A Guide to HDMI Bandwidth – Which Cable Should I Buy?

There’s a lot to consider when buying a new projector. Sometimes, the jargon can get in the way of making a final decision for the best projector for your home, office or pub. We’ve tried to break down an important aspect of projector technology, bandwidth, to help make your life a little easier.

 

What is bandwidth?

Understanding bandwidth will help you figure out which cables and connections you need for your projector setup.

Bandwidth is the capacity of a wire or wireless network to transmit data from one point to another, in a specific amount of time. It applies to many different scenarios including projector system configuration, and refers to the data transfer rate.

We typically measure bandwidth in bits per second (bps). However, if we’re looking at much larger networks or quantities of data, this may change to millions of bits per second (Mbps) or even billions (Gbps). For our purpose, we’ll be looking at the latter. To be clear, the higher the number, the better the capacity of the bandwidth to transmit content and information.

 

Why does bandwidth matter?

We’ve come a long way with technology in recent years to the point that bandwidth is not something you’ll need to worry about if you’re using your projector for smaller files with average resolution; even the cheapest HDMI cables will cope with regular projection requirements no problem.

However, if you consume a lot of 4K content and want to get the best out of a 4K projector, you’ll definitely need to factor high bandwidth into your projector system, when purchasing your actual projector unit and the cables that go with it.

Remember, the more bandwidth a data connection has, the more data it can send and receive at one time. If you need a way to visualise it, just think of a water pipe. If you have a larger pipe, or higher bandwidth, a greater quantity of water (or data) can flow through the channel at any one time – and 4K HDR content is made up of A LOT of data.

 

How do cables impact image delivery?

If you do not have enough bandwidth, quality will suffer. When thinking about maximising image quality, resolution might be the first thing that comes to mind. However, resolution is not the only factor that impacts quality. The amount of bandwidth available and in-use can have a dramatic impact on image quality too.

Your image will suffer if you have a low bandwidth or try to transmit data over extremely long distances. Within reason, you won’t need to worry about distance in a home environment; however, if you are setting up your system in the office or in a large home cinema, then it’s worth considering how cable lengths might impact your image quality.

 

Why is bandwidth so important for 4K content?

4K content requires significant bandwidth due to the amount of data being transmitted. Think about the level of the detail contained in a 4K image; there is simply more information required to make up that level of detail and that information has to be carried from the source to your projector screen through a network and cables with the bandwidth to support it.

 

What bandwidth do I need?

Depending on the types of images you are projecting, you will require different bandwidths. Here’s an example of the most common combinations:

  • Want to get the full 1080p resolution from your projector? You’ll need a bandwidth from your cables of 4.95Gbps (minimum)
  • Jumping up to 4K/30Hz, be on the lookout for a minimum bandwidth on your HDMI cables of 10.2Gbps.
  • Top of the resolution range at 4K/60Hz you will need a HDMI cable with a bandwidth of 18Gbps (minimum).

 

What is the best cable for 4K content?

There is no right answer for this really, but we’ve outlined some major considerations to help you choose the best cable for your projector, when it comes down to bandwidth.

 

Short distances

When transmitting 4K content to distances of under 5 metres, the PixelGen HDMI cable does a pretty good job and can deliver the kind of high-quality image you need for most 4K content requirements.

 

(Relatively) long distances

If you’re transmitting up to 15 metres however, it would be wise to consider something like the NueTec Fibre Optic HDMI cable, which can handle large data transfers over longer distances.

Cheap 4K 18Gbps-rated cables can be purchased on Amazon for as little as £8 for up to 5 metres. That being said, the internal copper wire is sometimes of inferior quality and much thinner than required. This could result in signal dropouts or significantly shorter usable distance over a cable’s stated length.

Finally, if you’re transmitting data over distances of more than 15 metres, HDBaseT-compatible projectors are by far the best choice. Designed specifically to streamline high-quality data transfers over long distances, you won’t have to worry about your images being affected, when setting up a projector system.

 

What else is there to know?

If you want to get into it even more, there’s actually a lot more to learn about how data is transferred over different physical and non-physical networks. However, we’re aware that your focus is simply on getting the best image quality for your projector system with minimal fuss. That’s why we’re happy to recommend exactly what you‘ll need to get the best from your projector, or discuss any aspects relating to bandwidth in further detail with you.

Feel free to call one of our experts at Projectorpoint on 0800 073 0833 or drop by the shop if you’re in the area. And if you want to take a look at the various cables and other accessories we have on offer, check out our collection online. Remember, setting up home cinema or a meeting room projector set-up involves more than just buying a brand new machine!

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