Cutting-Edge Connectivity: Understanding Fiber Optic HDMI Cables

Cutting-Edge Connectivity: Understanding Fiber Optic HDMI Cables

When even a high-quality HDMI 2.1 cable just won’t do, you need to break out the big guns. Fiber Optic HDMI cables use the same HDMI protocol as standard HDMI cables but use a different construction method to make an altogether more capable cable. Fiber Optic HDMI cables use glass fibers to transmit the data at the speed of light, enabling much longer HDMI cables and more robust shielding against outside interference.

They are more expensive than their copper counterparts, though, and are typically overkill for most domestic settings. If you are in need of a particularly long HDMI cable, though, a fiber optic HDMI cable might be what you need.

What Is a Fiber Optic HDMI Cable?

A standard HDMI cable is made up of several twisted pairs of copper wiring, insulated and protected with shielding and silicon wraps. A fiber optic HDMI cable, on the other hand, does away with the central twisted copper pair, but still retains some. At its core are four glass filaments which are encased in a protective coating. Those glass strands transmit the data as pulses of light, instead of electricity.

Traditional HDMI Cable vs Fiber Optic HDMI Cable

Surrounding those glass fibers are seven to nine twisted copper pairs that handle the power supply for the cable, one for Consumer Electronics Control (CEC), two for sound return (ARC and eARC), and one set for a Display Data Channel (DDC) signal. 

Fiber optic cables are far less susceptible to signal interference, noise, and crosstalk, due to using light rather than electricity to transmit the data. It has a converter at each end to allow the source to transmit the data and the display to translate it.

All fiber optic HDMI cables are active, meaning they only operate in one direction and aren’t reversible. Their construction materials mean they tend to end up lighter than traditional HDMI cables. However, their additional shielding often makes them thicker, which can lead to some difficulties with installation when the environment is tight or busy with other cables.

They also tend to be more expensive than traditional HDMI cables too, so they aren’t always the best solution – especially if you only need a short run of HDMI cable where a typical copper cable will suffice.

Advantages of Fiber Optic HDMI cables

Fiber optic HDMI cables offer a number of advantages over traditional copper twisted pair HDMI cables. The first and most dramatic, is their available lengths. Fiber optic HDMI cables suffer so much less interference, and the signal, so little attenuation down the length of the cable, that fiber optic cables can be extremely long in comparison. Where a standard HDMI cable made from twisted copper wires can reach up to 30ft in some generations – though more like nine feet for passive HDMI 2.1 cables  – fiber optic HDMI cables can run for 1000 feet or more.

This is doubly important when it comes to high-speed HDMI cables. Although the latest generation, HDMI 2.1, offers the greatest data rates yet for any HDMI connection, they are the shortest HDMI cables, too. Fiber optic cables do not suffer from this problem, so you can get really, really long HDMI 2.1 cables built around fiber optic technology. That lets you take full advantage of the latest features as well as the higher performance of the latest standards, even at extreme lengths.