It’s time to hook up a new piece of tech, so you open up that dreaded drawer crammed full of miscellaneous cords. You’re searching for an HDMI cable, but all you see is “HDMI ARC.” Is that different? And if it is, can you use it as a regular HDMI cable anyway?
You can use an HDMI ARC cable as a regular HDMI cable. HDMI ARC is simply a newer version of HDMI, and all HDMI cables are backward-compatible. This means that no matter how many new HDMI standards are developed, new cables will always work in the place of older cables.
Keep reading to learn about the various kinds of HDMI. You’ll also find out when a particular type of HDMI cable is needed to take advantage of newer technology features and when an older cable will do the job just as well.
HDMI stands for “High-Definition Multimedia Interface.” HDMI cables were invented to carry high-definition signals from device to device digitally, preventing signal loss with earlier cable types. They can also take both audio and visual signals, which is an improvement over the past video-only cables.
HDMI cables can be “standard” or “high-speed.” Standard cables will carry 742.5 Mbps/channel, while high-speed cables will carry between 1.65 Gbps/channel and 3.4 Gbps/channel.
All HDMI cables can properly be called “HDMI,” whether they are among the very first invented or are among the most recent. Each time the standard for HDMI is updated, it gets a new decimal name. The first HDMI cables were referred to as HDMI 1.0, the second as HDMI 1.1, and so on.
HDMI cables are recognizable by their connector shapes: the connectors are narrow, with a top side longer than their bottom side and edges that drop down at a 90-degree angle from the top and then curve to meet the bottom. The connectors have 19 pins, but the pins may be in different patterns depending on the connector type.
Type A HDMI connectors are the standard type and measure 13.90 x 4.45 mm (.55 x .18 in). Ports for HDMI Type A connectors are found on laptops, televisions, and game consoles.
In the market for a Type A cable? Check out these great choices:
- 4K HDMI Cable 10 ft – Atevon High Speed: This braided cable is long enough for nearly any use but still has the reliable high-speed power of HDMI 2.0.
- 4K HDMI Cable 6.6 ft, Silkland High Speed: If you’re looking for a slightly shorter cord, this cable offers the same reliable speed in a more compact form.
Type C, or “mini” HDMI connectors, are substantially smaller than Type A. They are 10.42 x 2.42 mm (.41 x .1 in) and are used on portable devices like tablets and digital cameras.
If you’re looking for a Type C cable, glance through these options:
- Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable 6.6FT: This braided cord will let you hook up your portable device to your laptop or television.
- BlueRigger 4K Mini HDMI to HDMI Adapter Cable: This adapter cable will also allow you to hook a portable device to devices using Type-A connectors, but it comes in a longer length.
Type D, or “micro” HDMI connectors, are the smallest of all–they’re about the same size as micro-USB connectors, at 5.83 x 2.20 mm (.23 x .09 in). Type D connectors are used on small devices like phones.
Need a Type D cable? Here are two excellent possibilities:
- AmazonBasics Flexible and Durable Micro HDMI to HDMI Cable: This is an excellent basic cable for joining your smartphone to your laptop or your charger.
- Cable Matters High-Speed HDMI to Micro HDMI Cable: When you need the reach of a much longer cord, this 15 foot (4.6 m) cable is a great choice.
You might be wondering, “What happened to Type B?” Although specifications for Type B connectors were developed, Type B became obsolete very rapidly and was never widely implemented. There is also a Type E connector but only used in commercial applications such as automobile manufacturing.
Beginning with HDMI 1.4, cables have been able to send and receive audio and video signals simultaneously. The “ARC” in HDMI ARC stands for “Audio Return Channel.” Before the implementation of the 1.4 standards, a separate audio cable was often required.
Using an ARC cable helps you avoid having a mess of cables everywhere you need both sound and video to travel–it’s especially helpful when you want to run sound from multiple devices to a sound-bar or other high-quality speaker. Sometimes you don’t have enough ports on your speaker, and with HDMI ARC, you can run sound from every device to the television and then use an HDMI ARC cord to connect the television to your speaker.
HDMI eARC is a recent update of the ARC technology. The “e” stands for “enhanced.” If your television and sound equipment were made in 2019 or later, the chances are good that they’re set up for eARC. Investing in an eARC HDMI cable will let you enjoy better sound quality from these devices.
Interested in updating to an eARC cable? Try one of these:
- Monoprice Ultra 8K High-Speed HDMI Cable: This cutting-edge cable uses the latest HDMI standard and is eARC compatible.
- 8K HDMI Cable, Bphuny 8K HDMI Cable: Another top-notch cable that allows you to take advantage of eARC technology.
Want to know more about HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC? Watch this helpful explainer video at https://youtu.be/ar2ombRN1UY or watch below.
Most of the HDMI cables you have in your home are probably HDMI 2.0 cables since the HDMI 2.0 standard was adopted several years ago. You can use an HDMI 2.0 cable for your smart t.v., most video gaming consoles, your sound system, and so on. It’s still a highly capable technology because it will transmit quality signals at the speeds most current devices require.
There are new technologies on the way, though, that will require speeds and resolutions that HDMI 2.0 cables can’t keep up with. The first place you’re likely to see this new technology is in video gaming systems.
Although there are not yet many devices on the market that require HDMI 2.1 cables, they are available. HDMI 2.1 cables feature faster transmission speeds and support higher video resolution. They allow for bandwidth speeds up to 48Gbps and feature eARC connectivity.
Like all HDMI cables, HDMI 2.1 is backward-compatible–so even if your devices don’t currently require one of these high-performance cables, you can use HDMI 2.1 with older devices.
Got a brand new gaming console and want to try out its HDMI 2.1 features? Have a look at these HDMI 2.1 cables:
- 8K HDMI Cable 3.3 ft iVANKY HDMI 2.1: The shorter length of this cable is ideal for hooking up a console to a nearby television.
- 8K HDMI Cable, AUDIANO 8K HDMI Cable: This versatile cable comes in a longer length and is compatible with a huge range of devices.
Like all modern technologies, the cables that allow our devices to transmit signals to one another are always evolving. HDMI cables can be high- or low-speed and can have various connector types. HDMI 1.0, the first HDMI standard, has been updated several times: one of the most significant updates was 1.4 when HDMI ARC was introduced. Most recently, the HDMI 2.1 update promises a giant leap forward in speed and resolution.
The great thing about HDMI cables is that they are backward-compatible. As cables are created to keep up with emerging technology in video games, televisions, and so on, you can use these new cables with all of your HDMI-compatible devices, no matter how old they are.