HDMI Cable Categories: Understanding the Differences

In audio/visual installs of all types, from residential to commercial to healthcare, the HDMI cable has become ubiquitous. We at Experience Audio Video see it just about everywhere we work. This cable type gets run just about anywhere anyone might need a video signal, and it’s easy to see why. HDMI is a great, highly capable standard, and the cables are fairly inexpensive.

Understanding HDMI Cable Categories

When dealing with commercial installs, you’ll want to know that not every HDMI cable is created equal. There are three different categories of HDMI cable. They look the same, but they are capable of differing data transfer speeds.

Category 1 HDMI Cables

Sometimes called standard speed cables, Category 1 HDMI cables can transmit at speeds sufficient to carry a 720p or 1080i video signal. Both of these are below full HD.

Category 2 HDMI Cables

Category 2 is sometimes called high speed, and it has about five times the transfer speed of Category 1. With Category 2 cable you can transmit video at 1080p (that’s full HD) and at 60 frames per second. You can also transmit a 4k signal, but it’s limited to 30 frames per second. You’ll also be able to do certain advanced features with Category 2 cabling.

Both Category 1 and Category 2 cables support HDMI standards up to 2.0.

Category 3 HDMI Cables

Ultra high speed Category 3 cable has an even higher transfer speed. It can accommodate everything in the HDMI 2.1 standard, including up to 10k resolution and upscale audio formats transmitted over eARC. (See a couple blog posts back to learn more about eARC.)

Which Category Is Right for You?

All that said, which is the right category for your business? Experience Audio Video recommends Category 3 for most customers because it supports 4k and 8k and thus prepares them well for future upgrades. But the truth is every situation is different. Schedule a free consultation today for a customized answer to this question.