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Did not deliver 18 Gbps as advertised
on December 7, 2015
The cable came well-reviewed here on Amazon, and since this 15' cable was advertised to support 18 Gbps (which is what I was going to need), I ordered it and even paid to have it shipped before the holiday weekend. Unfortunately, it did not work in my situation, even though it may work in yours.
That's the short review. Here's the longer, more detailed information.
This cable was purchased to connect a PC with an GeForce GTX 960 video card to a Sony XBR43830C 4K TV. In order to use a PC for productivity in this scenario, you must be able to pass 4:4:4 chroma. (Google that term along with "4K" to find out more) Ideally, you want to be able to run it at 60 Hz, so you don't have mouse lag or other issues that come with a 30 Hz refresh rate.
To do 4K at 4:4:4 chroma at 60 Hz, you need a video card capable of generating it, a display that supports it, and connection capable of transmitting 18 Gbps. The video card was confirmed as supporting it. As of this summer, Sony released firmware that supports 4:4:4 at 4K at 60 Hz. The last part was finding the right cable.
There are a lot of HDMI cables that are capable of lower speeds. Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to wade through the choices to find ones capable of higher speeds. A common way is to look for "HDMI 2" and "category 2" and "high speed" but the best way is just to look for the spec that says that the cable will support 18 Gbps since that's really the number you're looking for anyway.
As anyone who had dealt with HDMI cables before will know, short cables are easy to get working. I've read that some people use throwaway 3-foot cables in this situation and it works just fine, but I needed a minimum of 12'. That means you have to count on the manufacturer to provide accurate information. For example, if they sell a 15' cable and advertise it to be capable of 18 Gbps, then that should mean that the 15' length you receive should be capable of that speed. It doesn't matter if the 6-foot version of that same cable can do 18 Gbps, because you're not buying the 6-foot cable, you're buying the longer one.
This Mediabridge cable rose to the top of my research, as it had good reviews from people, albeit with no mentions of 4K @ 4:4:4 @ 60 Hz. This is not surprising since no media devices (blu-ray players, Roku boxes, or even the Fire TV box) requires 18 Gbps. At least, not right now... Just wait until HDR comes into the picture.
This cable came quickly, exactly as promised. It was in perfect condition and looked like a very nice cable. Being 15', it was a little longer than I needed (I needed 12' minimum), but one doesn't complain about having a little extra length to route around things. I had the display connected via a 50 foot low-speed BlueRigger cable that I had handy, so the video card and TV were already being used at 4K at 4:4:4 chroma at 30 Hz. I replaced that overly long cable with this one, and powered the system back up, and everything was happy at the same resolution and refresh rate.
Unfortunately, when I switched the video card to 60 Hz, the TV reported an invalid signal. That's when the fun began. I started researching to confirm that the TV was capable of 60 Hz (it was), and to confirm what exactly I needed to look for in a cable, etc. That research showed that it's possible that the tolerances of the sending, receiving, and transmitting equipment can cause problems if they combine in such a way to multiply their effects on the signal. So, it was possible that the cable was fine, but my equipment was a factor (TV needed more signal strength than the video card was transmitting).
Before contacting the manufacturer, and before returning the cable, I wanted to do more research.
A few days later, Amazon Vine offered me a 25' AmazonBasics cable that was also advertised as being capable of 18 Gbps. While I doubted that a low-priced 25' cable could achieve that speed, I thought it was an excellent chance to do more experimentation. That cable was able to transmit 4K at 4:4:4 chroma at 60 Hz, albeit with video sparkles that indicate that the transmission was having some issues. However, this confirmed the fact that the TV was able to receive the 60 Hz signal that the video card was sending it. With a cable 10 feet longer than the Mediabridge cable.
I recorded the results from my testing, and contacted Mediabridge for assistance. To their credit, Mediabridge proactively sent me an E-Mail offering to help with any issues I might run into with their product. I sent them a response with my information and an offer to provide more details about which signals worked and which did not, in the hopes of figuring out whether I just received a bad cable, or if they believed that it was working as designed. The reply I received from them was as follows:
It sounds like the length of the cable is playing a factor in the issue you are describing. This is issue that can occur with HDMI technology itself. This is much the same way a coaxial cable has attenuation and the signal loss will always be greater at 100ft than it will be at 10ft. Cables will always have loss.
Secondly and more importantly, the cable is simply a means of getting whats put into it by a source device into a destination device. If the cable works on one device, then we can safely say the cable works. The components inside the source and destination devices have far more to do with this than most people realize. This is called source and sync. One device may have a weaker sync than another. This is why one device may work while another won't. It's not related to the cable and usually using a shorter cable will resolve it. This is why you should always choose the shortest cable you can for your installation.
While it's possible that my equipment is a factor (no way to know), I had confirmed that a much longer cable was performing better (even if it wasn't perfect), so I don't think that it was reasonable to assign all the blame away from their product. It seemed the only solution they were suggesting was to purchase a shorter cable. The next shorter length they offer in the ULTRA line is 10' long, which is shorter than I needed, so that left me with the choice of either living with it as-is, or to find another alternative.
That alternative came in the form of a 12' Rocketfish cable (RF-HG12501) from Best Buy. Offered at a sale price of $35 (which is three times the price of this cable), it seemed worth trying. If it failed, that might confirm that my equipment was more at fault. It would have been a better test to get a 15' cable, as a shorter cable is more likely to work at higher speeds, but it's what was available. That cable arrived two days ago, and it works perfectly, so the Mediabridge cable is being returned.
All this said, this cable might work just fine for you. At least for now. However, if a company is going to advertise that a cable is going to achieve a particular speed, it should be expected to deliver that speed at the length being offered. I'll making similar comments about the AmazonBasics cable in my Vine review.
Fortunately, it seems that HDMI Licensing is working to cut through the confusion and the possibility of "optimistic" marketing claims. Their "Premium HDMI Cable" certification will hopefully resolve such issues.