HDMI cables and Versions, buying cheap is fine.
Is a more expensive HDMI cable better?
In most real world cases, the answer is a definite no.
As long as the cable you are buying conforms to the HDMI 2.0 spec you will be fine in today’s consumer devices. There is a common saying on the internet in regards to buying HDMI cables and it certainly holds true:
It either will work or it won’t.
Requiring longer cable lengths of over two meters may benefit with the purchase of higher quality cables though paying a premium is not a sure fire way to make sure you have a better cable. Gizmodo had a decent article comparing the astronomically priced Monster HDMI cables against a cheaper equivalent. Their conclusion:
Most cheap cables are quite good, if not better, than the premium stuff that gets pushed by the guys at your local retailer.
When buying a HDMI cable, you may see a HDMI version or Standard printed on the box or packaging. HDMI devices are manufactured to adhere to various versions of the specification, in which each version is given a number. HDMI cables are no exception to this rule:
The breakdown of each HDMI version is as follows:
Released December 9, 2002 and is a single-cable digital audio/video connector interface with a maximum TMDS bandwidth of 4.9 Gbit/s. It supports up to 3.96 Gbit/s of video bandwidth (1080p/60 Hz or UXGA) and 8 channel LPCM/192 kHz/24-bit audio.
Released on May 20, 2004 and added support for DVD Audio.
Released August 8, 2005 and added support for One Bit Audio, used on Super Audio CDs, at up to 8 channels. It also added the availability of HDMI Type A connectors for PC sources, the ability for PC sources to only support the sRGB color space while retaining the option to support the YCbCr color space, and required HDMI 1.2 and later displays to support low-voltage sources.
Released June 22, 2006 and increased the single-link bandwidth to 340 MHz (10.2 Gbit/s). It optionally supports Deep Color, with 30-bit, 36-bit, and 48-bit xvYCC, sRGB, or YCbCr, compared to 24-bit sRGB or YCbCr in previous HDMI versions. It also optionally supports output of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio streams for external decoding by AV receivers. It incorporates automatic audio syncing (audio video sync) capability. It defined cable Categories 1 and 2, with Category 1 cable being tested up to 74.25 MHz and Category 2 being tested up to 340 MHz. It also added the new Type C miniconnector for portable devices.
Released on May 28, 2009, and Silicon Image expects their first HDMI 1.4 products to sample in the second half of 2009. HDMI 1.4 increases the maximum resolution to 4K × 2K (3840×2160p at 24Hz/25Hz/30Hz and 4096×2160p at 24Hz, which is a resolution used with digital theaters); an HDMI Ethernet Channel, which allows for a 100 Mb/s Ethernet connection between the two HDMI connected devices; and introduces an Audio Return Channel, 3D Over HDMI, a new Micro HDMI Connector, expanded support for color spaces, and an Automotive Connection System.
Increases the maximum TMDS per channel throughput from 3.4 Gbit/s to 6 Gbit/s which allows for a maximum total TMDS throughput of 18 Gbit/s. This enables HDMI 2.0 to carry 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. Other features of HDMI 2.0 include the options of the Rec. 2020 color space, Dual View, 4:2:0 chroma subsampling, 25 fps 3D formats, up to 4 audio streams, 21:9 aspect ratio, the HE-AAC and DRA audio standards, dynamic auto lip-sync, improved 3D capability, and additional CEC functions.
HDMI 2.1 adds support for dynamic metadata improving HDR (High Dynamic Range) picture performance on a scene by scene basis.
You can find more information on the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) via this incredibly in-depth wikipedia entry.