You'd think buying an HDMI cable would be a simple affair: just buy one that's the right length, and maybe in the colour you want.

But what you might not realise is that there are multiple HDMI standards with different features, specs, and variables.

And it can be a little tricky to figure out which of these things matters and which don't. But the good news is that - for most of the time - you don’t have to worry: a budget HDMI cable will perform the same as those that cost many times as much.

Still, there are differences and if you've bought an 8K TV, for example, you can't just buy the cheapest cable you find. You can read more about what HDMI is and what the ports are in our HDMI explainer article

HDMI cable buying advice

High-definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is, and has been for a while, the undisputed standard in video and audio cables. It’s most likely what you’ll use to connect up TVs, games consoles, set-top boxes, and even some sound systems. It's so widely used now that most of us don't even have enough HDMI ports on our TVs, though there is a way to add more HDMI ports if you need them.

The only notable exceptions are Macs and PCs, but even then HDMI is still a common sight. You will want to use DisplayPort if your monitor can handle more than 60Hz, but for any other device, HDMI is fine.

With that in mind, we’ve got good news for you: as long as you stick to a reputable brand, you can basically buy any cheap HDMI cable and you’ll be good to go.

Don’t get lured in by promises of gold-plated this or nylon-braided that - the core cable will be basically the same no matter what, and any quality difference from a more expensive cable will be imperceptible (well, most of the time).

High resolutions & high refresh rates

Video standards are continuing to change rapidly, with the recent rise of 4K and HDR already beginning to give way to 8K and beyond. Plus, refresh rates for games consoles are also beginning to go beyond the standard 60Hz, which requires yet more data to be transferred per second.

If you’re still using the HDMI cable that came with the TV you bought eight years ago, it might not work at all with a 4K video source like an Xbox Series X or an Ultra-HD Blu-ray player, and if it does work, it might introduce errors in the picture. The same is true (more so) for HDR.

Luckily, this is easy to test - just connect everything up with your cable and check if your TV gets a signal, recognises it as 4K and/or HDR, and displays it without any obvious problems. If it does, you’re good to go. If not, you’ll have to buy a new one.

HDMI 2.1

One thing you might see when shopping for HDMI cables are the various version numbers floating around - these days mostly HDMI 2.0.

The first thing to note is that the version numbers actually apply to devices - TVs and video sources - and not the cables themselves. What really matters is the cable’s speed capacity - look out for anything rated for 18Gbps to keep up with 4K HDR, which should be just about any cable sold as ‘high speed’.

The next version to come is HDMI 2.1 - with 48Gbps ‘ultra high speed’ cables to match - but most people don’t need to worry about that. This is intended to support 8K video (and up to 10K), but it’ll be a couple of years at least before there are widespread compatible devices.

However, there are features such as variable refresh rate and eARC as well as 4K video at 120Hz which also require an HDMI 2.1 cable. The PS5, Xbox Series X and certain LG 4K OLED TVs support HDMI 2.1, but you'll only benefit from getting a cable that supports the latest standard if you have both a console and TV that support those features.

So unless you specifically need one, don’t pay extra for a 48Gbps cable right now.

Design and durability

Beyond specs, design and durability are the main concerns. In terms of design, the main thing you probably want to consider is just making sure the cable head is slim - some TVs pack their HDMI sockets in pretty tightly, so avoid snazzy looking cables that might just block your other ports.

Durability will matter more or less depending on whether this is a cable designed for portable use, or just to sit behind your TV untouched. If you do need it to be durable though, look both for tough, braided designs and (just as importantly) flexible cable heads - this is the most vulnerable part of any cable, and a rigid design is much more likely to split.

Finally, think about length. Resist the temptation to buy ultra-long leads ‘just in case’ - speeds drop beyond a certain point, though should be fine in any domestic setup. 1m/3ft should suit most TV setups, but measure what you’ll think you need (and maybe go one size up just to be safe).

AmazonBasics HDMI Cable

AmazonBasics HDMI Cable

Our top recommendation is also one of the cheapest options around - it’s nice when that works out, isn’t it?

The AmazonBasics range has become a firm favourite of ours across just about every product category it covers, and HDMI cables are no exception. Available in lengths from 1m up to 15m, and boasting all the necessary tech specs along with a solid (if plain) design, this is hard to beat.

Even better - if the cable isn’t cheap enough for you, you can save money by buying them in bundles of two or three - ideal for updating your whole setup, or just grabbing some spares.

Syncwire HDMI Cable

Syncwire HDMI Cable

If you don’t quite trust your AV setup to a cable with ‘basics’ in the name, this offering from Syncwire is worth a look. The price is higher than Amazon’s, but that's partly because the shortest option is 1.5m rather than 0.9m.

The tech specs are exactly the same, but Syncwire does boast that the cable can survive being bent over 3,000 times, so it should win when it comes to durability. It’s available in lengths up to 3m, but that should be plenty for most setups.

Belkin High Speed HDMI Cable

Belkin High Speed HDMI Cable

Another offering if you’re more inclined to trust your cabling to a big brand - Belkin makes a number of reliable tech accessories, so an HDMI cable isn’t much of a stretch for them.

The cable supports 4K, though Belkin also offers an ultra high speed version that costs a lot more. As we said above, we wouldn’t really recommend spending the extra money for that, but the option’s there if you’re committed to future-proofing.

The US model is slightly different, but it should get you the same results.

UGreen 90-Degree HDMI Cable

UGreen 90-Degree HDMI Cable

And now for something completely (well, a little) different. This HDMI cable from UGreen has one right-angled plug, perfect for connecting up appliances in odd spots or with limited clearance from your wall or TV cabinet.

Watch out for older 10.2Gbps versions of this cable and ensure you're getting the 18Gbps one. The 10.2Gbps version will handle any HD content very comfortably, and 4K up to 30fps, but might struggle with higher frame rate 4K or any 4K HDR.

True HQ Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable

True HQ Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable 2m

True HQ is a UK-based company which is among the first to offer a HDMI 2.1 cable that's certified by hdmi.org.

And being certified means you're guaranteed 8K at 60Hz, and 4K at 120Hz thanks to that 48Gbps data rate. (It also means support for all the other HDMI 2.1 features, such as VRR, QFT, ALLM, QMS and eARC.)

The cable itself looks and feels suitably premium with silver aluminum alloy heads, 24K gold plated connectors and a double braided jacket.

True HQ offers a two-year warranty and at the time of writing there was a 5% voucher available on its Amazon listing: simply tick the box to get money off.

It wasn't available on Amazon US when we checked.

Caavo Spotlight HDMI Cable

Caavo Spotlight HDMI Cable

The Spotlight cable from Caavo is designed for those of us stuck with a mess of multiple HDMI cables round the back of the TV and consequently struggle to tell them apart.

Each end of the cable includes a small LED, which illuminates when you press the button at either end, so at a glance you can tell which what's plugged in where - ideal for troubleshooting problems or de-tangling messy setups.

Beyond that slight gimmick, this is otherwise a well built HDMI 2.0 cable, rated up to 18Gbps, with a nylon wrap and gold-plated connectors. It's only available direct from Caavo, where you can buy it in 3ft ($25/around £20) or 6ft ($30/around £23.50), with a red-and-white coloured option too ($25), and discounts if you buy more than one.