Standard HDMI cables, also known as passive HDMI cables, have length limitations. They can only be a certain number of meters long before they risk performance issues. So what can you do to extend the length of your HDMI connection?
Limitations on HDMI cable length
High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is very helpful in reducing cable clutter by allowing a device to transmit audio and video signals over a single cable. As a result, it has been widely adopted by televisions, computers, projectors, digital signage, and various other devices. But as the standard’s capabilities have grown over the years, so has the demand for longer HDMI cables.
But like the USB and Ethernet cables, standard HDMI cables have practical length limitations. For example, a passive Ultra High Speed HDMI cable should only be about five meters long. Likewise, passive Premium High Speed HDMI cables have a maximum length of about 25 meters.
Luckily for you, there are ways to get around these cable length limitations and extend an HDMI connection over much longer distances without any performance issues.
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HDMI extenders are the most common way to extend the length of an HDMI connection without losing the quality of audio or video. An extender consists of three main parts: a transmitter, a receiver and a cable. Many extenders use Category 5 or 6 Ethernet cables, while others use fiber optic cables.
HDMI over Ethernet Extenders typically supports up to HDMI 2.0 (18 Gbps) bandwidth and up to 100 meters in length. But if you want to go even further, HDMI over fiber extenders are the way to go. This will allow you to extend your HDMI connection to 1000 meters or even more in some cases, although that will be overkill for most people.
HDMI over Ethernet Extender
HDMI repeaters or amplifiers are most useful in extending an HDMI connection when you need a little extra length, but not the length of a football field. A repeater amplifies the HDMI signal to compensate for the longer connection length. It is a small device with two female HDMI ports that allow you to connect two HDMI cables to extend the overall HDMI connection.
An HDMI repeater is usually placed about halfway up the run-up and it helps nearly double the connection length possible with a passive HDMI cable. However, some repeaters require external power to enhance the HDMI signal.
Wireless HDMI Extenders
A wireless HDMI extender is a relatively less popular way to increase the length of an HDMI connection, but it is useful when running a cable between the source and the display is a challenge. It consists of two parts: one connects to the source and the other to the screen. Both parts communicate via a radio wave signal, usually on the 5GHz or 60GHz band.
Unfortunately, most wireless HDMI extenders on the market are only capable of successfully carrying a 1080p 60Hz signal. There are a few rare options, such as the Monoprice Blackbird Prowhich can spread a 4K 30Hz signal throughout a room.
Active and Optical HDMI Cables
HDMI extenders and repeaters are great for increasing the length of an HDMI cable you already have. But if you don’t want to extend an existing cable and prefer to buy a new but longer than standard HDMI cable, you have two options: Active and Optical HDMI cables.
Active and optical cables are different from the typical passive HDMI cables you find on the market. Active cables use electronic circuitry to amplify the HDMI signal to travel longer distances, while fiber optic or optical cables completely change the medium for data transmission.
Unlike passive and active HDMI cables, which use copper wiring, optical cables use glass strands to transfer data using light. Light is less sensitive to resistance and signal degradation, allowing HDMI optical cables to be significantly longer than both active and passive HDMI cables.
You will find up to 25m long active HDMI cables and 50m long fiber optic HDMI cables on the market. Keep in mind, however, that cables that support the latest generation of HDMI features, such as Ultra High Speed HDMI cables, are typically available in shorter lengths than older-generation HDMI cables.
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Multiple ways to get around cable length limits
HDMI is more popular than ever. It is in almost all popular home entertainment devices today and has been widely used on the PC front as well. So while passive HDMI cables can be of limited length, there are several ways to get around those limits. You can opt for an HDMI repeater while extending the connection across a room or opt for an extender to wire your entire house. Finally, you can also use a wireless HDMI kit when you don’t necessarily need to push a 4K signal.
However, if you’re going with an extender or repeater, it’s important that you start with reliable and high-quality HDMI cables as a base.