I don’t care what people claim, not all HDMI cables are created equal. Years of my installation experience is all the proof I need. And now with UHD resolution, Wide Colour Gamut, and High Dynamic Range, the quality of HDMI cables has become even more important.
To make things worse, because of the bandwidth requirement, the maximum reliable length I have encountered that will work 100% of the time for 4K/60p is no more than 5 metres. Beyond that length, I have encountered random problems, depending on the cable used.
There are active cable solutions to that problem for cables upwards to 15 metres, and they work really well. However, another problem arises. Just like with any electronics, the cable will fail at one point. It can be a year from now, it can be five years from now, but it will fail. If you have buried the cable in the ceiling, you will, in a matter of time, need to pull it out. In my opinion, these cables are fixing one problem while creating another.
Another solution is the use of one or more HDMI accelerator(s). Say you already have an HDMI cable buried, but because the cable is of lesser quality and/or too long, you need to boost it on the display side. This is a more preferable method since should the booster/accelerator stop working, you can simply unplug the module and replace it with another. Ebay is actually rife with these solutions, and they work really well, but only upwards to 10.2Gbps (for the US$150-ish solutions) and to HD resolutions for the US$50 solutions. There are several companies that also offer solutions for upwards to 18Gbps bandwidth. However, they tend to be in the US$500-US$600 price range. Also from my personal tests, they all require that very good quality HDMI cable is installed. They will not work with crud-tastic quality HDMI cables, even at lengths as short as 8 metres.
This is, of course, is not good enough. What if you already installed a mediocre quality HDMI cable in the ceiling? Also with some of these solutions, they fail after only 3-4 hours of use, presumably due to the heat build up in the module. This means you will need to cool it down by turning off the module. That’s auite a hassle, and not user friendly enough in my books. On the weekends, I tend to have a movie marathon that lasts between 6-9 hours.
Continuing my ongoing search for a better solution, I stumbled upon Pixelgen Design’s PXLdrive HDMI accelerator during CEDIA 2016. The THX certification logo was the only thing that drew my attention to it. Imagine my surprise that the company is actually Canadian (located in Burlington, ON), and the item is priced at just US$300. But the best part: the product works flawlessly.
I tried using various HDMI cables, from a very good one to a really cheap 12 metre cable that none of the competition can handle. PXLdrive can handle them. It also runs relatively “cold” in contrast to its competitors. So far, I’ve ben running it for almost two months with zero problem.
As a part of my tests, I even linked two PXLdrives together, with a 15 metre HDMI cable to a PXLdrive, then its output connected to another PXLdrive by another 15 metre HDMI cable. At the tail end, I linked it with another 5 metre HDMI cable, creating a total of 35 metres of HDMI running while transmitting a variety of 4K signals with no problem (4K60 8bit 4:4:4, 4K60 12bit 4:2:0 (WCG), 4K60 10bit 4:2:0 (HDR10), 4K60 8bit 4:2:0 (SDR)).
I don’t have the space nor the technical information to truly understand why this product works better than the competition. All I know is that it works, and works with any HDMI cable I feed it into without the need to reset the PXLdrive. No other product I’ve come across to date comes close to the PXLdrive’s capabilities, as they all require a very good HDMI cable to begin with, are priced higher, and require the occasional reboot (unplugging and replugging the power).
As an affordable solution that’s both designed and assembled in Canada, and with THX certification, what’s not to love? I have so much faith in this company I have since replaced all my HDMI cables with Pixelgen THX-certified HDMI cables, too.