For my birthday, my parents were nice enough to get me an Apple TV 4K to replace the aging older-gen Apple TV in our living room that was struggling to keep up with our 4K television. As I was setting it up, instead of rearranging our whole home theater, I just slipped it into the place of the old model, swapping out power cables and device boxes, but keeping the same HDMI cable that was already hooked up to the set.
That didn’t work out so well. Every time the 4K box tried to display higher resolutions on the TV, the screen would go black for a second, show the picture for about five seconds, then cut out black again. I tried different menu settings and replugging everything in, making sure I was using the proper HDMI port, but nothing worked.
Then I tried swapping the HDMI cord for a thicker, higher-quality version I had stashed away from a previous purchase. This one worked like a charm, displaying “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in its full, Ultra-HD glory. The cable was the culprit.
While I generally avoid telling people to buy overly expensive “High-speed” HDMI cords, it’s worth knowing that in some cases, using older first-gen HDMI cables really might make the difference between a working picture and a glitchy display that can’t keep up with the data being transferred. A very long cable might also have trouble with a high-data HDMI stream than a shorter one. That doesn’t mean you should go out and spend $100 on a single cable, but when you’re shopping, try to make sure the cord is “HDMI 2.0” and compatible with 4K video, especially since prices these days for the higher-speed cables is not that much more than the older, standard-speed ones.
Every week, we’ll define a tech term, offer a timely tip or answer questions about technology from readers. Email email@example.com with questions or topic suggestions
News on Open Source is free and unlimited. Access to the rest of 512tech.com comes with an American-Statesman digital subscription, which also includes myStatesman.com and the ePaper edition. Subscribe at statesman.com/subscribe.