HDMI cables are a critical connection that’s carrying the high-quality video and audio signals.  You need them to work without issues if you want to make the whole setup work. So it's important to know if the length of HDMI cables is going to have an effect on the quality.

The extra length of an HDMI cable can have a degrading effect on signal quality, that's why manufacturers typically do not recommend cables with over 20 feet of length. Most people usually won’t need more than 6 feet of cable, but, in case you need to run HDMI further than that, there are several options for extending the length and preserving the signal quality at the same time.

What Length HDMI Cable Should I Buy?

What is the Maximum Optimal Length for an HDMI Cable?

There actually could be a lot of answers out there to this simple question, and all of them are somewhat vague. Without going into more details than would be useful, just know that the term HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface), actually refers to a cable specification, and you can use a certain set of tests to see if a cable passes the certification for that cable spec. So, you could take a cable and run those tests in order to see if it meets it’s specification.

Usually what would make a cable fail it’s specification tests is the degradation of the signal while it travels down the cable. The longer a cable is, the more the signal is changing as it travels and the shorter a cable is, the less noticeable the degradation is. So, it's easy to guess that short cables are good, and an excessively long cable is bad. Now let's talk about the cables that are in between.

Most manufacturers sell HDMI cables with up to 50 feet in length. But that doesn't mean that 50 feet is the maximum possible length. The signal will degrade over the length of the cable, but the cable itself won't stop working, it’s just the signal on the other end will get worse and worse. Most manufacturers usually do not recommend going over 20 feet without the use of some powered solution (we’ll get to that later). So, while technically there is no maximum length, you still should think of 20 feet as the maximum optimal length.

What Are the Powered HDMI Cable Solutions

If you need a longer cable and you’re not trying to use it, for instance, to send 4k video to your TV,  then you can probably just use a longer cable without experiencing any ill effects. So a 50 ft HDMI cable can get the job done without any extra effort.

But if the quality of the signal is important, for example if you want to use 4k resolution or high refresh rate display, you can consider getting a powered HDMI kit that extends the signal significantly by boosting it or even converting it to another format entirely. The most popular methods are boosting the signal with a balun kit, or building a wireless system and cutting the cable out altogether.

Use an HDMI Balun Kits to Easily Extend the Length of your HDMI Cable

The HDMI Balun kit is the type of an HDMI cable extenders, which extends the signal distance by converting the HDMI signal to something that can move along a CAT 5 cable, which have less restricted length limitations. At the other end of that cable is another comforter which brings the signal back to HDMI.

CAT 5 cable has a theoretical length limit of a hundred meters or 328 feet. So using this type of HDMI extenders can exponentially increase the length of an HDMI connection and get it to any place you may need it.

However you should keep in mind that not all HDMI balun kits are delivering this promise. If you buy a really cheap balun kit, you might run into the same kind of issues as using an extremely long HDMI cable, specifically lower image quality and minor artifacts.

Wireless HDMI Kits are a Different Solution for Cable Length problems

You can also try using a completely wireless HDMI kit, which has benefits of not only extending the range but also removing some of the lengthy cabling entirely. This approach can be pretty expensive if you need to send a high quality 4k video, or instead very approachable if you’re only sending a 1080p video. There are also some complications with refresh rate and input lag, which makes it a really poor choice for gaming.

What Matters When You Buying a Cable

First of all you should watch out for sellers charging a premium for “gold plated connectors” or “braided cords”, as neither of those things really matter to the signal strength, and they’re only used to pump the price up. Sellers will often use such words as “advanced” in the title of their cables, or “high speed”, which are not technical details, but just some buzzwords to try and make their product sell for more.

The “HD” label that manufacturers often use is also completely redundant, as all HDMI cables are inherently HD as their name suggests. One important label to look for is “4k”, if that’s what you need, and also a reference to shielded cables. These cables will perform better than unshielded, in general, but technically all cables are shielded, it’s just that some manufacturers might add some extra shielding.

Does the HDMI cable quality even matter?

In the end it all comes down to video quality. Even if the signal is degraded, but you’re running a standard quality 720p or 1080p video like streaming from Netflix, it may just not matter at all. If you just want a long HDMI cable hookup for watching standard quality video there’s a chance that you don’t need to worry about any of this and a simple cable will be enough. But if you bought a top of the line 4k TV, you will have to make sure the video quality is going to actually be as good as possible.