Cheap HDMI cables will produce the exact same picture and sound quality as expensive cables.
HDMI uses Transition Minimized Differential Signaling (TMDS), which does two things:
- Compress digital signal to minimize transitions (the TM part)
- Compares two simultaneous versions of the signal to negate noise (the DS part)
This means that you either get the whole data as it was sent, or nothing at all; it’s not possible to get something in-between like a “distorted” or “poor” signal. In rare cases, if the cable quality is poor, the receiving end will not be able to tell 0 from 1 and you will clearly see white pixels across the screen (no pixel information). However, it is more likely that you will see no image at all. The same can be said for audio: the digital codecs (Dolby and DTS) have error-correction built in, so you get bit-for-bit output or no audio at all.
There are only 4 types of HDMI cables
- Standard-speed (Category 1)
- Standard-speed (Category 1) with Ethernet
- High-speed (Category 2)
- High-speed (Category 2) with Ethernet
Category 1 cables can only carry up to 1080i. Category 2 can carry signals up to 4K including 3D. 3D content is simply double the resolution, not double the frame rate.
“HDMI 1.4” is a connection spec, not a cable spec; in other words, it refers to hardware (TV, Bluray, etc…) capabilities, not the HDMI cable itself.
Cables longer than 10 meters
If you need to run long HDMI cables (10 meters or more), it’s probably worth considering an active cable. An active cable is one with chips built into it that help boost the signal. One example of such a chip is RedMere. Active cables allow for thinner cables or longer cables. For most connections, any regular cheap cable is fine.