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The best HDMI cable for PC gaming

The best HDMI cable for gaming
Getting the best HDMI cable for gaming is important for your games to look their best. (Image credit: Amazon)

The best HDMI cable is likely the least tangled one you have close to hand when you're setting up your new TV or console. However, there is such a thing as a 'good' HDMI cable. A good quality cable won't cost a fortune, and it'll deliver a great picture at your display's highest-supported response rate. I'm not kidding about such cables being affordable either—our favorite cable costs less than $10.

Some of you might dismiss the HDMI port on our graphics card as a relic of a bygone era. Surprisingly enough though, today's HDMI cables can output to 4K at high-refresh rates, in case you were thinking about plugging your rig into your living room TV for some 4K gaming.

You might say to yourself, "I have a perfectly good HDMI cable I stole from work that has worked for years; why I should bother buying a new one?" Well, my friend, not all HDMI cables are created equal. There's a good chance that the HDMI cable you found in the junk drawer isn't rated high enough for the output you're trying to achieve, which could cause resolution and refresh issues. This is especially true if you're packing the exceptional power of an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 or RTX 3090 Ti (opens in new tab), which come with the promise of 8K gaming when wired up correctly.

The best monitor

(Image credit: Future)

The best gaming monitor (opens in new tab)
Want your games looking their best? Try one of these amazing bits of kit.

If you're unsure which cable rating you need for your setup, our handy FAQ at the bottom of the page should clear up the confusion.

The latest standard specifications are HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 2.0. DisplayPort will continue to be the superior connection for PC gamers, offering higher bandwidth for high-res, high-refresh-rate displays. But, HDMI is the next best thing if you're connecting to a TV (or older monitor) or if you've only one Display Port to work with and you're trying to set up multiple monitors. And having the wrong sort of HDMI cable will only do you a disservice.

Best HDMI cable for gaming

1. AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI

The best budget HDMI cable for gaming

Specifications

Transfer speed: 18Gbps
Max resolution: 4K @ 60Hz
Length: 6–35ft (1.8–10.6m)
Certification: CL3-certified

Reasons to buy

+
Great value for money
+
Lots of length options

Reasons to avoid

-
Not suitable for 4K over 60Hz or 8K
-
Not officially HDMI Premium certified 

Don’t be put off by the own-brand label and low cost; this is still a fantastic cable. It’s the perfect example of not needing anything too showy or expensive to get the job done, and you’ll save a good chunk of cash by grabbing one of these over the competition.

As well as providing the coveted 18Gbps transfer rate for handling 4K at 60Hz, these cables come in an extensive range of lengths and are built to handle higher voltages. They're RF shielded as well, to ensure that your precious signal isn't interfered with, and the connectors themselves are 24K gold plated for better corrosion resistance. 

The only downside is that if you want to hit higher refresh rates at 4K, specifically 4K @ 120Hz, then you're going to have to spend more. It's also not officially certified as a High-Speed Premium cable either, but that doesn't really matter in real-world use as it delivers the 18Gbps bandwidth required of it. You can’t complain too much when you’re getting excellent 4K visuals at under ten bucks.

2. Belkin HDMI 2.1 Ultra High Speed

The best high-end HDMI cable for 8K or 4K@120Hz

Specifications

Transfer speed: 48Gbps
Max resolution: 10K 120Hz
Length: 6.5ft (2m)
Certification: HDMI 2.1

Reasons to buy

+
4K, 8K and even 10K possible
+
Great for high refresh rate 4K gaming
+
Reliable brand

Reasons to avoid

-
Only pay more for an HDMI cable if you actually need it
-
Requires compression for really high res/high refresh, eg. 8K @ 120

If you want a high-quality HDMI cable that’ll last you a good few years, look no further than Belkin’s HDMI 2.1 Ultra High Speed. As the name would suggest, it offers superior performance at an affordable price. That’s not all, though. A ludicrous bandwidth of 48Gbps make this a big deal. 

Unsure why that’s worth the cash? In short, it’s ready to serve up 10K resolution when the time comes. Even now, it's your best bet for 8K or high-refresh 4K gaming. You'll want one of these cables for high refresh rate 4K gaming on either PC or console—48Gbps cables support up to 4K @ 144Hz or 8K @ 30Hz without the use of compression.

At 4K @ 240Hz or 8K at 60Hz, you're looking at a compressed final image using Display Stream Compression (DSC). That's not such a bad thing, the standard is said to be "visually lossless", but technically the data rate required by these high resolution, high speed combos is greater than the cable's offered 48Gbps.

