UHD Blu-ray vs. HDMI – Pt. 2: Which Cables Can Actually Pass HDMI 2.0?

Earlier this year, shortly after the release of the first Ultra HD (UHD) Blu-ray Disc player from Samsung, I wrote about the challenges of getting the player's full-bandwidth video signals to travel over longer distances in “UHD Blu-ray vs. HDMI: Let the Battle Begin”. Unfortunately, nearly 8 months later, consumers whose displays are more than 15 feet away from the Samsung UBD-K8500 are still in a pickle when it comes to choosing the proper HDMI cable to get the menu screen to properly come up on screen.

The crux of the matter is that the Samsung player’s home splash screen defaults to 3840 x 2160p resolution, at full 60Hz frame rate with a YCbCr 4:4:4, 8-bit signal. This turns out to be the maximum provided for in the HDMI 2.0a spec, and it requires a bandwidth of 17.82 gigabits per second, which is just ludicrous. Dropping the signal for that menu screen to 30 Hz would lower the bandwidth to 8.91Gbps, which would be helpful since most high speed cables on the market are rated for 10.2Gbps. Still, that wouldn’t necessarily fix all the issues with UHD Blu-ray transmission, because a UHD Blu-ray's 10-bit output is 11.1Gbps, which would force some cable upgrades anyway—although there would be a lot more wiggle room under the 18Gbps cap.

My earlier article identified some cables that could handle the higher bandwidths required, and some that couldn't. For this second round, I performed the tests similarly. As my benchmark, I started by seeing if the cable could sync with the Samsung home splash page menu. If the cable allowed the player and display to lock onto the signal, I then used the Samsung's built in streamer to queue up a 4K, 60Hz YouTube video on Costa Rica, the same clip I used for my previous test. If the cable stayed sync'd long enough to play the entire 5 minute, 20 second video without any dropouts, it would then receive a passing grade.

From there, I tested each cable on the less bandwidth-intensive 2160P/24Hz resolution of a UHD Blu-ray disc. While some cables fail with the Samsung menu, they may be able to play the UHD Blu-ray disc since a new HDMI handshake is required anytime the resolution changes. Furthermore, each test was conducted twice—once through my Marantz AV8802A pre/pro and the other direct to my JVC projector from the Samsung player.

The Competitors

Monoprice is an Internet-direct company located in Southern California. I was able procure a variety of cables for testing, among them two “SlimRun AV” fiber optic cables measuring 75 and 100 feet and two Certified High Speed cables (20 feet and 10 feet), which have the new certificate of compliance from the HDMI Alliance on the packaging. Of note, only the two certified cables were traditional passive cables. The others were active cables that perform some type of signal processing in the transmission of the data.

Another Monoprice cable, a 35-foot Luxe model, was an active cable that wouldn't lock onto any signal and appeared to be non-functional. I pronounced it DOA and left it out of my test, though it's worth noting that it uses the same Redmere chip as the Monoprice Cabernet that failed the 4K/60Hz test in the last go-around. monoprice.com

Fusion 4K cables can be found on Amazon.com and I acquired two cables to test from their Professional Series at 25- and 30-foot lengths. These aren’t labeled as active cables, but their packaging clearly states that they can support up to 3840 x 2160 resolution at 60 Hz with 18Gbps bandwidth. Neither cable is labeled as an HDMI Premium Certified Cable. amazon.com/fusion4K

Blue Jeans Cable, a cable manufacturer based out of Seattle, WA, enjoys a positive reputation on various AV enthusiast sites. When contacted about participating in our tests, owner Kurt Denke jumped at the chance to submit samples and was up front stating that only his BJC Series FE 15 foot cable was HDMI Premium Certified. But he was willing to submit 25 and 30 foot samples of his BJC Series-1D HDMI cables to see if they would pass our tests. bluejeanscable.com

Celerity Technologies is a southern California company that specializes in high-performance fiber-optic products for residential and commercial AV systems. A single CT Fiber Optic HDMI kit was sent to me with 50 feet of fiber optic cable and two different options for termination: Detachable Fiber Optic (DFO) HDMI leads, and a new detachable HDMI keystone plate system that provides an in-wall HDMI wall plate into which you can plug a conventional HDMI cable.

