Amazon Basics vs. Monoprice: Which HDMI cable to buy?
Looking for the best deal on HDMI cables? Check out our comparison of the two most popular online options.
When it comes to cheap HDMI cables, two companies dominate: Amazon and Monoprice. Both offer well-reviewed cables of multiple lengths, all for far less money than many other brands.
Since all HDMI cables perform the same when it comes to video and audio, what's the better deal? Who's got the best price per foot?
The short answer is: Monoprice's six-footer for $1.82.
The long answer? Read on.
If you're curious about HDMI cables, and why cheap cables offer the same picture and sound quality as expensive HDMI cables, we've really got you covered. Check out:
- Why all HDMI cables are the same
- Why all HDMI cables are the same, part 2
- Still more reasons why all HDMI cables are the same
- And the HDMI cable buyers guide
For the companies at hand, we've mentioned both before. They offer great prices on cables. As far as quality and longevity goes, Amazon cables have a 4.7/5 average rating from over 11,000 reviews. Eighty-two percent are 5/5 and an additional 12 percent are 4/5. Monoprice cables have similarly high ratings on Amazon (and on their own website, for what it's worth). Lastly, I use Monoprice cables in my lab, and CNET's lab uses cables from both vendors. We've had no issues.
Reading the Amazon page for the AmazonBasics cables is interesting. It's filled with redundant and unnecessary information, like "Backwards Compatible with Previous HDMI Standards," "3D," "Delivers audio and video in one cable," and "Meets HDMI 1.4 specification."
That shows where they know their consumer knowledge to be. They're trying to sell a product to someone who doesn't read CNET, and who knows only a few key buzzwords. Those buzzwords have to be on the page, even if we all know that if it's High Speed that means it can do 1080p.
Read some of the questions and comments on that page, and you'll see why I keep writing HDMI articles. It's clear there is still a lot of confusion out there.
As far as the cables go, here's how the pricing breaks down (as of this writing):
3 feet: $5.09 ($1.70 per foot)
6.5 feet: $5.99 ($0.92 per foot)
9.8 feet: $7.49 ($0.76 per foot)
15 feet: $11.99 ($0.80 per foot)
25 feet: $16.99 ($0.68 per foot)
There are also two multi-packs:
2x 6.5 feet: $7.89 ($0.61 per foot)
3 feet/15 feet: $14.99 ($0.83 per foot)
As you can see, for the most part it's cheaper per foot the longer you get, and if you buy in bulk. Not too surprising there. The best deal is clearly the two pack of 6.5-footers.
Some might say 25 feet is pushing it for a passive HDMI cable, but I doubt Amazon would sell it if it didn't work with at least some of their test gear. In my testing of long passive HDMI cables, I found that beyond 25 feet, it really depends on the gear. As in, a certain cable would work with one projector and Blu-ray player, but not with a different projector and Blu-ray player.
If you're running 25 feet, if it doesn't work with your gear, active cables (which we'll discuss below) are just a little bit more money and tend to work great.
And definitely check any cable before you install it in a wall (also check local codes).
AmazonBasics cables have a one-year warranty.
The original king of cheap cables, Monoprice could certainly be called "disruptive." They also sell a lot of HDMI cables. Where Amazon is clearly trying to sell a cable that will work for just about everyone, Monoprice has a cable to fit just about every need and use. Every length, color, and "feature" you can imagine. For example, they sell flat cables and other oddities, but for this guide I stuck with the basics. These are the cheapest, thinnest High Speed cables Monoprice sells.
The cables above don't have Ethernet, though. However, neither does most (if any) of your gear. Do you really need it? Probably not. Is it worth having for "futureproofing"? Up to you. Here are a few of the prices with Ethernet capability:
Lastly, they have really long cables with RedMere active tech. These are what I use in my lab.
15 feet: $21.42 ($1.43 per foot)
30 feet: $39.01 ($1.30 per foot)
60 feet: $68.14 ($1.14 per foot)
As you can see, the standard 6-foot cable is the best deal, by far. It is, however, 30 gauge. That's a really thin cable. Will it work? Yes. Will it hold up to a lot of abuse? Probably not. For less than $2 though, do you care if you have to replace it every few years? If that concerns you, there are thicker versions of all these cables for a little more money. Also, Monoprice offers a lifetime warranty on all its cables.
As you're shopping, be careful. There are some even cheaper (per foot) cables for sale on Monoprice's site that are Standard Speed; as in, they are rated only up to 1080i (not 1080p and beyond like High Speed). Don't buy Standard Speed cables -- there's no point when High Speed are only a little more money.
Also, it's worth noting that Monoprice cables on Amazon are more expensive than if you buy them from Monoprice directly (though shipping may offset that some, depending on what you choose and if you have Amazon Prime). For example, the "3992" model from Monoprice, a 28-gauge 6-footer, is $3.61 on Monoprice, but $5.88 on Amazon.
As I found in my HDMI Cable Buyers Guide article, there are lots of no-name HDMI cables available in certain stores and online. Generally speaking, they're probably fine. However, it is possible that the cable is not to spec, which means it might not pass 1080p (or 4K), even if it says "High Speed" on it. Short cables are probably fine, but long cables have more of a chance of being iffy.
In the current age of HDMI cables, Monoprice and Amazon constitute "name brands," and should be considered safe bets when it comes to working cables. That doesn't mean every one will be perfect; a look at the comments will show that every once in a while a bum cable gets through. Personally, I'd be more comfortable buying a cable from a known company, especially when the price difference is a dollar or two at most.
Which is to say, if you find some HDMI cables that are even cheaper, and claim to be High Speed, feel free to go for it. Just know that they might not work. But don't, as some have, find fault with all cheap HDMI cables if that happens, just that specific one. A different cheap HDMI cable will work fine.
For short cables, Monoprice beats Amazon handily. That 30-gauge 6-footer I mentioned at the top is the best deal going.
For long passive cables (15 feet and up), Amazon has much better deals.
That said, the prices are all pretty close between the two, and as with many products, the convenience of Amazon might be worth a few extra cents.
Prices change, but the good news is that they're unlikely to change much. And since in both cases here you're getting a well-reviewed, inexpensive, HDMI cable that will give you perfect picture and sound, they're all pretty good deals.
Got a question for Geoff? First, check out all the other articles he's written on topics like why all HDMI cables are the same, LED LCD vs. plasma, active versus passive 3D, and more. Still have a question? Send him an e-mail! He won't tell you what TV to buy, but he might use your letter in a future article. You can also send him a message on Twitter @TechWriterGeoff or Google+.