The maximum length of an HDMI cable depends on a number of factors, most notably, the cable quality, and the generation of HDMI it is designed for. Older generations with lower performance demands, could get away with longer cables without facing signal degradation, while newer HDMI cables which offer greater bandwidth can only run for a shorter length. Higher quality cable brands with higher quality HDMI cables may offer greater HDMI cable lengths, too, although you’ll still need to use active or fiber optic cables to get extreme lengths.
In theory, there is no real maximum length to how long an HDMI cable can be. But the longer your cable is, the more the type of HDMI cable you buy can have a real impact on the eventual quality of audio and video you hear and see at the other end.
How long can an HDMI cable be? It depends on how it's made and what resolution your content is. The longer an HDMI cable is, the more signal it loses due to attenuation, which is why it needs to be made with a thicker gauge, officially known as its AWG rating; its American Wire Gauge. The lower a cable's AWG rating, the thicker its gauge and the better equipped it is to deliver a high-resolution signal over longer distances. For example, a thin cable won't be able to transmit a 4K signal as long as a 1080p signal.
The Maximum Length for Passive HDMI Cables
If you're just looking to buy a passive HDMI cable, then your realistic maximum range is around 25ft. Cable Matters sells a wide variety of options in that category. Slim HDMI cables, premium HDMI cables, HDMI cables with 90-degree headers, and even retractable ones to make sure you only let loose as much cable as you absolutely need.
Whichever one you opt for though, 25ft is about the maximum length for older HDMI cables, like HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 1.4, before you’ll start to see a degradation in signal quality due to attenuation. Although passive HDMI cables can support distances more than twice that in theory, the environment would need to be practically perfect to not experience severe negative consequences of such a long cable without some sort of active power to counteract the signal degradation.
The latest generation of HDMI 2.1 cables can only go to around 9ft before running into trouble with attenuation. To go beyond that, you either need to use an active HDMI cable or one that uses fiber optic technology to further extend the wiring.
The Maximum Length for Active Optical HDMI Cables
If you're looking to hook up ceiling-mounted projectors or build a home movie theatre with the media stored far from the eventual display, you'll need a relatively lengthy and hefty HDMI cable for the job. That's where you'll run into problems with standard, low-cost HDMI cables. Instead, you want to use something like the active fiber optic HDMI cable.
It supports HDMI 2.0 and has a fire-rated cable jacket and is fully certified to be routed through ductwork or walls. These cables are light and flexible, making them a great choice for getting to hard-to-reach places. You’ll find lengths ranging from 10 to 30 meters (close to 100 feet) for these cables.
If that's still not enough for you though, there are ways to double or even triple that range. If you want greater performance from an HDMI 2.1 cable, you could also opt for this CL2-rated in-wall active HDMI 2.1 cable with full support for 8K resolution and 4K 120Hz, if you need it.
HDMI Extenders Boost Range to 300 Feet
Once you reach extreme ranges in the multiple hundreds of feet, a singular cable just isn't going to cut it. You'll see weakened signals causing instability and screen flashing, alongside other image degradations. On the other hand, we know the answer to the question, “How long can an HDMI Cable be?” is theoretically as long as you want- just keep increasing the wire gauge. However, at a certain point wire gauge becomes too thick to be useful. HDMI extenders can solve that problem.
HDMI extenders offer ranges up to 300 feet and compress the HDMI signal to send it over a lengthy Ethernet cable instead. In theory, extenders based on optical fiber technology can extend an HDMI signal to almost 1,000 feet, but it's not typically recommended unless in extreme scenarios where no other options are available.
You don't need to be concerned about a loss of features or quality over more reasonable distances, though. High-quality HDMI 2.0 extenders can transmit 4K resolution at up to 60Hz up to 164ft without difficulty. They also fully support HDR, 10-bit color, and both HDCP 2.2 and HDCP 1.4 for viewing protected content.
If you're looking to install a display in a public setting too, you can use the extender to connect to a local, as well as a remote display, making it easy to see what's being viewed on the main display from a backroom or office. Built-in infrared cables ensure that any commands you send to that local display can also be mirrored on the remote one.
Note: It's a good idea to use a Cat6 Ethernet cable with these extenders as it will provide the best signal at your display. Older, Cat5 or Cat5e cables may be usable, but the signal won’t travel as far as with a Cat6 cable.
If you want to make things neat and tidy, why not consider running your lengthy HDMI connection to a dedicated wall plate? In sum, if you find yourself asking “How long can an HDMI cable be?” then it may be time to consider an HDMI extender.
What Resolutions Can HDMI Cables Handle?
HDMI technology is licensed under a number of different specifications, depending on the quality of the cable. Standard cables are certified up to 720p resolution, while high-speed options can support 4K and HDR, and the latest high-speed cables can manage 8K resolution, too. Almost all of Cable Matters' HDMI cables support 4K and HDR natively, as only the highest quality of cables are sold to guarantee a strong customer experience. There are some alternatives that end in different headers, like VGA, or DisplayPort, which have their own limitations on resolution and refresh rate, outside of the HDMI specifications.
How Long Can a 4K HDMI Cable Be Run?
To watch films or play games at 4K resolution, you need at least an HDMI 1.4 cable, although you’ll get better features and greater refresh rate (and HDR) support with newer HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1 cables.
The maximum length for an HDMI 1.4 cable is around 50ft, although you won’t find many companies making cables of that generation at that length. You may find some around 30ft, but any longer and you’ll need to consider an active cable with a signal booster, or an HDMI over Ethernet connection.
You can get HDMI 2.0 cables that reach around 15ft from reputable manufacturers like Cable Matters. HDMI 2.1 cables tend to only reach around 10ft at most.
However, if you’re willing to pay for a fiber optic active cable, you can get a 4K 120Hz HDMI 2.1 cable that reaches as much as 50ft, which is more than enough for most use cases.
What Is the Maximum Length of an HDMI Cable for 1080p?
For 1080p resolution you can use just about any HDMI cable you come across since it’s been supported since the very first generation of HDMI. However, you’ll get support for higher refresh rates (up to 900Hz with HDMI 2.1!) and improved features with newer cables.
If you dig through second-hand listings you might be able to find someone selling an early-generation HDMI cable that can reach around 50 feet, but that’s very unlikely and it would be super expensive. Your best bet is to look for HDMI 2.0 cables around 15-30 feet in length. If you want a longer cable than that, opt for a high-quality fiber optic HDMI 2.1 cable for all the latest features and advances.