A lot of industries are now trying to capitalize on the new 4K hype since the terms "4K" and "Ultra High Definition" have become so popular in the past few years. The 4K TV sets for home cinema is a new standard, 4K displays for personal computers getting more and more popular, and there are also things like a 4K HDMI Cable. But do you actually need those ones?

How Do I Know If HDMI Cable Is High Speed?

The Technical Hurdles 4K creates for HDMI Cables

Such abbreviations like 4K, Ultra High Definition, Ultra HD, UHD, and 2160p have now become ubiquitous. But not everybody knows that all of these terms means the same thing. They all refer to 2160p picture resolution. A typical 4K TV has a display resolution of 3840x2160. For reference, a standard full HD TV's have a resolution of 1920x1080. Accordingly such large data amounts require appropriate hardware.

It's not only the TV set that must support this ultra high resolution, but also all of the other video components such as graphic cards and software must be able to handle such huge amounts of information. 4K ready HDMI cables are a key to providing the data as the serial interface between the image signal source and the high resolution television set.

Does all HDMI Cables support 4K Ultra HD video

The short answer is no, not every HDMI Cable supports 4k quality. But luckily the vast majority of cables that are on sale today are HDMI 2.0 or higher and they already support 4k resolution. Just make sure to check if they are classified as HDMI High Speed cables.

After the version numbering for the TV HDMI cables was dropped a few years ago, HDMI cables are now only classified as either Standard HDMI cables or High Speed HDMI Cables. The difference between them is their maximum transfer rate (i.e. bandwidth).

Standard HDMI Cable has a 1,8 GBit/s of bandwidth, while High Speed HDMI Cable has almost four times that at 8,16 GBit/s. That means that High Speed HDMI cables transfer a lot more data at the given time than Standard HDMI Cables. Most of the HDMI cables which you can buy in the tech stores today are High Speed HDMI Cables anyway, so just watch out for the term HDMI High Speed on the HDMI cable itself or somewhere on the cable package.

The HDMI High Speed specification was introduced with 4k bandwidth in mind. All HDMI cables that have the HDMI High Speed Logo have the support of the HDMI 2.0 specification and will transmit ultra high resolutions with 2160p at 24 Hz, which is called 4k. The HDMI Licensing Org. said explicitly that all High Speed HDMI cables will support 4K functionality when they are connected to 4K devices. In return this means that the majority of HDMI cables which are not explicitly called “High Speed” cables do not properly support the 4K resolution.

Do HDMI High Speed Cables Provide As Much Bandwidth As Needed for HDMI 2.0 Specification?

The cables marked as HDMI High Speed cables have a maximum bandwidth of 8,16 GBitps. HDMI 2.0, however, requires much higher bandwidth of 18 GBitps. So what does that mean? The HDMI Organisation explains that the HDMI 2.0 specification defined a new, more efficient signaling method, that allows to transmit signal at speeds above 1.4b limits (10.2Gbps), providing higher bandwidths (up to 18Gbps) over current High Speed HDMI Wire Cables.

This means that when you buy an HDMI High Speed Cable today you can be sure that it will support 4k resolution, but not necessarily the  tomorrow’s high bandwidth requirements of HDMI 2.0.

How can I recognize a high Speed HDMI Cable in the Store?

If you want to buy an HDMI cable that supports Ultra HD 4K resolution, you just have to look for the "HDMI High Speed" Logo on the cable’s packaging.

Most cables themself usually do not carry that logo but should still read the claim “HDMI High Speed”. If you want to be sure that the cable will support high resolution of your TV Set you might want to shop a new HDMI cable with explicitly defined HDMI High Speed support.

Pretty much all HDMI cables provide the same display quality, except for the suspiciously cheap and counterfeit ones, so you don’t need to worry too much while choosing a new cable. As long as it has the high speed logo and has a reasonable price, everything will be fine.

Old HDMI Versions vs. HDMI 4K Support Cables

The 4K resolution support was first introduced with HDMI version 1.4, but you can only be sure with cables explicitly marked as "High Speed" to support the high bandwidth requirements needed for new 4k TV sets. Cables classified as Version 1.3 mostly don't provide any HDMI 4K functionality. The following list will give you a rough idea of what capabilities every HDMI version provides.

  • HDMI cable 1.0 – 1.2: no any kind of 4K Ultra HD support
  • HDMI cable 1.3: most likely will have no 4K support, but that depends on the cable
  • HDMI cable 1.4: 4K support very likely and suggested by its specification, but not fully guaranteed
  • HDMI High Speed Cable: 4K Ultra HD support guaranteed and will provide the proper image quality for your 4k TV set.

There are also the newest 4k 120hz displays which require HDMI 2.1 to use all of their capabilities.

Final Thoughts

There is no need for a 4K HDMI Cable or other marketing tricks if you choose High Speed. Don’t let yourself be fooled by stores or cable merchants with expensive Ultra High Definition or “4K HDMI Cables”. There are no such specifications and it's just a marketing trick. 

Simply go for a reasonably priced HDMI High Speed Cable and save your money. High Speed Cables provide full compatibility for current and for future 4k content. The image quality will be the same. You don’t need to buy any new advertised fancy cable hardware.