Expensive TV cables are a rip-off: Choice – Articles – Home Entertainment

Expensive TV cables are a rip-off: Choice – Articles – Home Entertainment.

I really love being ahead of the game, especially when it is both a newspaper and a non-profit organisation with more money to spend than I have. The reason I say this? See Changing Australia – or – how much should an HDMI cable cost? here at Thomo’s Hole back on 11 November 2008 where I note:

I was looking around the store [Dick Smith’s on George Street, Sydney] and my eyes strayed across some HDMI cables … I wandered closer and then gasped. $169.95 for the cable – and that was the cheap one. HDMI cables were listed in price ranging from $169.95 to $329.95. Now, I am not really known for being stingy but even I baulked at that cost. No sir, no HDMI cable for me.

And then later I’d found HDMI cables at places like Bunnings and K-Mart for prices ranging from $19.95 to $26.95. Even the more expensive Belkin cables at Officeworks was a mere $69.95 by comparison. I also noted that as the cables were carrying digital signals rather than analogue signals, the signal was either there, or it was not. With analogue you will get some signal loss maybe resulting in the snowy effect and so on.

Now, I will freely admit that as I was looking at this stuff, I was not  really paying attention to how long the cables were – although I suspect size is not that important in this case.

Anyway, to summarise the findings of Choice:

“Although the results were slightly in favour of the more expensive brand for longer lengths, the differences were not enough to conclude any brand delivers a significantly better result,” the report said.

“Results for the digital audio cable were even more conclusive, with no advantage to be gained through the use of more expensive cables for better performance.”

To be fair to the Sydney Morning Herald, they almost caught up with me as on 13 November 2008 (two days after my blog post) they had an article titled, “Would sir like a $200 cable with his new plasma?” This article noted:

Australian shoppers are being duped into spending hundreds of dollars on so-called “high performance” HDMI cables when they are buying new home entertainment equipment.

However some technical experts argue that there is very little to distinguish a cable priced at hundreds of dollars from one that costs $20, and urge buyers to be on their guard against slick sales pitches that claim otherwise.

Robin Braun, a professor of telecommunications at UTS says that, because the HDMI cable carries a digital signal, most of the built-up “noise” that affects more traditional analogue cable images is absent, meaning that most short-range HDMI cables will give a perfect image every time, regardless of their price.

Definitely a case of caveat emptor.

I shall now consider buying the $20 cable 😉

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Changing Australia – or – how much should an HDMI cable cost?

I went to Dick Smith’s the other day, just looking around at lunchtime mind. Seeing as I am back in Sydney finally, I wander around one block each lunch hour to reacquaint myself with what is there and it happened to be the block with Dick Smith in it.

I remember Dick Smith’s. One of the things I remember most about Dick Smith was that there you could get good quality at a reasonable price and that electronics were made available to all. So, what happened?

I was looking around the store and my eyes strayed across some HDMI cables. Having recently purchased a TV and having a laptop that is less than 12 months old, my interest was peaked. An HDMI cable, now there was a way I could connect the laptop to the TV and watch DVDs and stuff on the big screen. I wandered closer and then gasped. $169.95 for the cable – and that was the cheap one. HDMI cables were listed in price ranging from $169.95 to $329.95. Now, I am not really known for being stingy but even I baulked at that cost. No sir, no HDMI cable for me.

Time passed (well, a couple of days later) and I was walking around Bunnings and I saw some HDMI cables again. I will admit, these were not as pretty as the ones from Dick Smith’s … but they only cost $26.95 – still, for that saving, ugly works.

However, I resisted the temptation and then, on Saturday, whilst strolling through K-Mart in Bateman’s Bay, I saw HDMI cables for around $20 each. I thought “do I really need one and anyway, I’ll get it from K-Mart at Ashfield.”

Checked K-Mart at Ashfield and they had ugly HDMI cables but at $24.95 as did Coles. I still haven’t bought one yet as we have another means of playing a DVD now and do not need to use the PC. I have questions though – like:

  1. What happened to Dick Smith of old, making electronics available to all?
  2. As the HDMI cable can handle 5 Gbps, why the price differential
  3. It’s a data signal so there is not likely to be any signal loss as there was with analogue signals – so, apart from the difference between 5 and 10 Gbps, why the huge price differential?

We learned – look closely and think hard before spending on even simple things like a cable. We also learned – Dick Smith’s seems to be stocking high-end bits and bobs now.