For a long time, it was easy to spend way too much on an HDMI cable—they all pretty much worked identically for stuff in HD and 4K resolution, so you could reliably grab our best value pick, an AmazonBasics 2-pack (available at Amazon) and call it a day, even for HDR content.
With the advent of HDMI 2.1 features, however, picking the right cable has become a little trickier if you need cutting-edge features like Variable Refresh Rate or you’ve got an ultra-fancy 8K TV. Fortunately, we’ve found a fully functional HDMI 2.1 cable that serves up serious value: the Cable Matters 8K 3-pack(available at Amazon).
Most people can just buy our favorite cable, but if you need something special—like extra cable durability—or you don’t need HDMI 2.1 features at all, there are lots of great HDMI cables out there. We put them to the test to find out which are the best you can buy.
If you want a performance-facing product at a great price-per-cable, the Cable Matters 8K HDMI 2.1 cable (3-pack) is an easy pick for the top choice. With this product, you’re getting three color-coded HDMI cables (red, yellow, and blue) with full HDMI 2.1 functionality.
Testing revealed full 48Mbps capability here, meaning you’ll be able to use these for your next-gen HDMI needs like Variable Refresh Rate, 8K resolution, 4K at 120fps, and so on. And getting three of them at once makes for a great value: unless you’re a serious AV nut, you probably won’t need more than three 2.1-compatible cables anyway. Finally, the color coding—while it serves no practical purpose, as each cable is functionally identical—is a nice touch if only for aesthetic purposes (not to mention, they might just help you remember what's plugged into what).
The only downside to these cables, if we had to point one out, is that they’re not super tough. Having used Cable Matters products before, we’ve never had an issue with the reinforcement or flexibility of this design, but it’s worth noting that you’re not getting the braided wrapping or extra reinforcement you’ll get on some other cables. However, the more basic design here is one reason this 3-pack presents such a solid value, and if you’re careful you should have no problem making these last a good while.
This 2-pack of 6-foot cables is one of the cheapest on the list, but considering all of them passed muster in our cable test, this is the one to go with if you just want to save money, as each cable technically only costs about four bucks.
They don't seem like the most durable cables out there, but that's only a concern if you're moving it around a bunch. The heavier/stiffer cables are great in longer lengths where wear and tear are more of an issue, but for a basic six-foot cable you don't need anything fancy. Even if you're installing it in a wall, all modern HDMI 2.0 cables should be just fine for years to come.
Hi, I'm Lee. I've been covering home theater and tech products for Reviewed since 2012. I received certification as a TV calibrator back in 2013 and never looked back. But one thing I've discovered during my time covering TVs is that pricy HDMI cables are one of the chief ways that consumers get fleeced during a purchase.
Currently, your major choices when purchasing an HDMI cable come down to just a few considerations: the length of the cable, its general durability, and whether it's an HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 cable (more on the difference below). I fully tested each cable on the list to make sure it passed on the basic tests (for 2.0-compatible cables) or could handle all the next-gen tasks (for 2.1-compatible cables), as well as checking it out for flexibility, durability, and overall aesthetic quality.
To test TVs, we use a device called a "signal generator." It's essentially a pure source device for sending test patterns of various resolutions and refresh rates to TVs for measuring their performance.
Our signal generator, the Quantum Data 780a handheld HDMI test instrument, has a really cool feature: it can test HDMI cables. Because it has both HDMI input and an HDMI output, you simply plug both ends of the cable into the generator, and it runs a series of tests to determine whether the cable passes muster. Below you can see what the report looks like for an error-free cable, which was identical for every cable we tested.
For HDMI 2.1 cables specifically, we also did real-world testing using an Xbox Series X in conjunction with a 4K/HDR capable TV and gaming monitor.
HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1: What's the difference?
Most contemporary mid-range and high-end TVs offer at least one HDMI 2.0 port, and if you've bought a TV in the last couple of years, there's a good chance that all of your TV's HDMI ports are either of the 2.0a or 2.0b variety. The difference between 2.0a and 2.0b is relatively minor, so let's focus on 2.0 versus 2.1.
Essentially, it all comes down to bandwidth: The current bandwidth capacity for HDMI 2.0 is 18 Gbps, but HDMI 2.1 clocks in at a robust 48 Gbps. This increase in bandwidth allows HDMI 2.1 to transfer way more information; in a nutshell, this means higher-resolution video and higher frame rates.
Currently, HDMI 2.0 cables are needed to achieve a 4K picture at 60 FPS or an 8K picture at 30 FPS. HDMI 2.1, on the other hand, promises 4K resolution at 120 FPS, 8K resolution at 60 FPS, and a ceiling that will ultimately support 10K resolution—whenever the industry happens to reach that point.
There's also a host of other benefits to HDMI 2.1 that are a little more in the weeds but nevertheless exciting. For example, HDMI 2.1 supports something called "Dynamic HDR," which allows HDR metadata content to be adjusted on a frame-by-frame basis. HDMI 2.1 also features eARC, a more robust version of Audio Return Channel, which allows high-quality, uncompressed audio signals to be transferred via HDMI cable.
With consumer-facing 8K content still a long way from primetime, gamers will likely be the first group of people to feel the advantages of HDMI 2.1, since 4K games will be able to run at 120 FPS with the proper hardware. In addition, HDMI 2.1 features Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Quick Frame Transport (QFT)—two features that will reduce latency and possibly eliminate input lag altogether.
What are CL2 and CL3 HDMI cables?
