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4K HDMI Cable VS. Normal HDMI Cable To Improve Picture Quality

HDMI cables have pretty much become the standard for transferring audio and video digitally. While there is no denying their ubiquitous nature, a lot of confusion surrounds how they work and how they are categorized. For consumers, it’s important to understand the differences in cables to get the best HDMI cable without paying an arm and a leg.

The “4k HDMI” label is mostly marketing, so it doesn’t mean a specific feature that will improve image quality. But if you have any cables past the HDMI 1.4 version, then they will be moving the same 4k image across the cable regardless of any marketing.

In this article, we unravel the hype around “4K HDMI cables” versus regular ones, exploring whether they truly enhance picture quality. We’ll clarify the marketing labels, discuss the importance of cable speed, and empower you to make informed decisions for your home entertainment setup

Is a “4K HDMI Cable” Different from a Normal HDMI Cable?

So you’ve got a choice between a “normal” HDMI cable and a “4K” one (more on HDMI cables in our guide). There are a few different HDMI cables to choose from, but will a 4K cable perform any better? The reality is, that both cables will probably be the same. Manufacturers constantly add marketing jargon to boost sales.

Unless you are using a really old cable, there probably won’t be an issue getting HD-quality signals from a “normal” cable. A cable like this Amazon Basics High-Speed HDMI Cable (on Amazon) should do fine for most video applications. Most cables you will find at your local electronics store will support 4K video.

This is more due to changing cable standards than anything else. Once HDMI 2.0 was released in 2013, it was made so the standard for cable transfer capacity was higher. You need a higher capacity for transferring data-intensive streams like 4K.

4K HDMI Cable VS HDMI 2.0

A 4K HDMI cable is designed to transmit high-definition video signals, including resolutions up to 4K. HDMI 2.0, on the other hand, is a specific version of the HDMI specification that supports 4K resolution at 60 frames per second and additional features like HDR. Similarly, HDMI 1.4 cables support 4K video at 30hz frame rates.

Why are Some HDMI Cables Labeled “4K” or “8K HDMI”?

So by this point, you might be wondering why manufacturers label cables as 4K or 8K. Well, to be frank, it’s all just marketing tactics.

There’s no difference or benefit between a cable marketed as 4K and one that is not. But there is a label that does matter, and that is the speed rating. Speed will dictate the maximum bandwidth allowed by the cable. Manufacturers commonly name a couple of different types of HDMI cables:

  • Standard
  • High Speed
  • Premium
  • Ultra-High Speed

‘Standard’ would mean a basic cable that can handle around 4.9 Gps. That would be enough to handle a 1080p connection without issues. Next is high speed.

High-speed HDMI cables can support double the bandwidth at 10.9 Gbps. Then comes premium and ultra-high-speed. As you can probably imagine, these cables support an even higher transfer speed of 18 Gbps and 48 Gbps, respectively.

It’s worth noting that you would be hard-pressed to find a standard cable at a store or online. Since these cables can’t support 4K, they are the only ones you must avoid. But, in this case, there isn’t much risk in mistakenly buying a standard cable.

Lastly, there is a difference between 4K and 8K HDMI cables from a bandwidth perspective. Essentially, it requires more bandwidth to transfer the extra data in an 8K video. Additionally, the frame rate could play a factor.

For example, a premium cable supports 4K video at 60 frames per second. It won’t, however, support 8K. In contrast, a high-speed cable can support a 4K video signal, but only at 30 fps. This is why knowing the speed of your cable is important.

What to Look For When Purchasing an HDMI Cable

When buying an HDMI cable, one of the most important things to consider is cable speed. While standard might play into your decision, you’ll rarely find a cable on sale that is lower than the 2.0 standard. There are a few considerations, though. If you are setting up a modern home theatre, you might be able to opt for the more advanced cable.

8K is just around the corner, and if you don’t plan to replace all your cables, it might be a good idea to upgrade to a higher speed. Furthermore, we also have a guide on extending cables in case you find yourself needing more length from your setup.

Additionally, HDMI 2.1 cables are currently available. While not all TVs and projectors will support the new standard, at the same time, many are adopting it as technology advances. You might not need the newer cables now, but you might in the future.

How To Know If HDMI Cable Supports 4K?

In order to confirm if an HDMI cable supports 4K 60 Hz, check for “HDMI 2.0” or later labeling, ensuring compatibility with higher resolutions and frame rates. Look for the “High-Speed HDMI” or “Premium High-Speed HDMI” designation on the cable, indicating the necessary bandwidth for 4K 60 Hz transmission


Another feature of HDMI is ARC or Audio Relay Channel. This feature allows for audio signals to be bounced back to a device that you have connected to your TV. Most modern HDMI cables will support this function. It’s great if you are using a soundbar or other audio device.

It makes it, so there is a hard-wired connection to your soundbar or another audio player. Pay attention that you’ll only need a TV that supports HDMI ARC (or eARC). Fortunately, most modern TVs like this Samsung Smart TV (on Amazon) will support this feature.

Wrapping Up

While there is no real meaning to a cable manufacturer using “4K” on the label, there are some things about HDMI you should be aware of. Standards change, but for the most part, cables in use today will support 4K video.

There are a few exceptions, but typically, any cable you find at the store will support a 4K video. Now, it may not support 4K video at a higher framerate. For this, you might need to source an ultra-high-speed premium HDMI cable.

And if you’re not sure if your TV is even 4k, have a look at our other article unpacking that before returning here to see if you need to upgrade the cable…or the TV!