The benefit of either of these “detachable” systems is that they make it simple to run fiber-optic cable—which is much thinner than your typical HDMI cable—through conduit and walls. The cable has a 60-pound pull specification, which means you don’t have to be extra careful when doing the install. The tradeoff with the keystone plate, of course, is that you must use two additional HDMI cables—one from your source to the wall and the second from the connector on the receiving end to your display, which could result in signal loss (the more copper connections you make, the more likelihood of problems).


trynberg's picture

Thanks David for this public service. Not surprised to see the Blue Jeans cables work great (unfortunately the stiffness complaint is valid). Keep it up!

brenro's picture

I didn't want to play a game of let's see if this works or not so I went with Audioquest Pearl.

trynberg's picture

At $300 vs $15 for a 5m cable, I'd be willing to experiment...

brenro's picture

A 5 meter Audioquest Pearl HDMI cable is less than a hundred bucks.

Deus02's picture

Perhaps the author could comment on the subject of HDR and Dolbyvision, neither of which was mentioned in the column. From my reading on the subject in addition to the 17.82Gbps/60HZ/4:4:4 requirement in for both long and short runs, HDMI cables will require up to 600MZ bandwidth to handle the extended range of the two systems and apparently not all cables can handle those either. I wondered if this was factored in to the tests as well?

David Vaughn's picture
There are no external "boxes" for Dolby Vision as of yet, so you can't test for it. All of the Dolby Vision enabled devices are TVs, but I'm sure that will change next year. As for HDR, I haven't had any issues with cables as of yet that have passed the tests I've used, so no worries there.
bluejeanscable's picture

"600 MHz bandwidth" is wrong -- but it's one of those things which people sometimes say because of confusion between the data rate and the clock rate on HDMI. The clock rate at 18 Gbps is 600 MHz. But that's irrelevant to bandwidth; the 18 Gbps is the bandwidth which you've got to support, because the bits are running in the data pairs at ten times the clock rate. So, in other words, the "600 MHz bandwidth" issue is identical to the need for 18 Gbps.

Now, the 18 Gbps is spread between three pairs, so that's 6 Gbps/pair; the fundamental, for most purposes, can be considered to be half the data rate (since one Hertzian wave is a down and an up, i.e., a 10 or 01), so that's 3 GHz. But you want transitions not to be overly rounded, and most of the energy difference between a sine wave and a square wave is in the third harmonic, so performance of the pair up to about 9 GHz will matter. This is not precisely right, in the sense that because the data stream is not a simple 101010... oscillation, the resulting energy spectrum is much more complex than it would be if it were, but it's fair to say that the top end for bandwidth is 9 GHz/pair, and that's why HDMI doesn't go very far! In Cat 6a, we only ask a pair to do 500 MHz (.5 GHz) and even THAT is asking a lot of a twisted pair.

Blue Jeans Cable

David Vaughn's picture
Kurt...thanks for chiming in and giving some great information!
WildGuy's picture

should full 4k/60p/8 bit@4:4:4 equals roughly 12 gbps bandwidth? if that is the case, shouldn't 18 gbps hdmi 2 be more than enough? unless hdmi 2 wasn't able to deliver up to 18 gbps. maybe they include head and toe room that is why its 18 gbps but its actually a bit less than that?

