The very idea that there’s such a thing as the best HDMI cable will probably annoy plenty of you, but when it comes to HDMI cables, this is frustratingly true. HDMI cables are one of those things you rarely think about until you need one, but they’re rated at specific bandwidths, and if you buy a cable that isn’t rated high enough, you won’t be able to hit the resolutions and refresh rates your hardware can deliver.
This is especially true for Nvidia’s RTX 3090, which comes with the promise of 8K gaming. A key component of that 8K equation is HDMI 2.1, which will see bandwidth requirements up to 48Gbps, up from 18Gbps, and cable requirements to match.
So, when buying the best HDMI cable for gaming, here’s what you need.
The best monitor
(Image credit: Future)
The best gaming monitor
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Ideally, you should be using a DisplayPort to hook up your PC to your monitor. Perhaps, you’re plugging your rig or game console into TV or an older monitor that doesn’t have DisplayPort. You still want the best color and performance possible to get the most of the system, and a dinky old HDMI cable you found in a drawer is likely only doing you a disservice.
The most basic HDMI cable you want for gaming is a High-Speed HDMI cable. Such cables support a bandwidth of 18Gbps, which covers you for 4K gaming at 60Hz as well as supporting HDR content. It’s worth making sure that the cable is certified to support the faster HDMI 2.0 standard as well.
If you’re looking towards the future, Ultra High-Speed HDMI cables sport a bandwidth of 48Gbps and support 8K at 120Hz. These cables sell at a premium, but if you’re targeting more than 60Hz at 4K, then this is what you want. Of course, you’ll need one of the best graphics cards around, as well as a 4K monitor or 4K TV, or it won’t matter how fancy your cable is.
You’ll see reference to CL2 and CL3 ratings for HDMI cables, and this is to do with how the copper cables are coated and defines their abilities to handle high votalges for in-wall installations. CL2 HDMI cables can handle up to 150 volts and are designed for residential use, while the CL3 cables are intended for commercial installations and can handle up to 300 volts.
Don’t be put off by the own-brand label and a lower cost; this is still a fantastic cable. It’s the perfect example of not needing anything too showy or expensive to get the job done, and you’ll save some money. As well as providing the coveted 18Gbps, this comes in an extensive range of lengths and is built to handle higher voltages. The only downside is that it’s not HDMI Premium certified. However, you can’t complain too much when you’re getting excellent 4K visuals at under ten bucks.
If you want a high-quality HDMI cable that’ll last you a good few years, look no further than Belkin’s HDMI 2.1 Ultra High Speed. As the name would suggest, it offers superior performance at an affordable price. That’s not the end of it, though; an excellent refresh rate and ludicrous transfer speeds of 48Gbps make this a big deal. Unsure why that’s worth the cash? In short, it’s ready to serve up 10K resolution when the time comes. Better still, Belkin is a brand we’d trust with… well, not quite our lives, but definitely the connection between our graphics card and monitor.
The Onyx HDMI cable is for anyone who has concerns about wear and tear or a pet that enjoys nibbling on electrical appliances. Durable and heavy-duty, a mesh sheath gives this HDMI all the protection it needs to withstand everything you throw at it. What’s more, metal outers protect the connectors. In terms of performance, Onyx’s HDMI also comes through; it manages 4K at 60Hz just fine. There are cheaper options that’ll do much the same job, but none are as sturdy as this.
Keen on saving space? Here’s the HDMI for you. The Rhinocables’ flat cabling is the right solution for those playing with limited real estate or anyone who needs to run a cable under their carpet. Stocky casing emphasizes this sense of reliability, as does the fitting brand name. Rhinocables’ HDMI can hit 27Gbps as well. The flexible build doesn’t compromise the quality of the cable, which is always a plus.
You don’t need this cable. No one needs this cable. It’s a HDMI lead that costs as much as some graphics cards, and that’s mostly down to the fact that it comes with an RGB strip down one side of its length. I mean, that’s cool, right? It’s also a HDMI 2.0b fiber optic cable too, so it ought to allow significantly less signal loss over distance and avoid any potential electrical or RF interference. If that’s an issue for you.
But, let’s be honest, you’d try talking up the benefits of fiber optics, but really you’d only want this Aquus W73 cable because of the RGB lighting. Which you can change at the press of a button or via Razer’s Chroma app. As if you care, you’re just looking at the pretty lights, aren’t you?