Most people casually shopping for HDMI cables won't need CL2- or CL-3 class cables—the former, CL2, are intended for in-wall installation and can carry up to 150 volts, while the latter, CL3, are intended for commercial installation.
It's likely if you're looking at six-foot HDMI cables that range between $5 and $15 dollars, you aren't intending any commercial installation projects—at least, we hope not. However, if you do intend to run one of these products through a wall, you should double-check to make sure that it's CL2-rated, which would make it appropriate for in-home wall installation.
Other HDMI Cables We Tested
Monster 4ft 8K Cobalt HDMI Cable
Monster is a well-known (if sometimes spoofed) HDMI cable brand for a reason, and the UHD 8K Cobalt cable reminds us why. This handsome, flexible cable may only be four feet long, but it’s four feet of quality.
Beyond the very durable cabling and well-reinforced, cobalt blue plugs (hence the name), this cable is flexible in a more important way: it’s fully HDMI 2.1 compatible. If you just need a single cable to power your next-gen gaming or 8K TV that’s short enough to tuck away in your entertainment center, the Monster UHD 8K Cobalt is a solid choice.
The reason to spring for this Monster option is if you want both the latest HDMI 2.1 specifications and solid durability in a very specific size. If a shorter, more durable next-gen ready cable is what you need, Monster has you covered with this one.
Another perfectly viable HDMI 2.1 option, the Fusion 8K cable is the one to buy if you want extra protection: this six-foot beast features heavy braiding and highly reinforced plugs, which is one reason it tends to fetch a higher price than a lot of the 2.1-compatible cables we tested.
Of course, what’s on the outside only matters if it’s protecting something good on the inside, but in this case that is absolutely the case. Testing revealed full HDMI 2.1 functionality here, including Variable Refresh Rate, Auto Low Latency Mode, 4K @ 120Hz, and all the other valuable HDMI 2.1 features.
While there are more affordable 2.1-compatible cables (check out our Best Overall), you might want this one if you need a particular well-reinforced, six-foot option.
This simple 8K/HDMI 2.1 cable from Choetech takes a minimalistic approach in terms of its design—it’s lightweight and flexible, making it practical for most folks—and with a 6.6-foot length, it’s long enough for most standard home theater purposes.
Like all good HDMI 2.1 cables, you’re getting 48Mbps data transfer speeds, making 8K resolution output, 144Hz refresh rates, or HDR10 and Dolby Vision all possible. If you don’t think you’ll need fancy physical details like braided cabling or extra reinforcements on the plugs, this one’s a very good choice.
Not super durable
Zeskit Maya 6.5ft 8K HDMI Cable
Testing revealed that the Zeskit Maya 8K cable checks off a lot of the right boxes, not the least of which is full HDMI 2.1 compatibility.
You’re not just getting the abilities to watch or game in HDR or use advanced gaming features like VRR and ALLM here, you’re getting a cable that does a great job straddling the midpoint between heavy, inflexible protection and barebones reinforcement. This Zeskit Maya features tight, durable plugs and a fine braided finish that’s still flexible enough to be spooled up into tight loops.
The only drawback here is a minor one: the cabling, while flexible in the middle, is quite stiff where it meets the plugs, which themselves are small and only lightly capped with basic plastic. This could make for a wear-and-tear point if you aren’t careful while plugging or unplugging this cable. But keep that in mind, and you’ll be trouble-free.
Monoprice has made a name for itself via the wide range of electronics and gadget accessories it offers at very reasonable price points, so why not an HDMI 2.1-capable as well?
Testing showed off this cable’s chops: it’s fully HDMI 2.1/48Gbps capable, supporting functions like 8K resolution, Variable Refresh Rate, 4K at 120Hz, and so on. That, however, is where the advanced features end: from a design standpoint, this six-foot cable is as basic as they come.
Of course, the basic design makes it a bit more prone to rubber splitting or plug damage, but it also keeps it relatively inexpensive. If you want a six-foot HDMI 2.1 cable that won’t make a dent in your wallet, you could do worse than this Monoprice option.
This six-foot cable from SecurOMax is a decent choice, especially if you want more cord durability. The braided cable and reinforced connectors supply a more robust physical presence than something like an AmazonBasics cable, but you're also paying more for that.
Outside of the design elements, however, you're still getting a 4K-capable cable that can transfer formats like HDR and is HDCP 2.2-compliant. Just remember that you're more likely to run into limitations based on the HDMI ports in your TV or computer monitor, as opposed to cable limitations.
This 3-pack from Twisted Veins is a pretty solid deal overall. The per-cable price is comparable to our favorite AmazonBasics cable, but there's a bit more durability here (and the cables feature a bright blue coloration, which gives them a little more pizazz).
Twisted Veins throws in an HDMI angle adapter, too, which is always a nice touch. This is a really good choice if you need a few six-foot HDMI cables at once, and want some stylistic parity. Twisted Veins claims HDMI 2.0b compatibility (see above for more info on what that means), but also claims these cables "may only support 4K at 30 Hz on some devices," something to keep in mind if you especially need 4K/60 Hz.
This BlueRigger cable is priced well for how robust and heavy it is. It almost looks and feels like an HDMI cable that's suitable for the outdoors, but isn't braided, meaning it'll bend easily so you can tuck it away behind your desk or TV stand.
Like most cables these days, the BlueRigger is also perfectly kitted out to handle whatever DVDs, Blu-rays, or 4K game consoles you want to throw at it. While that doesn't really help it to stand out from the other cables on the list, it's worth mentioning.
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.