David Vaughn's picture
4:4:4 4K60/8 bit is 17.82 GBPS. 4:2:0 4K60/10 bit is 11.1 GBPS, so I'm not sure what you're referring to. I've confirmed the 17.82 GBPS with multiple sources as well.
jnemesh's picture

It should be noted that the Celerity cables are available in lengths up to 1000 ft! These are the best solution for longer runs, including use in distributed video systems. While on the high side in price compared to the other (shorter) HDMI cables being tested here, the price is in line with what you would pay for a Cat5/Cat6 HDMI extender system, and even those can't pass UHD 60hz at 4:4:4 color depth! Not only that, but the Cat5/6 systems are limited to 330ft max! I have had EXTREMELY good feedback from my dealers who are installing the Celerity cables, and their support has been excellent as well. HIGHLY recommended!

David Vaughn's picture
You are correct that they can go up 10 1000 feet in distance and their price per foot is quite low by comparison to other offerings. The only downside is that it's an "active" solution, which means that it could "break" at some point (since it's powered), but that should be a very minor consideration.
jnemesh's picture

The reason it's powered is that the HDMI spec requires 5v on one conductor as a reference voltage. Since this is a 100% fiber optic solution, power must be supplied on each end. The transmit side can USUALLY be powered by the HDMI connector itself (they include the USB power on the transmit side just in case the source isn't providing enough power, most of the time it's not needed)...but on the receive side, it's necessary to provide the 5v via an external source. MOST of the time, you can simply plug into a spare USB port on the display or projector...if not, you can use ANY 1 amp USB power supply...I bought one for $10 at Best Buy that was an old iPhone 30 pin charger (I just didn't use the USB to 30 pin adaptor cable, naturally).

Also, on the chance that something does break in the active portion, Celerity sells the ends separately...although they are just as likely to send you replacement terminators free of charge, their support is very, very good!

There is very little that could "break" in the cable itself, assuming no physical damage. It's a solid technology, and I myself have sold hundreds of them to dealers, with outstanding results.

David Vaughn's picture
I agree with your assessment of the technology...the KISS philosophy is definitely in effect, that's for sure. If you're doing an in-wall installation, this is by far the best solution because you don't need a hole the size of a damn silver dollar to get the connector through!
WildGuy's picture

just multiply the resolution with the color bit depth per channel and times that 3 times since its a full 4:4:4 sampling since all 3 channels are full color sampling and multiply the frame rate and you get roughly 11.95 gbps.

maybe with head and toe rooms, hdmi 2 is 18 gbps, but in real life use, its a bit less than that. maybe maximum speed is 13 gbps without head and toe rooms.

David Vaughn's picture
Here's a link to a great article that discusses HDMI and its bandwidth for specific resolutions/bit rates: http://www.acousticfrontiers.com/uhd-101-v2/
WildGuy's picture

and i read the part of "Color Subsampling", "HDMI Versions (1.4, 2.0 and beyond)", and "HDMI data rates (10.2Gbps, 18 Gbps)" and it didn't explain how they get 17.8 Gbps for 4k60 8 bit 4:4:4 or 4k60 12 bit 4:2:2 for that matter.

it didn't show the math to get that number. so i am skeptical.

David Vaughn's picture
I'm not sure how the math works, but I've spoken to multiple cable manufacturers and each of them has stated that the bandwidth requirement for 4k/60 4:4:4 is 17.82 GBPS...they all can't be wrong, can they? Also, if it's as low as you state, why do so many cables fail to work?
WildGuy's picture

i don't get it either. the math doesn't lie though.

cinematramp's picture


Is this cable a no-go if I desire to watch UHD BD and use my PS4 Pro for streaming HDR content? I understand the current UHD BD disc spec only allows for 4:2:2 content, so my cable may not be as much of an issue currently.

Only reason I ask is due to the fact that it was installed in a drywall ceiling and replacing would be incredibly difficult. I DO NOT do anything currently with a PC or 4:4:4.

Thanks in advance

David Vaughn's picture
To be save, be sure to install conduit in your walls for future cable pulls. I'd install 2" smurf tube to make pulling wires easy. The cables you use today will most likely need to be replaced at some point as standards change.