If you’ve been shopping for HDMI cables recently, you may have spotted gold HDMI cables, along with some claims about what they can do. What are gold HDMI cables and are they better than regular ones?
Let’s break down the evidence for and against gold HDMI cables to see if they’re worth your money.
What Are Gold HDMI Cables?
Gold HDMI cables are easy to spot due to their striking appearance. The connectors that plug into devices and screens have a thin coating of gold, which makes them very easy to differentiate over normal ones.
Because of this extra layer of gold over the connectors, the price of gold HDMI cables is usually higher than normal ones. This higher price tag begs the question; is getting gold HDMI cables better than purchasing regular ones?
Gold HDMI Cable Performance vs. Regular Cables
One claim that manufacturers make with gold HDMI cables is that the gold plating helps with transmitting the signal. They claim that, because gold is a better conductor of electricity than regular cables, there’s less “deterioration” as the signal passes into and out of the cable.
The problem with this claim is that HDMI cables transmit digital signals. Do you remember around a decade ago, when there was a successful push to replace analog televisions with digital ones? Claims such as the above are remnants of the analog age, where signals could be blurry or unclear.
Analog signals used a waveform to transmit data. These waves were susceptible to interference and misinterpretation, which sometimes resulted in a blurry image. Digital signals, however, are purely 1s and 0s. There’s no room for misinterpretation here; it’s either one thing or the other.
As such, if you plug in an HDMI cable and the video has no faults in it, you’re already getting the best picture quality available. You can’t purchase a gold cable and see a better image; that implies that the gold cables will send better, higher-quality 1s and 0s—this isn’t possible!
If an HDMI cable does go faulty, you’ll see white dots all over the screen, known as “snow” or “sparkles.” This problem is due to the 1s and 0s not arriving at all. It’s usually a fault with the cable itself and not a lack of gold on the connectors.
There are, however, standard and high-speed HDMI cables that define what resolutions they support. You can read more about that in our article about the best HDMI cable for TVs and displays.
Gold HDMI Cable Latency vs. Regular Cables
Some gold HDMI sellers also claim that the premium gold cables have lower latency than regular cables. Latency is important for gaming, as your actions on your computer or console will visually occur faster with higher latency. Again, the manufacturers base this on the idea that regular connectors conduct electricity slower than gold.
There’s a problem with this theory, however. While people can study the effects of gold plating vs. regular HDMI connectors, gold-plated HDMI cables still use ordinary copper for the internal wire. This restriction means the signal goes through the majority of the wire at the same speed as every other HDMI cable.
In short, this is like purchasing a super-fast car to get through traffic faster. You may be entering and leaving the traffic jam sooner, but when you’re in the thick of it, you’re only moving as quickly as the car in front.
If you want to improve your latency, don’t waste your money on gold HDMI cables; instead, try grabbing one of the best 4K gaming monitors for all budgets.
How Are Gold HDMI Cables Useful?
So far, we’ve been harsh on the so-called “facts” that businesses like to state when selling gold-plated HDMI cables. But what about some reasons why you should buy a gold cable over a regular one?
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why a gold cable is better than a normal one.
Gold Doesn’t Corrode as Quickly as Other Metals
Did you know that your smartphones, laptops, and computers contain a small amount of gold in them? You’ll find them on circuit boards and contacts. The reason gold is used is that it doesn’t corrode quickly.
The gold you’ll find in electronic circuits helps keep the connections safe from corrosion. If the contacts corroded off, it could potentially cause the product to fail.
Before you crack open your devices to go gold mining, however, US Funds stated that a smartphone contains only 50 milligrams of gold. That’s about 50 cents-worth of gold—not nearly enough to destroy your phone over!
As such, if you live in an area where metal corrosion is a problem, a gold HDMI cable will help it last longer. Corrosion occurs due to high humidity and affects people who live by the sea, a river, or on a boat. If your locale suffers from high humidity ratings, a gold HDMI cable will protect the connectors from damage.
Gold HDMI Cables Feel “Premium”
Let’s be honest; as much as the statistics surrounding the performance of gold-plated cables may be false, they do look amazing. The manufacturer may also give some special care for the cord itself, so you feel like you have a premium cable on your hands. The performance will be the same as a regular cable, but it’ll undoubtedly look stunning!
Should You Pay Extra for Gold Cables?
When you have the chance to purchase gold cables over regular ones, should you take it? From what we’ve covered, the answer is almost certainly no. Gold cables are best for people in high corrosive environments and people who like the feel of a luxury product. For everyone else, regular wires will do the job fine.
The problem is, you may find it hard to find a store that sells regular cables. For example, if you look for “HDMI cables” on Amazon.com, the result will contain nearly-exclusively gold-plated variants. This stocking choice is likely because if they stocked regular, cheaper cables, people would buy those over the more profit-generating gold ones.
As such, you may end up buying them anyway if they’re well-priced, even if you know that they’re not better quality than regular ones. If you do have the option to pay more for gold, however, don’t believe any claims that the gold ones are better!
Making the Most of Your HDMI Cables
While there’s nothing wrong with gold-plated HDMI cables, the myths and snake-oil claims that surround them make them appear better than they actually are. As such, if you’re in a position to purchase a regular cable, you shouldn’t pay extra for gold ones; that is unless you’re part of the niche that gold cables are suited for.
If you’re tired of swapping HDMI cables for different devices, try using an HDMI splitter for several displays.