Belkin is a brand we’d trust with… well, not quite our lives, but definitely the connection between our graphics card and monitor. So, if you're looking for a future-proof cable, here ya go. 

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3. Snowkids 4K Flat HDMI 2.0

The best flat HDMI cable for gaming

Specifications

Transfer speed: 18Gbps
Max resolution: 4K @ 60Hz
Length: 6.6ft (2m)
Certification: HDMI 2.0

Reasons to buy

+
Flat cabling
+
Sturdy
+
Good price

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing special beyond being flat

If you're looking to discretely route some cables around corners and over the edges of cabinets then a flat cable can make for a neater option than your traditional round cable. These Snowkids HDMI 2.0 cables are good for 4K @ 60Hz and have a sturdy nylon braided jacket and an aluminum alloy shell on the main connector to help protect them.

Beyond that, they're affordable and available in lengths up to 15ft, which should cover most setups. So while they're not the most exciting cable out there, they serve a purpose and serve it well. What more is there to say than that?

Vivify Arquus HDMI cables lit with blue RGB on a gray background.

(Image credit: Vivify)

4. Vivify Arquus W73

The best RGB HDMI Cable

Specifications

Transfer speed: 18Gbps
Max resolution: 4K @ 60Hz
Length: 9–15ft (2.7–4.5m)
Certification: 4K 18G Deep Color certification

Reasons to buy

+
Frickin' RGB
+
Frickin' laser beams

Reasons to avoid

-
Frickin' expensive

You don't need this cable. No one needs this cable. It's an HDMI lead that costs nearly $100, and that's mostly down to the fact that it comes with an RGB strip down one side of its length. I mean, that's cool? It's also an HDMI 2.0b fiber optic cable, so it should allow significantly less signal loss over distance and avoid any potential electrical or RF interference if that's an issue for you.

But, let's be honest, you'd try talking up the benefits of fiber optics, but really you'd only want this Arquus W73 cable because of the RGB lighting, which you can change at the press of a button or via Razer's Chroma app. As if you care, you're just looking at the pretty lights, aren't you?

Best HDMI cable FAQ

What HDMI cable do I need for 8K gaming?

A key component of 8K gaming is HDMI 2.1, which will see bandwidth requirements of up to 48Gbps and cable requirements to match. Ultra High-Speed HDMI cables can hack a 48Gbps bandwidth and support 8K at 120Hz.

What HDMI cable do I need for 4K gaming?

The best HDMI cable for 4K gaming is the Ultra High-Speed HDMI, as HDMI 2.1 and one of these cables will deliver 4K at 120Hz. That said, most will get by just fine with a Premium High-Speed HDMI cable or High-Speed HDMI cable. These support a bandwidth of 18Gbps, which covers you for 4K gaming at 60Hz and supports HDR content. Make sure it's certified to support the HDMI 2.0 standard, too.

Of course, you'll need one of the best graphics cards (opens in new tab) around, as well as a 4K monitor (opens in new tab) or 4K TV (opens in new tab) (or both), or it won't matter how fancy your cable is.

Should I use HDMI or DisplayPort for gaming?

This decision comes down to the type of device and monitor you're trying to game on. For most going from PC to PC monitor, though, DisplayPort is the simplest and best way to connect.

That's because even older DisplayPort connections support 4K at 60Hz, and the newer ones, DisplayPort 1.4 and 2.0, deliver 8K and beyond at high refresh rates.

HDMI, on the other hand, is a bit more restricted on older connections. HDMI 1.4 only supports 4K up to 30Hz, and you'll need HDMI 2.0 or HDMI 2.1 to game at higher fidelity and speed than that. That said, if you have a newer HDMI port and compatible cable handy, it will work wonderfully.

Are HDMI cables backwards compatible?

Yes. The latest HDMI cable will operate just as well plugged into a device with an older HDMI version.

What's the maximum length of an HDMI cable?

Most passive cables (meaning they have no active parts within repeating the signal) will work without signal degradation up to 20 metres. That said, some may only manage around 5 metres.

There are ways to extend the distance a HDMI cable will work at, though. Active cables can increase distances much further, even doubling passive cables in some cases. While fibre optic cables can, in theory, go for miles. Generally, though, manufacturers make them up to 60 metres, and even at that length they're incredibly pricey.

What are CL2 and CL3 ratings in HDMI cables?

You'll see reference to CL2 and CL3 ratings for HDMI cables, and this is to do with how the copper cables are coated and define their abilities to handle high voltages for in-wall installations. CL2 HDMI cables can handle up to 150 volts and are designed for residential use, while the CL3 cables are intended for commercial installations and can handle up to 300 volts.

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.