There are a lot of things wrong with HDMI. For one, the technology keeps pushing the limits of what a standard non-active cable can handle – this is especially true when HDMI is used over long distances. Some manufacturers have turned to making extra-thick, well-shielded solutions that utilize 22 gauge cables. The results of that method have been tragic – cables don’t bend easily and they are generally unwieldy and impractical for most uses. So what’s next? Well, almost any cable will work over a 2 meter or less distance, but beyond that things start to get dicey. That’s where active HDMI cables come into play. While active EQ on HDMI cables isn’t new, possibly the most advanced use of it is coming out of RedMere, who has shrunken down the technology to a point that it’s all but negligible.
Basically, they’ve given it a fighting chance to become mainstream and cheap. And that’s good because HDMI has gotten a (well-deserved in our opinion) bad rap as being an expensive interconnect technology that adds to the price of electronics and presents an almost evil-laugh-inducing glee from retailers who overchange consumers for the technology.
As TVs get smarter, and more importantly, flatter, HDMI cables have to keep up. The most comical thing I see these days are advertisements for “thin mounts that keep your TV just 1/2-inch off the wall”. Great. Just great. Did it ever occur to anyone that you need at least 2″ for most HDMI cables to make a wall connection? Or that most power cables require the same clearance? Even with recessed plates, most ultra-thin mounts simply won’t work with the new ultra-thin LED display panels. So much for innovation.
But now, HDMI cables developed with RedMere technology are taking a different approach. The cables contain Redmere’s MEA1689 Integrated Chipset that allows sustains speeds of 3.4Gbps per channel (10.2 Gbps total). The cables are downright thin – and I’m talking super-thin, with wires that measure just 2.5mm in thickness. The MEA1689 is a compact module which fits inside the sink-side (display-side) casing of an active HDMI cable assembly. The cable is actually directional, so you have to pay attention to the markings to make sure the electronics are on the display/sink side.
MEA1689 Chipset Features:
- Separate data equalization performed for each channel for up to 3.4Gbps
- Clock equalization up to 340MHz
- DDC rise time accelerator using active I2C accelerator device
- Contains RM1689 devices for HDMI active cable equalization
- Low power
- No external power required
- Supports up to 40m 1080p
- Module size 15mm x 26mm
RedMere claims that this amounts to about a 75% reduction in cable size and weight.The sample cable we received can safely bend a full 180 degrees within a 3/4-inch radius. That’s amazing. It’s also got a HDMI connector at each end that is only 1-1/2″ long, not including the 3/4″ of strain relief.
Now apply this to your electronics. What kind of cable are you really going to want to connect from your iPad, iPhone, camera, or other small portable device to your TV? A gigantor cable that drags your phone off the table and onto the floor? Hardly. RedMere’s technology has, for the first time, resulted in cables that are actually practical for connecting our small portable devices together. This is BIG news and really does alot to redeem HDMI in our eyes. Maybe the cable isn’t a lost cause afterall. Maybe the embedded technology will continue to drop in price and companies like MonoPrice and others will be allowed to license and use it in less-expensive products en masse.
We’ll have to see.
So who’s making these cables (because RedMere, though a technology, is not branding cables under their own moniker at this time)? Well, for starters, you can find RedMere technology-enabled cables from Vizio, Monster Cable, Radio Shack, PNY and others. That’s not a bad start, especially since there are also a couple of lesser-known companies that may end up OEMing cables to other manufacturers as well. And more importantly, you may be asking “what’s it cost now?” Good question. We have some answers.
Here is a breakdown of some of the prices and brands we were able to find:
|Radio Shack (Auvio)
X – unavailable or not listed at this time
*HDMI Mini to HDMI Cable. They also have HDMI Micro to HDMI for a slight premium
** Double pack (2 cables)
So we have to say that RedMere is impressing us so far. In our testing we see no apparent problems with te technology. It just works, with ARC and 3D and everything we can throw at it. It also doesn’t (for the applications we’ve used it on) require external power – which is also a bonus. It’s nice to see that there are cables up to 50 feet long so far that don’t require anything but the embedded electronics (which are powered off the HDMI port itself). RedMere claims that the technology can support cables up to 40 meters (131 feet!) in length.
To quote Darth Vader: “Impressive.”