In the photo above, the thick cable on the right is Monoprice's current 50-foot cable; the cable on the left is the upcoming Monoprice 60-foot ultraslim cable. The new cable is dramatically thinner than traditional long-run HDMI cables--every editor at CNET who held the two cables was impressed by the difference.
RedMere: Unidirectional, thin, and enables long runs
The difference between the two cables is because of the 60-foot cable's built-in RedMere chipset, which draws a small amount of power from the HDMI source (Blu-ray player, cable box) and allows less copper to be used in the cable.
The need for that tiny bit of power means that the cables are unidirectional. If you look closely at the connectors, they're labeled "source" and "display"; if you connect them in the other direction, it won't work at all. (We tried.)
The difference in thickness certainly looks impressive, but why does thinness matter in an HDMI cable that's going to live behind your TV stand? Well, thick HDMI cables can be frustrating to work with. They're relatively inflexible, which is a problem if your TV has side-mounted HDMI ports or you're trying to snake a cable through a cramped TV stand.
The sheer weight of thick cables is a problem, too, putting unneeded stress on the HDMI ports or even lifting tiny gadgets like the Roku LT into the air. (These issues generally only crop up with long HDMI cables, which are necessarily thicker than short ones.)
The fact that the 60-foot cable works at all is impressive, given that the HDMI licensing organization recommends using a repeater if you have a cable run longer than 30 feet.
Monoprice means cheap
Monoprice isn't the first company to integrate RedMere's technology into its cables, but (as you might have expected) it's likely to be the cheapest. Samsung wants $70 for a 9-foot cable, Vizio wants $90 for a two-pack of 6-foot cables, and Monster wants $100 for a 9-foot cable. Monoprice says its 60-foot cable will cost $72, and a 6-foot cable will cost $13.23, when they're released in March. The 6-foot cable will be much thinner than the 60-foot cable.
Those prices are dramatically lower than competitors', but the new cable will also be competing against Monoprice's already cheap standard cables. The 50-foot cable Monoprice sent us currently costs $55.28, and a 6-foot cable costs $3.50. At those prices, RedMere strikes us a good deal for longer cables, which are pretty unmanageable at current thicknesses, but less so for shorter cables, where ultrathin cables will just mean a little less bulk in your TV cabinet.
We'll be using the new 60-foot RedMere cable in the CNET Lab during our regular testing, so we'll have a good idea of how it performs in tougher-than-usual conditions by the time these new cables are available in March.