources have signal frame rate of 30 Hz, 60 Hz, or 24 Hz and the internal refresh rate of the TV makes no difference. With that said, what HDMI cable do you need to buy in order for your setup to work? In most cases, all you need is a good quality, 1.3 or 1.4 HDMI cable, and you definitely do not have to spend hundreds of pounds on it in order to get excellent quality picture and sound!

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HDMI version 1.4 explained

Since the first HDMI version, 1.0, HDMI has gone through 1.2 and 1.3, and quite a few sub-versions to get to the latest, version 1.4. These versions are often too confusing for the regular consumer, which is the main reason the HDMI Licensing has decided that they should no longer be used in cables or HDMI-ready devices. The truth is that for most setups, even 1.0 cable will work just fine and only a handful consumers need or care about the features, supported by the subsequent versions. The development of the HDMI interface is done in order to keep up with the latest technological developments, but many of the features that the 1.4 version supports are not supported by any hardware on the market.

What are the HDMI 1.4 only features?

Ethernet channel – the Ethernet channel allows data to be transferred from the source to the HDMI display and back at up to 100 Mb/sec speed. This feature could be useful in near future and instead of linking every single source to the Internet, only the TV could be connected and then the data could be transferred to any of the sources, connected via and HDMI cable to that TV. Of course, the wisdom behind such as setup is questionable, but the capability is certainly there – at the time of this writing, there is no hardware that supports this feature.

Another HDMI 1.4 only feature is the Audio return channel, which allows audio to be transmitted upstream and downstream – for instance, a TV with built-in DVD player could be connected to an audio system and the audio surround audio controller or A/V receiver. Since the LipSync feature, which was introduced in version 1.3, is present in 1.4, the audio remains synced to the video and ensures excellent experience.

The support for 4K × 2K resolution – the HDMI 1.4 cables support 4096×2160p24 resolution over a single link at 24-bit/px, 30-bit/px, and 36-bit/px. This is four times the 1080p resolution and it will allow home theatre users to enjoy the same quality picture, delivered by top of the line digital cinema projectors. Of course, the higher resolution also means higher bandwidth, which could be an obstacle for satellite and cable channels, as well as Internet content delivery systems.

Another feature, which was introduced with the 1.3 version, is 3D over HDMI, which is capable of supporting some of the already used 3D technologies. Even though there is no standard 3D format, the HDMI interface is ready to work with most 3D-ready hardware and is likely to be compatible with many devices, which will be manufactured in the near future.

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