Are all HDMI cables 4k? – Cable Guide

There’s no secret that HDMI cables have taken over as the best way to connect your devices together. This is true whether you’re trying to send a video and audio signal (laptop to TV, for example) or you’re only trying to send an audio signal (soundbar to TV).

And if you’re watching TV, then you’re probably going to want to watch it in the best quality possible. Although 8K is on the horizon, 4K is the current standard we’re using for premium films and movies, and it’s a great resolution to watch entertainment at.

But if you’ve already got HDMI cables, can they be used for transmitting 4K – are all HDMI cables 4K? Or can you get older cables which will only work with 1080p resolution? Well, we’re going to look at the HDMI cables available and find out.

Are all HDMI cables 4k?

The truth is that any HDMI cable that’s been sold within the last decade will be capable of carrying a 4k resolution connection. This means that most of us already have the cables that we need if we want to make the switch to 4k.

Whilst at one point in time you might have been able to get a HDMI cable that wouldn’t be able to carry 4k, nowadays all of the modern cables will be able to do this.

HDMI Cable Types

Generally, when we’re looking at HDMI cables, they’re split into 4 different categories based on their capabilities. Knowing which is which is going to be key to knowing whether they can transmit 4k or even 8k if you need to in the future too. These are the basic types;

Standard – At it’s simplest we have standard HDMI cables. These are used to transmit 720p and 1080p connections between two devices. They can NOT carry a 4k connection. They work at a 30Hz refresh rate.
High speed – A step up from the basic standard HDMI cable, you can then find ones labelled as high speed. These cables do have the ability to transmit a 4k resolution. They do this at a 30Hz refresh rate. This means that they’re not great for gaming.
Premium High Speed – At another step up from the high speed HDMI cable you’ll then find premium high speed models. These can also carry 4k (up to 5k technically), but they can do so at a faster 60Hz refresh rate. This is ideally what most folks will be using for films and TV.
Ultra High speed – Finally, we have the fastest of the lot, the aptly named ultra high speed HDMI cables. They are capable of supports any resolution up to 10k if necessary. They also work at an even faster 120Hz refresh rate too, which is much better for gaming. If you want a 144HZ refresh rate for gaming, then you’ll need to use a Displayport connection.

So, if you’re wondering whether your own HDMI cable supports 4k, then all you need to do is check the label. If it says that it’s High speed or more than this (premium & ultra), then yes, it is going to be able to carry a 4k connection, and you won’t need to worry about getting a new HDMI cable.

Do I need to change my HDMI cable?

In the vast majority of cases, if you have one of the above HDMI cables at home already (high speed or more), then you’re not going to need a new HDMI cable. This is because most of the video content (films and TV) that you’ll want on a 4K TV will be shown at 24Hz refresh rate. Anything at high speed or more is capable of supporting this.

So, as long as you have a cable that’s 4K capable, then you won’t need to invest in a new one. The only exception here is really gaming, in which case, a better and newer HDMI cable is highly recommended. This will allow you to get a faster refresh rate, which is very important for gamers.

But generally, HDMI isn’t even the fastest type of connection you can get between your console/PC and your monitor. For many people, a HDMI cable won’t be the one to opt for anyway. But they do support up to 120Hz at the high end, and you’ll definitely see the difference gaming at this refresh rate in comparison to 30Hz.

HDMI 1.4 vs 2.0 vs 2.1

When we’re looking at HDMI cables, they’re generally categorized into different types. This can also be done by looking at the number that’s used with them; 1.4 or 2.0 for example. This is just a reference to the generation of the HDMI cable that’s being released.

The HDMI 1.4 is the last version of the 1.0 that was released all the way back in 2009. It was at this stage that 4k capabilities were added as a capability of the HDMI cable. So if you have a 1.4 HDMI cable, then it can deliver 4k resolution at a 30Hz refresh rate.

Now if we fast forward to 2013, this is when the 2.0 version of the HDMI cable was released. There were several improvements added to the HDMI, including the ability to run 4k resolution at 60Hz instead of just 30Hz. They also increased the capabilities of transferring data up to 18 Gbps.

And finally, we come to the 2.1 release, which only arrived on the market back in 2017. This was good news for gamers, as it added in 4k resolution at 120Hz, which is much better for fps when gaming. They also looked to futureproof these cables by giving them up to 10k resolution capabilities.

So, if you go for a 2.1 HDMI cable, you can be pretty sure it’ll see you for the next decade or so without having to worry it’ll become outdated.


All in all, the majority of cables that are around nowadays will be comptabile with 4k. If your cable is listed as 1.4 or high speed, then it’s released from 09 onwards and it will be able to produce a 4k resolution. If it’s older than this, then it won’t be able to – but cables are so cheap that you can easily pick up a 1.4 cable for a low price.

About Nathan

Hello! I'm Nate. I work for an internet company during the week, so you'll probably see me on here jabbering about the internet and building websites, which is my main side hobby.

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