Anyone who has read any of my articles long enough here at Audioholics knows the love-hate relationship I have with HDMI. Mostly hate, since I believe HDMI should have been more focused on protocol, and less on form-factor. Regardless, one of the most frustrating aspects of HDMI is the tendency for lower gauge (thicker) cables to weight down the connector and pull out of their sockets. With the complexity of the signal coursing through an HDMI cable, even a little tension can result in signal loss, especially over longer distances. So what’s a custom installer to do? Well, for starters there are several solutions that provide a locking HDMI connection for HDMI – something the format surely lacks and something that the HDMI Licensing Group left up to manufacturers in an attempt to give them freedom. In our opinion, all it did was create yet another bad connector – joining the ranks of S-Video, RCA and Firewire (yes, Firewire, especially 800, is one of the worst we’ve seen of late).
Here is a list, admittedly not comprehensive, of some HDMI technologies that offer locking connectors and the various methods they employ:
Torrent SureConnect Locking HDMI Cables
Torrent offers MagLoc technology in their HDMI cables which supposedly improves the HDMI connection strength by 3 – 5 times. Let’s face it, any improvement in retention strength is going to be welcome. The cables come such that the magnetic receptacle is pre-attached. Once you remove the protective sticker that covers the end you can push the connection into place, which allows the receptacle to adhere to your equipment. The magnetic seal then provides the additional grab missing with a standard connection. MagLoc also has an auto-adjusting sleeve that adapts to varying HDMI port depths and protects the connector tip from accidental damage. In addition to a magnetic connection, Torrent also provides their VeriFYI confirmation light which checks the HDMI cable end to end to confirm a proper connection and provides a visual verification via an LED indicator built right into the cable. Torrent is also one of only three companies to receive a blessing from the HDMI Licensing Group (see Ottovonmo/PPC below).
Lindy Connector Lock for HDMI Cables
Lindy decided to manufacture a nifty HDMI Connector Lock that overcomes the limitation caused by a lack of screw-down connections for HDMI’s flawed form factor. Unluckily, their solution is one that is designed to be used in conjunction with their Premium Gold HDMI cables and not a universal solutions. That’s too bad since the market may have gone gangbusters over a third party method of fixing existing cables. Lindy’s Connector Lock is manufactured from a thermoplastic polymer which, when warm, easily slips over the HDMI connector and forms a tight fit as it cools down. A built-in thumbscrew then allows the cable to be secured to most typical HDMI face plates or a suitably equipped HDMI device.
Blue Echo hd EZ Lock
Where Lindy failed to provide a universsal solution, Blue Echo went for the gold. Their hd EZ lock was the recipient of the Consumer Electronics Association 2009 Innovations Design and Engineering Showcase award and is one of the only universal Locking HDMI adapters on the market. It is designed to prevent your HDMI Cable from becoming loose or disconnected from its input and is relatively easy to use. The hd EZ lock protects the HDMI cable and connection from strain by attaching to a component’s chassis using either the existing fixing screw on the chassis (usually located above the HDMI Input), or with the supplied VHB adhesive. Once attached, the HDMI Cable is held securely in place to prevent the HDMI Cable from coming loose or unplugged completely. The hd EZ lock significantly reduces or eliminates stress on the HDMI input by supporting the cable with the component’s own chassis, rather than with the HDMI socket. This can significantly reduce the chance of damaging HDMI inputs or your HDMI cable.
Ottovonmo/PPC (Perfect Path) Locking HDMI Cables
Ottovonmo (and also PPC or Perfect Path) have developed a line of HDMI cables with built-in retention and also a series with PerfectLock technology that provides up to 25 lbs of retention in the port. Their technology doesn’t transfer the strain to the chassis, but it does offer a significant step up from the normal HDMI socket connection. This technology is built right into their 600, 700, and 1000 series of cables. What’s unique about PPC is that they are one of only three companies that have garnered the approval of the HDMI Licensing Group (the others are Torrent (see above) and a UK company, Polar Creative. With that said, we hardly think anyone should wait around for HDMI to deliver their blessings as the company, in our opinion, is the one responsible for the mess of a connector that is HDMI. If anything, HDMI should have standardized a much more effective connection in the first place, and most certainly should have come in at a later date with its own suggestions for improving the physical standard to offer options for strain relief.
PolarCreative Locking HDMI Cables
PolarCreative’s solution to the HDMI tension dilemma was to construct a new cable connector that took advantage of the integrated tensioning pins already present in HDMI. Their solution uses a sliding sleeve to push the pins into a locked position, transferring the cable’s weight to the receptacle. The only downside to this (and other solutions approved by HDMI Licensing, is that it does nothing to transfer the strain relief to the chassis. The somewhat fragile HDMI receptacle is still susceptible to this strain, though to-date all of the solutions heralded by HDMI Licensing employ this methodology (which favors universal appeal and compatibility over security or strength. PolarCreative’s HDMI cables are by far the most slick-looking of the enhanced tension format that we’ve seen. It’s clean, almost futuristic oval shape and sliding sleeve design put it at the top of the cool-looking locking cable list.
Accell AVGrip Locking HDMI Cables
Accell’s AVGrip series of locking HDMI cables also meet the HDMI Licensing Group’s desire for standardized technology (though we haven’t heard direct accolades or approval from them just yet – possibly a monetary issue of some sort.) These cables provide an automatic 16 pounds of additional locking tension on the connection, using the standard tension tabs provided by the spec. To release the cable, you simply pull back on the sleeve, which releases the tension and allows the connector to release from the socket. It’s a sophisticated solution, though it is proprietary. Accell currently has two cables with this technology, their AVGrip and AVGrip Pro. The difference between the two is a matter of certification speed, the Pro having 10.2 Gbps and the AVGrip standard line handling 6.75 Gbps.
Conclusion: Are Locking HDMI Cables for You?
Yes. They are. Unfortunately, however, they aren’t mainstream in terms of affordability. Most of these solutions are proprietary and targeted for custom installers and those who have unique needs. In our opinion, HDMI over short lengths typically can utilize a higher gauge (thinner) cable and doesn’t require strain relief for most applications. For longer runs, where lower gauge (thicker) cables are the norm, strain relief becomes important. This is especially true for those connecting HDMI to a suspended projector or those utilizing HDMI switchers or lots of connections, where there is a higher likelihood of connection issues.
We wish HDMI would have been more thorough in its specification, perhaps even specifying a locking mechanism methodology. As it stands now, they provided a minimum pull tension, but the connector – as we’ve all experienced at one time or another – leaves much to be desired. Because of this, locking connectors are a real help. What will be more helpful, for general consumers at least, is the day locking HDMI comes to discount places like MonoPrice. With the growing market penetration of HDTV and the amount of people starting to locate these televisions on walls and in remote locations, we’re betting this won’t take long.