Helios Fiber HDMI cables Are you purchasing a new 4K home theater or gaming system but can’t understand why you would need a more expensive fiber HDMI® cable? Without a high-performance cable, your “upgraded system” is only as good as the cable connecting it all together, which may not be an upgrade at all. Why would you invest in a new display, expecting to experience higher resolution performance, only to use a cheap cable? To understand how high-quality fiber HDMI cables are better than cheaper copper cables, we need to explain the differences.

Copper cables have been for technology what the first airplane has been for the world of travel, a significant advancement, but certainly not where we want to stop. Now, 747 jets, they can really move! These commercial jets have improved our travel and brought a vast amount of people closer together quicker and easier than ever before. Fiber optic cables have done the same for technology through ease, speed and quantity. While we appreciate what copper cables have allowed us to do, we need to keep moving forward. Fiber optic cables can help us do just that by flying high to meet the many new challenges of the technological world. Just as there are pros and cons between anything you compare, there are pros and cons between copper and fiber cables. Being in the know about these details will help you make the best decision for your clients, business or home. Consider these four vantage points of fiber optic HDMI cables:

Bigger is Better - Greater Bandwidths at Longer Distances

While bigger may not always be better in every situation, it is better when it comes to bandwidth capacity. Bandwidth requirements for 4K and now 8K are only getting more demanding as technology advances. Traditional copper cables are having a hard time keeping up with those demands because many common brands were designed for voice transmission and have limited bandwidth, especially in longer distances. However, fiber optic cables not only can handle voice transmissions but also the transmission of uncompressed videos, ranging from Ultra HD 4K with HDR to 8K and beyond, as well as virtual reality, high-resolution audio and games, crystal clear video-conferencing and so much more. Fiber cables can also go farther than copper at higher bandwidths with virtually no signal loss. To achieve the highest quality 4K content, you’ll need 18Gbps bandwidth. Under the new HDMI 2.1 spec, bandwidth for high-resolution content increases to 24Gbps to allow for higher bit rates and dynamic HDR. For the highest 8K spec, 48Gbps is required. As you can see by the chart below, this massive increase in bandwidth cannot be supported by cables made for 10.2Gbps. (Note: HDMI cables can be labeled as “4K” and only support up to 10.2Gbps, so be sure to check the specs carefully).

HDMI bandwidth comparison

Speed of Light - Almost There

Copper cables transmit electrical currents to send information, while fiber optic cables send pulses of light. This means fiber optic cables are using photons to carry light signals at speeds that are only about 31% slower than the speed of light, while copper cables are using electrons that travel at less the 1% of the speed of light. It seems like we are comparing a paper airplane to a jet airplane. When it comes to speed, fiber optic cables definitely transfer your data quicker and more efficiently. This makes fiber HDMI cables ideal for 4K gaming, 4K home theaters and even 8K displays.

Under Pressure - Flexible, Strong and Reliable

Knowing your cables can stand up under pressure gives you the confidence you need in your technology. As stated before, fiber optic cables use photons and not electrons. This protects them from the electromagnetic interference that copper cables, using electrons, encounter. Also, unlike copper cables, fiber cables cannot be tapped because fiber cables do not use electricity and do not radiate signals like copper cables do. Fiber cables are also thinner, more flexible, lighter and if they are well made, they can be much more durable than copper. They can withstand more pull-pressure and are less likely to break or become damaged. Unfortunately, cheap copper cables carrying electricity can short-out or even cause a fire if they are damaged, old or worn out. A well-constructed fiber cable will last for years.

Money Matters - Smart Investments

Initially, it may seem that copper cables are more economically efficient because they are lower in price. However, you will be paying in speed, bandwidth, distance, strength and overall reliability. Though fiber optic cables may cost more at the beginning, in the long run, they will prove themselves to be the wiser economic choice. As technology advances, a 4K cable with a 10.2 Gbps bandwidth will no longer deliver for a higher-end 4K TV or 4K gaming console, and it definitely won’t work for anything using 8K. Purchasing a Helios fiber HDMI cable that supports up to 24Gbps ensures that as you move into a higher resolution 4K TV or 4K gaming console, your investment will continue to perform at “light speed”. Without a high-performance cable, your "upgraded system" is only as good as the cable connecting it all together, which may not be an upgrade at all.

Understanding these details and knowing your options will help you make the best decision for your home. And considering the future of the technological world, higher bandwidth demands, signal integrity, durability and overall connectivity, investing in a well-constructed fiber HDMI cable will be worth the additional price.

Metra Home Theatre Theater Group is a division of Metra Electronics®. We are the world leader and “The Installer’s Choice” for vehicle installation kits and car audio accessories for more than 70 years. Our brands include Ethereal Home Theater®, Helios®, Spyclops Surveillance Systems® and The Install Bay®.

Questions? Give us a call, and you won’t speak to an overseas call center of people reading from scripts. Our technical support team is located in the Metra Electronics corporate headquarters in Holly Hill, FL. This allows our team to work closely with the same people who developed and engineered our products. We provide expert answers and fast support.

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