Amazon Basics vs. Monoprice: Which HDMI cable to buy?

If you're looking for the best deal on HDMI cables, you won't find them in a store. Here's our price comparison between the two most popular online options, Amazon and Monoprice.

AmazonBasics vs Monoprice

Amazon and Monoprice offer cheaper HDMI cables than any traditional brick-and-mortar store. 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 10-footer for $3.99.

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.

And because those weren't enough (amazingly), also check out why 4K HDMI cables are nonsense, and HDMI 2.0, what you need to know.

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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

AmazonBasics

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: $4.82 ($1.61 per foot)
6.5 feet: $5.02 ($0.77 per foot)
9.8 feet: $6.49 ($0.66 per foot)
15 feet: $11.49 ($0.77 per foot)
25 feet: $13.24 ($0.53 per foot)

There are also several multi-packs:

2x 3-feet: $6.99 ($1.17 per foot)
1 3-foot, 1 15-foot: $11.99 ($0.67 per foot)
2x 6.5 feet: $8.49 ($0.65 per foot)
2x 9.8 feet: $9.99 ($0.51 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 9.8-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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Monoprice

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.

1.5 feet: $2.49 ($1.66 per foot)
3 feet: $2.99 ($1.00 per foot)
6 feet: $2.71 ($0.45 per foot)
10 feet: $3.99 ($0.40 per foot)

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:

1.5 feet: $2.20 ($1.46 per foot)
3 feet: $2.74 ($0.92 per foot)
6 feet: $3.88 ($0.65 per foot)
10 feet: $5.68 ($0.57 per foot)

Lastly, they have really long cables with RedMere active tech. These are what I use in my lab.

15 feet: $13.46 ($0.90 per foot)
30 feet: $31.48 ($1.05 per foot)
60 feet: $52.99 ($0.88 per foot)

As you can see, the standard 10-foot cable is the best deal. It is, however, 28 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 $3.88 on Monoprice, but $9.24 on Amazon.

Other options

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.

A few words on 4K/60

Nearly all inexpensive HDMI cables claim to work with 4K resolutions up to 24fps. It is likely, over short distances, these will work with any 4K source you have. However, over long distances, and if you're trying to send 4K 60fps content (like from a computer), you may have less success. The picture dropping out or not showing up at all are the most likely scenarios.

Does this mean you should spend more on cables? Probably not, but it depends. Right now there is very little 60fps 4K content. Most is 24, just like nearly all Blu-rays (because that's what nearly all TV shows and movies are). If you plan on connecting to a computer to do some 4K gaming, know that the cheapest cables should, but might not, work.

Honestly, I don't advise you start with an expensive cable "just to be safe." It's still likely you'd be overspending on a cable. At this point the HDMI cable industry is the Wild Wild West: while a cable claiming to be High Speed should work, it doesn't mean it will. This is part of the reason HDMI Licensing came up with their Premium Cable program.

Unless you know you're going to be sending 4K/60 or other rare and high-bandwidth content over the cable, one of the cheap cables listed above should work just fine. If at some point you upgrade your gear and the cable doesn't handle the bandwidth, there will certainly be cheap HDMI cables at that point that work fine, and even buying two you'll be saving money over an expensive cable now (that still might not work in the future).

And it's also worth noting that our own David Katzmaier uses a variety of cheap HDMI cables (including Amazon Basics cables up to 25 feet) to run 4K/60 around the CNET lab from various 4K/60 sources, including a Roku 4. He's had no issues.

Bottom line

For short cables, Monoprice beats Amazon. That 28-gauge 10-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 such as why all HDMI cables are the same, LED LCD vs. OLED vs. Plasma,why 4K TVs aren't worth it and more. Still have a question? Send him an email! 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+ and check out his travel photography on Instagram.

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