Do you need new HDMI cables for HDR?


Upgrading to a new HDR TV? Think you might need new HDMI cables for it to work? You probably don’t. Here’s the deal.

The latest TV technology is high dynamic range, or HDR. If you want to take advantage of this latest and greatest, you need an HDR TV (of course), an HDR-capable source (either a streaming app on your TV or a media streamer/UHD BD player) and HDR video to watch.

But do you need new HDMI cables? Surely those many-years-old, dust-covered, ultracheap cables you bought at Dollar World can’t handle this new TV technology?
What you DO need

HDMI 2.0: What you need to know
Every step in your AV chain (the expensive devices into which you plug the cables) generally must be HDMI 2.0a for HDR to work. As in, your TV, receiver and source all have to be HDMI 2.0a, and usually require HDCP 2.2 copy protection too. If your TV is HDR, it almost certainly has at least one HDMI input with 2.0a/2.2. If your receiver/sound bar is a few years old, it almost certainly does not.

It works, or it doesn’t

If it works, it works. There’s no “partial HDR” or “blurry 4K.” HDMI is all or nothing. If you are getting 4K HDR, different cables won’t make it look better. That’s not how HDMI works.

If you’re not getting 4K HDR, check all your settings. That’s the most likely culprit. That said, it’s possible for the cable to work fine with 1080p, and not give you a signal with 4K (giving you a black or flickering screen). It’s possible for you to set 4K on all your gear, have it try to work and then default back to 1080p.
What to do

If you’ve double-checked all your settings and it’s still not working, or you get an image but it cuts out, then you might need a new cable. You don’t, however, need to spend copious amounts of money. Most likely a new cheap cable will work just fine.

If you just want to buy one cable that’s sure to work, look for Premium Certified cables. These will be a little more expensive, but they’re certified to work with 4K HDR content. This doesn’t mean that others won’t work, or even that the Certified versions will for sure. If you’re buying a long cable and paying a lot for it, it’s safest (as always) to get it from a place with a money-back return policy.