When it comes to eliciting the highest-resolution audio and video from modern home theater devices, HDMI is the anointed standard. Replacing analog alternatives such as component video and VGA, HDMI provides digital audio and video in a single cable. In addition, copy protection schemes force manufacturers to only offer the best audio and video over this cable type. The use of fewer cables means reduced wire clutter and potentially lower cabling costs.
Part of the reason for development of complex universal remote controls was the inability of analog cables to carry control data. HDMI solves this. Although full-featured universal remotes permeate the market, HDMI Consumer Electronics Control, or CEC. allows your television's remote to control other so-enabled devices. Known by other proprietary names from various manufacturers, CEC replaces costlier remotes in many more casual audiovisual environments. CEC also eases setup time by detecting optimal settings among individual components and automatically setting these accordingly.
HDMI cables, like other home theater components, vary wildly in cost. HDMI uses digital means of data transmission to get picture and sound from device to device. For this reason, unless you're using a broken, defective or inappropriate-length HDMI cable, performance should not vary. Limitations in distance for most HDMI cables hovers between 75 and 100 feet. Repeaters can be added to regenerate the signal, mitigating this concern. Smarter manufacturers provide these pre-installed on longer cable runs to forestall the issue entirely. Beyond choosing the right gauge and length of cable and assuming the manufacturer is reputable, costs are mainly influenced by brand cache and marketing. Analog cables have these costs variances as well, but have a greater variety of performance stages among different grades that HDMI does not.
Connecting a DVD or Blu-ray player using component video and an optical audio cable potentially makes the wiring configuration more complex and pricier. Given that many devices limit A/V performance over analog cables in conjunction with those issues makes HDMI a better choice if your component supports it. With each source now only needing one cable for the best in audio and video, your clutter and wiring confusion is reduced. For example, connecting five components to your home theater receiver entails five HDMI cables, with a sixth used to run to your display. Of course, you still require speaker cables and an RCA to run to your subwoofer.
Component video is a high-quality analog cabling option. However, the High Definition Content Protection, or HDCP, protocol typically limits component video to standard definition. S-video and composite video cables represent the lowest-performing options among A/V cables. These wires lack the ability to carry the high amount of data needed for today's high-definition sources. VGA, long a staple of computer monitors, finds use in A/V systems but is normally limited to analog video processors. Digital Video Interface, or DVI, is the predecessor to HDMI, but was quickly replaced due to its lack of audio support. No analog cables offer combined high-resolution audio and video like HDMI.
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