Do you think Fiber Optic HDMI Cables will be better?
COMMON FIBER OPTIC VS. TRADITIONAL (COPPER) HDMI
Fiber optic HDMI cables are a new, top-of-the-line option for connecting HDMI devices. Using fiber optics technology instead of traditional copper, fiber optic HDMI goes above and beyond the limitations of standard HDMI cables.
Conventional HDMI is made using copper, with multiple smaller copper lines inside the main cable. The main drawback of conventional HDMI is the distance limit. Plain old HDMI caps out at a maximum limit of 65 feet, although depending on the equipment being used, the quality of the cables, and similar factors, issues can start to arise at distances as short as 50 feet.
2017 will be remembered for, among other things, the emergence of 4K + HDR/Dolby Vision with WCG (Wide Color Gamut) video and native 24/96K Hi Res Audio soundtracks. Today’s data-rich content has increased dramatically, reducing the distance these signals can travel over copper by 50 percent. My post today is about whether using a copper HDMI cable of any length still makes sense or if it’s finally time to adopt HDMI fiber optics for all 4K sources and displays regardless of the length.
The price for fiber optics has come down, so it’s an option to consider when your client is buying r new 4K TV. If you want the best 4K experience for your client’s home theater or gaming system, fiber is the way to go for very good technical reasons: 18 Gbps is fast, but the speed of light is way faster.
In the previous generation of high-def video, the highest resolution was native 1080p from a Blu-ray disc. When we tested HDMI copper cables using the benchmark eye pattern test, we discovered that HDMI over copper at 1080p collapsed the eye at 33 feet, resulting in a black screen. For distances above 30 feet for 1080p, fiber optic connections became the standard for the best performance. Distances under 33 feet can use copper and get decent results on 1080p. With three times more data, native 4K is much more challenging than 1080p. HDMI v2.0a requires a new eco-system of sources, cables, DAC, and display for the new resolution to come through. Old HDMI cables will not work for 4K because they’re too slow. HDMI v1.4 inputs and outputs on your AVR or pre pro won’t either for 4K.
HDMI copper cables are rated for their impedance. The least expensive versions are 27 ohms, the medium-priced versions are 24 ohms, and the most expensive high-speed copper cables are rated for 21 ohms and sell for the highest prices. Cat-6 is rated at 23 ohms, so it’s no panacea. Impedance is a measurement of “resistance” or how much the signal is impeded from reaching its destination intact. Anybody with an earlier generation projector or display found out through trial and error long ago that fiber was required for long distance transmission of native 1080p signals.
Up until now, the only workaround to this would be using an extender balun. While baluns are certainly a fine solution, they are more cumbersome than a single HDMI cable and require a bit more work to set up. They can also have issues with maintaining 4k quality, especially over longer distances. Fiber optic HDMI not only lacks those issues but works even better than a standalone copper HDMI cable at peak performance.
THE NEW AND IMPROVED HDMI FIBER OPTIC
Available in a maximum length of 200 feet, fiber optic HDMI surpasses the distance limit of even some baluns, let alone the 65 foot limit of copper HDMI. Fiber optic technology is the same upgrade being made by Internet companies; if you have heard about how much better fiber Internet is compared to regular Internet, these cables apply that same technology to HDMI.
Whereas copper cables use electricity to transmit signals, fiber optic cables use lasers. Since light (lasers) moves faster than electricity, the signals traveling through a fiber optic cable provide much better quality than copper cable equivalents. Additionally, lasers do not suffer from electromagnetic interference (EMI) or radio frequency interference (RFI) the way electrical based cables do. This results in fiber cables having significantly less attenuation (signal loss) and is what allows them to cover greater maximum distances than their copper counterparts.
Being new, fiber HDMI is designed with features that keep other modern technology in mind. Namely, the standard HDMI ends can detach to reveal Micro HDMI (also called HDMI Type D) connectors. This allows the fiber HDMI cables to connect directly to smaller devices like smartphones along with larger devices like computers, allowing virtually any electronic to connect to televisions, monitors, projectors, and other displays. These detachable pieces also make the ends of the cable temporarily smaller, making it easier to pull the cable through conduit or other tight spaces.
Fiber HDMI - Standard to Micro
There is one minor downside to fiber HDMI; the cable is directional. The cables are clearly marked “source” on one side and “display” on the other, but it is easy to accidentally miss that and install the cable backward. This is a limitation of fiber cable but with that being the only downside to fiber HDMI, the pros of the cable far outweigh its one con.