If you aren’t already buying all your A/V and computer cables and adapters from Monoprice, you’re doing it wrong! Monoprice has the best selection and prices you’ll ever find. They also manufacture (or possibly rebrand) a lot of high-quality original products, such as DisplayPort adapters, battery packs, and Apple-compatible 30-pin dock connector cables. (And no, they’re not a sponsor.)
Earlier this year, Monoprice announced a partnership with an Irish firm called RedMere. RedMere has developed a new technology that several OEMs, including Monoprice, have integrated or plan to integrate into their HDMI cables. RedMere adds circuitry into the HDMI connector on one end of the cable that effectively steals a little voltage from the display/sink device (e.g. a TV or A/V receiver) to boost the signal. This allows them to use a much thinner, lighter, and more flexible strand than usual.
HDMI is an incredible technology and one of the greatest innovations in the home theater space over the past ten years. It combines video and audio signals in a single connection, with sufficient throughput for 1080p60 (actually, 4Kp24) and lossless Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. Recent revisions also include support for an audio return channel (to allow a display device to send audio back to the receiver) and a dedicated point-to-point Ethernet channel (to eliminate the need for a separate network connection to each device). Unfortunately, the cables tend to be fairly thick, heavy, inflexible, and difficult to route, especially at longer lengths, and forget about carrying around a bulky HDMI cable for your laptop while on the go.
Here’s where RedMere comes into play. A regular 25-foot HDMI cable ranges between 22 and 26 AWG, or .05″-.08″ in circumference. Monoprice’s 30-foot HDMI cable with RedMere comes in at 28 AWG, or .04″ in circumference. That works out to a 20% increase in length with a 20%-50% reduction in thickness. Pretty impressive. And with less copper in the cable, it’s more flexible, cheaper to make, and less wasteful to dispose. The only potential disadvantage is that the cable is unidirectional, meaning it has to be plugged in a certain way, versus traditional HDMI which is bidirectional.
I became interested in all of this while trying to put together a connectivity kit that would allow me to use the DisplayPort, mini-DisplayPort (Thunderbolt), and HDMI outputs on my ThinkPad and rMBP with a variety of digital display devices while out and about. (I have a strange obsession with being prepared for any kind of ad hoc “plug-this-into-that” type situations.) DVI cables are too thick to be portable and traditional HDMI cables aren’t much better; DisplayPort and Thunderbolt aren’t yet widely-enough supported to be practical. I identified RedMere as having the potential to change all of this, but I had some concerns about its compatibility with DVI and DisplayPort adapters that would have to be proved out.
For my testing, I ordered a six-foot Ultra Slim HDMI cable with RedMere, a DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter, and two DVI-to-HDMI adapters, all from Monoprice (less than $30 for everything, if you can believe it). I was immediately taken aback by how thin and light the HDMI cable is. At 36 AWG, it has roughly the heft and thickness of an iPod cable, and it is absolutely dwarfed by a six-foot traditional HDMI cable I have on hand, which must be 22 AWG. Even the connectors are ridiculously small, despite the additional circuitry. (There are plenty of comparison pics available on the product page.) I first tested a simple HDMI-to-HDMI connection, just to make sure the cable itself was working as expected, before moving on to more esoteric tests.
- HDMI-to-HDMI: works, with audio
- DisplayPort-to-HDMI: works, with audio
- DisplayPort-to-HDMI-to-DVI: works, video only (as expected)
- DVI-to-HDMI-to-DVI: works, video only (as expected)
Image quality and color reproduction was great in all test cases. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough devices that support the audio return and Ethernet channels, so I wasn’t able to test those. That being said, I would have no trouble recommending this product for all applications of HDMI, be it for your home theater, laptop, or any other digital video signal transport. With only a modest cost increase over Monoprice’s traditional HDMI cables, I will be exclusively purchasing cables with RedMere for my own needs going forward.
For those who are curious, my video connectivity kit includes the following components:
- Six-foot Ultra Slim HDMI cable (with RedMere)
- DisplayPort (male) to HDMI (female) adapter
- DVI (male) to HDMI (female) adapter
- mini-DisplayPort (male) to DisplayPort (female) adapter
- mini-DisplayPort (male) to VGA (female) adapter
And it allows me to connect either my ThinkPad or my rMBP to any of the following display devices:
- HDMI display
- DVI-D display
- DisplayPort-only display, assuming a DisplayPort cable is provided
- VGA-only display, assuming a VGA cable is provided
Unfortunately, Monoprice doesn’t sell a DisplayPort (male) to mini-DisplayPort (female) adapter that would allow me to connect my ThinkPad to an Apple Cinema or Thunderbolt display (which might not work anyway), so I’ll need to find one elsewhere.