HDMI cables give users a singular streamlined way to transfer audio and video between dozens of different kinds of devices.
HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface, which refers to a form of digital data transfer - a way to get an audiovisual signal from one device to another.
If you're trying to find a way to set up a new device with your TV, or share media in some other way besides casting, you've probably come across the term HDMI cable in your search.
You've also, however, probably come across the names of other cables, too - and cable combinations, device suggestions, different terms for different types of cables - overall, it can be a bit confusing to try to learn the definition of each acronym and remember the shape of their ports.
The HDMI cable is one of the most common and versatile cables out there, used for all kinds of things, from televisions to laptops to streaming devices and more. When first foraying into the world of tech accessories, this is one of the most essential ones to learn about.
What to know about HDMI cables
HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. An HDMI cable is a single cable that is able to transmit audio and video from one device to another with one of these HDMI connections, rather than the two- to three-wire combos people needed before HDMI became more common.
Types of HDMI connector cables
Is important to note that the term HDMI actually refers to the standard of data transfer, not the connector itself. While the data always transfers the same way regardless, there are three distinct types of HDMI connector cable - the only real difference between them is what devices the corresponding ports are usually found on.
Type A is the standard type of HDMI port that you find on most devices - most AV equipment, televisions, laptops, game consoles, et cetera. These are the largest connectors, roughly the same size as a USB port, just a different shape.
Type C, also referred to as Mini HDMI, is smaller and skinnier than the more chunky Type A HDMI connector. These types of HDMI ports are usually found on smaller, portable devices like cameras, tablets, or even some laptops.
Type D, also known as Micro HDMI, is even smaller than the other two types. It's not very common - it's usually only found on super-compact devices, like smartphones.
If your two devices don't have the same kind of HDMI port, it doesn't mean they're incompatible. There are HDMI cables available with every different combination of HDMI port on the ends, so you can always find a way to connect any two HDMI-capable devices.
Benefits of HDMI
HDMI was invented to create a new standard that would be useful across a number of devices, while also combining audio and visual input to make the wiring less complex for consumers. Before we had HDMI, people who wanted to hook up any kind of audiovisual equipment usually had to plug in two or three different wires in the right places in order to be able to properly display sound and picture.
These previous connections were also far less standardized - hooking up a Nintendo GameCube to your television was different than trying to hook up a DVD player, which was different than hooking up a digital camera. Having the singular, standard connection type has made it far simpler to navigate a world of increasingly complex technology.
That's not the only reason that a new data transfer format became necessary, though. When HDTV came onto the scene in the mid-2000s, it became necessary to create a new standard that has the capacity to reliably transmit high-definition signals. HDMI transfers have more bandwidth and a higher refresh rate per second, which means that pictures and sound are much smoother and higher quality.
Formats and devices HDMI supports
As video quality has evolved, HDMI cables have also needed to upgrade to keep up with the growing demand in quality. While your basic HDMI cable will support a high-definition resolution of up to 720p and 1080p, it can't transfer 4K resolution to your TV. For that, you need a high-speed HDMI cable, while support for 8K and 10K resolutions require an ultra high-speed HDMI cable.
HDMI supports all the common audio formats while also supporting common stereo and multichannel formats, including:
Dolby Digital Plus
DTS-HD High Resolution
DTS-HD Master Audio
LPCM (2-channel to 8-channel)
HDMI is also used across a wide range of devices, including but not limited to:
Smart TV devices (such as Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick, Roku, et cetera)
Portable cameras (like a GoPro)
Some cell phones
Other AV equipment (speakers, connecters, microphones, et cetera)
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