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HDMI Cables Start Reaching Longer Lengths Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 June 2005
HDMI is one of the hottest features in all of home theater these days. A single cable that can carry uncompressed, high definition, multi-channel digital audio and gigabit HD video is the kind of simplicity that mainstream consumers have always wished for in their HDTV home theater systems. Receiver and AV preamp companies are scurrying to add HDMI switching to their components as quickly as possible. Up until recently, HDMI and its earlier cousin DVI, had problems in the practical world. While HDMI copper cables are simple to connect and offer a relatively affordable way to pass gigabit HD content as resolute as 1080p to your HDTV system, none of them work reliably past about 15 feet. DVI cables (which can be used with connectors and adaptors) could go as far as about 30 feet, but beyond that is where the problems come. This has historically forced custom installers, mass market TV resellers and home theater retailers to stick with traditional component cables for long HD runs, despite the fact that copper wire can’t always pass a full bandwidth 1080p signal. There are exceptions to the 15 and 30-foot rule, but up until now, many installers have been a bit hesitant to embrace HDMI cables that were longer than a few meters.

Some new players in the market have dealt with this length issue for HDMI cables. One of the most affordable solutions comes from Ultralink, which has a 45-foot copper HDMI cable that can be converted for DVI connections between your video display device (projector, big screen, plasma, LCD) and your HD receiver. Video guru, William Phelps, tested these cables connected using an adapter at even longer lengths with no noticeable loss of signal. Dtrovision, a new player in the market, offers hybrid cables that use both copper and fiber optics for a complete DVI connection that they claim is lossless over runs pushing 495 ft. feet. They also offer fiber optic HDMI cable systems as well as switching devices that have become popular for people trying to integrate more than one HDMI source into a system without a receiver, AV preamp or display that offers multiple HDMI input switching..

This newly found length deals with the reliability problems that HDMI has struggled with in its early stages. With Blu-ray and HD-DVD looming, 1080p video content is likely not more than a year to 18 months away. With systems like Meridian’s internal video processor and DVDO’s affordable outboard video processor currently available, upscaled 1080p is already here.

Don’t expect satellite providers and cable companies to quickly adopt 1080p as a format. History tells us that they side with more channels over better-looking channels. And who can blame them at this point? You don’t hear too many customers calling up to complain that HDNet looks crappy – and for good reason. It looks great in 1080i. Even with MPG4 compression coming on the new DirecTV satellites in the next year or so, I don’t expect them to adopt 1080p as their standard right away, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth wiring your HDTV for the future with an HDMI cable, be it copper for short runs or fiber optics for long distance connections.

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