Companies pushing cables with mystical properties are the snake oil salesmen of the digital era. The market for high-end HDMI cables is a classic buyer-beware fable. Look ye on the blighted hellscape of cables sorted Price: High to Low on Amazon, and despair.
A mere $10,500 is enough to acquire 20 blessed meters of Wireworld’s flagship Platinum Starlight 7 cable, which promises the richest sound and most vivid imaging possible—this, despite the fact that science has proven all HDMI cables are the same. The subject has inspired impassioned blogs from engineers, gearheads and A/V experts, but some buyers still insist their pricey cables work wonders. If your audio rig sounds richer to you after spending that much on a cord, you can probably chalk it up to a case of consumer Stockholm Syndrome.
Companies like Wireworld also take advantage of confusion about USB cable quality. That’s why the USB version of the Starlight 7 retails for a stiff $140. What does that $140 really buy you? At the risk of sounding too holistic, understanding USB cable quality is really about, like, understanding yourself. (You’re right, too holistic.)
USB Cable Quality: Transfer Rate, A/V and Charging
Before you trade in your car to upgrade your connections, it’s important to consider what your cables are for. Unlike HDMI, USB is multipurpose. It can be used to charge electronics, transfer data and send A/V information from a source to watch on other devices. There have been several real improvements in USB cable quality in recent years. We’ve talked about why the compact, reversible USB-C is a major improvement on previous models like micro USB. It’s likely to become the standard for new gadgets. It’s also helping to usher in the era of the powerful USB 3.1, which pumps out 100 watts of power for super-fast charging and enables 10GB/s transfer speeds. The potential of USB charge-sharing alone could force us to rethink how we power our devices.
Here’s the thing though. USB 3.1 is basically the steak, and the rest is all garnish. A bargain basement 3.1 cable will beat a 2.0 cable every time, even if that 2.0 is encrusted in diamonds. When it comes to charging speeds, or data transfer, the difference in USB cable quality between 3.1 and previous models is immediately obvious. But between two 3.1 cables, there’s essentially no difference in performance unless one of the two is poorly manufactured or damaged.
Right Choice, Right Price
Throw out the marketing babble and look at the product specs. A 3.1 cable will perform well because 3.1 is the latest and best tech. But is the cable the length you need? (There is some evidence that shorter and thicker cables are often better for charging.) Is it well-manufactured and durable? Are you buying it from a stand in the subway because you forgot yours at home? USB cable quality is very much determined by your needs. If you’ve made the right choice, you’ll never have to think about your cable because it just works.
Forgive the plug (no pun intended), but we think RAVPower’s selection of cables hits the balance customers need between quality and price. Ours run from $5.99 to $15.99 for multi-packs, and are manufactured to the highest standards.