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Feb 06, 2010

50 Foot HDMI Cables - Do they work?

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Feb 07, 2010 02:32 PM
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You want to use your PC to output images and video to your big TV. The distance from your PC to TV is > 30 feet, so you need to use a 50 foot HDMI cable. Some articles and comments point out that when using such a long cable, there are image defects, video noise, sparkles, etc. on the TV. Other articles say it all works perfectly. Does it work or not? Why? Read more to learn the answer.

The Quick Answer

A 50 foot cable is fine, but not every output device can work correctly with such a long HDMI cable. The devices that work correctly output their content over the long cable and the TV renders the content perfectly. The devices that don't work correctly are unusable - the image they render on the TV is not acceptable.

For an unusable device, it's not clear how long a cable can be before the output becomes unusable, but 50 feet is clearly too long.

The Detailed Answer

My PC has two completely different devices that can output HDMI:

  1. An MSI R4550 Video Card - link
  2. A Blackmagicdesign Intensity Pro Card - manufacturer's link

I wanted to output video that I create to my 42" LG TV and to use the TV as an external monitor. The distance from my PC to the TV is long, so I needed a 50 foot HDMI cable. There are expensive cables and cheap cables. Amazon sells a 50 foot HDMI cable for $21 including shipping, so I bought it. 

The MSI R4550 is unable to use the 50 foot HDMI cable successfully. The images it renders on the TV are full of video static, video noise, sparkles, etc. The HDMI audio works OK. I tried making a few adjustments but no matter what the TV image was unacceptable. I'm not sure if the TV could be damaged under these circumstances, so I unplugged the cable ASAP.

The Intensity Pro renders its content perfectly over the 50 foot HDMI cable! Video and photos are stunning and there are no video artifacts or defects. The HDMI audio is fine. Using the Intensity Pro as the content source, I don't see how a more expensive HDMI cable would give me better output on the TV.

Using the MSI R4550 and Intensity Pro as a Video Card with HDMI Output

Since the MSI R4550 is a standard video card, its HDMI output can be setup and configured with the standard Windows tools. However even though the MSI R4550 has 3 interfaces: HDMI, DVI, and VGA, and 1GB of memory, it can only use 2 out of 3 of the interfaces at a time. So for me, with a dual-monitor setup, even if the MSI R4550 worked with the long HDMI cable, it would still be unacceptable because I would have to give up one of my desktop monitors to use the TV as a monitor. What I do like about the MSI R4550 is that it cost < $50 and it doesn't have a fan, so it doesn't add any ambient noise.

The Intensity Pro is an HDMI video capture and output device. It's output capabilities are not the same as a video card - you can not control the Intensity Pro with the standard Windows display setup tools. This is because the Intensity Pro renders its output only through special plugins for Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro. You can't just look at an image or video on your HDMI TV without first starting up one of these programs and opening the image or video. On the plus side, the dual-monitors continue to work independently of the Intensity Pro's output.

Additional Thoughts and Questions

I don't know if an expensive 50 foot HDMI cable would work properly with my MSI R4550. Long HDMI cables can cost $300 or more and I'm not interested in paying more for a cable, since I now know that any display problems which result from using long HDMI cables are the fault of the output device, not the cable.

I would still like to be able to find a video card that does the following:

  1. Works with a 50 foot HDMI cable output.
  2. Is able to drive 3 or 4 output devices simultaneously, including a single HDMI output, without needing to use a dual-video card setup, and still being able to use standard Windows display setup tools.

If you have experience with such a video card, please contact me and let me know - thanks!