Get Your HDMI Cable Now

If you don’t have an HD TV yet, you are sure to have one soon. Somewhere I read 50% of households have a digital TV, and I suppose some large fraction of that will be HD. But here is the scam: eventually you are going to need an HDMI cable, and the electronics store knows that you are not going to think ahead. Funny thing: all the cables are so very expensive. Not anything like the TV, but often between $100 and $150 for a 3 to 6 foot piece of wire. If you are lucky, they may have a “discounted cable” for $85.

Why are they so expensive? There is no real reason. HDMI is a digital connection, and there is a certification standard. As long as the cable meets the standard, the picture should be exactly equivalent. If you look around, you can find an HDMI cable on the web for $6 to $8 with gold plated connectors and fully certified. These places have HDMI cables for “normal” prices:

What is going on? Simple psychology. Most consumers will forget to buy the cable, until they discover they need one, and it is 30 minutes to the opening kickoff of the superbowl. They know you are are going to focus on the main purchase: the 50 or so inches of gleaming glass and glow where you will shell out between $2K to $5K or more. “Would you like a cable with that?” they will say. What difference does $100 make in a purchase of this size? Who wants to take home a brand new TV, and not be able to turn it on to watch? Who wants to take home a brand new PlayStation or other high def DVD player, and then have to wait a week or more to be able to enjoy the full resolution? You are going to want the cable right then. The markup on these cable is in the 10x range if you buy from an electronics retailer.

I went (of course) to Fry’s to search for a better deal. In the TV department, they had the standard $85 cable on display. I looked they guy in the eye and pointed out that Fry’s is a discount store, and he said I could find a better deal in the electronic parts department. Over on the other side of the store, I found the rack where HDMI cables hang empty. After rummaging around on top of the overhead shelf, I found a package with a 6 foot cable for $25 that someone had probably stashed up there for possible recovery later. That was clearly the best deal I was going to get three days before Christmas.

The retailers know that they “have you” over the cable and that is why the prices are uniformly high. And, to be fair, none of them are going to sell more TV’s by lowering the prices of the cable. But it just plain bugs me that the price is so inflated.

Here is my recommendation: click on one of the links now (do it right now) and purchase an $8 cable and have it shipped to you the slowest, cheapest way. Eventually, probably in the next year, this is going to save you money. It might save you anywhere from $20 to $50. Either way, a $10 investment with a 2x to 5x return within a year is a good investment in anyone’s book. But the satisfaction of telling the saleman you don’t need the cable is priceless. Even if you don’t have an HD TV, and are not planning to get one in the next year. A you might be the guy (or gal) with a spare HDMI cable, 30 minutes before the superbowl game.

Links to similar articles: arstechnica, gizmodo, macrumors, searchwarp, cnet, playstation.

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3 Responses to Get Your HDMI Cable Now

  1. Nice one, Keith. I bought my HDMI cable from the Apple store of J&R – they have ones that match the AppleTV for less than $20. However, not all things HDMI are golden – when I tried to hook up my cable box with HDMI to my TV and with SVideo to my (ooooold) TiVo, the SVideo signal is blocked with a copy protection notice – if the box detects an HDMI connection it blocks the other outputs. I had to go back to a Component connection to be able to use two outputs from the box. I went with a Cable Card in my TV – and got a better picture quality than from the cable box with an HDMI connection. Now, having your cable company install a Cable Card makes installing Linux look like a piece of cake…

  2. kswenson says:

    Hi Michael. I had heard about this and other problems with HDMI in general. I avoided getting the cable for almost a year. There is quite a bit of controvery over this issue. Some well researched sites claim that the component signal can actually be BETTER than the HDMI output. This is hard to believe because you would think taking digital straight from the disk through the cable would be lossless. But apparently the insertion of the copy protection into the HDMI signal actually degrades it. I have not noticed this, but some credible sources claim this. Anyway, the new PS3 says that the only way to get 1080 resolution is through the HDMI, so I got the cable. I came to the conclusion that HDMI is inevitable, reagardless of the problems.

  3. kswenson says:

    Here is you trivial update. Got a three-pack yesterday at Fry’s: three 6-foot HDMI cables for nine dollars. That is the right price. I still see them on sale for $40 or $50. I have no idea who is buying those, but apparently they are.

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