What cable do I buy for my HDMI 2.1 graphics card? | Ask an expert

Figuring out what to get is more complicated than it ought to be.

Credit: Rob Schultz / IDG

Q: I plan to buy an Nvidia RTX 3080 because of its HDMI 2.1 support—it’ll pair nicely with my LG C9 TV. I’ve researched cables, but information about actual HDMI 2.1 48Gbps compliant ones is all over the place. Do you have a recommendation for what to buy?

If you’re able to shop at a physical store, the easiest solution is to look for an Ultra High Speed HDMI cable when they become available in Q4 2020. Cables with that specific label must support all HDMI 2.1 features, including bandwidth up to 48Gbps—and can only earn the designation after undergoing mandatory certification from the HDMI Licensing Administrator group, which oversees the HDMI specification. Genuine products will have an official QR code and hologram on the packaging that you can scan in a mobile app for verification.

However, those cables might not be available soon enough for your purposes—or perhaps you plan to shop online. In those cases, finding a suitable cable is trickier. You won’t be able to rely on the HDMI Licensing Administrator’s certification program, because no online database exists for customers to look up products manually. Scanning the packaging’s QR code and hologram is the only verification process available, and you have to have the item in hand for that.

ultra high speed certification guidelines HDMI Licensing Administrator

The scanning process takes both the QR code and hologram into account.

When asked about this lack of support for online shoppers, the HDMI Licensing Administrator advised that consumers stick to trusted retailers and reliable brands to find HDMI 2.1 compatible cables. This is my advice as well, but more specifically, keep a sharp eye out while sifting through the options at e-tailers. The wording of product names will be very important.

Look for the phrase “certified Ultra High Speed” in the product name when searching for cables, and stick to cables sold by well-known manufacturers like Belkin or even Monoprice. (The latter isn’t often seen in stores, but has been around a long time online.) Also do your shopping at e-tailers that don’t mix third-party merchandise with their own in the same warehouse (i.e., Amazon), to reduce the risk of buying counterfeit goods. And finally, expect to pay a bit more for cables labeled this way. 

You’ll of course still want to verify authenticity by looking for a QR code (and scanning it) when the package arrives. On this point, the HDMI Licensing Administrator advised buying from a retailer with “a good return policy.”

Alternatively, you can try your luck with cables from established companies that have features matching HDMI 2.1’s demands—like this $14 Monoprice cable. For the first wave of RTX 30-series card buyers, such a choice is the only route available; no Ultra High Speed cables are even out yet. Again, you’ll want to buy from a retailer with a hassle-free return policy (ideally, no restocking fees even if the packaging is open) in case the advertised specs can’t deliver the experience you want.

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Alaina Yee

PC World (US online)
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