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Coaxial vs HDMI

If you are in the process of setting up, upgrading your home theater or installing your surround sound system you will need to check your options for audio and video cables. While some of your devices may come with only one digital audio output type, most devices come with both coaxial and HDMI cable outputs. This is why you will need to know the difference between Coaxial vs HDMI cables.

Cables are designed to interpret and deliver needed signals from the programming source such as a DVD player, cable box or television set. Most televisions use the standard coaxial cables. Modern technology has allowed the use of HDMI cables.

Television sets are not standalone equipment. Cables are needed to connect them to your chosen entertainment accessories and options allow you to fully enjoy your TV viewing. Coaxial and HDMI cables are two of the most popular cables available for your television set.

The choice between a coaxial and HDMI cable to use depends on the type of signal and levels of quality (audio and video) that television cables provide.

Coaxial Cable

The coaxial cable was invented in the 1900s. This type of cable was originally used to transmit radio and telephone signals.  A coaxial cable is made up of a copper core with two concentric layers set apart by insulation and carried an analog signal along an axis. It carries an analog signal.

Coaxial cables carry a signal from the programming source to the television. Coaxial video cables are known for their one-pin connector surround by a connector that is either screwed or pushed into a corresponding hole to secure a connection. Today co coaxial cables are limited to such outside connections as lines of cable TV or satellite TV.

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Image by Steve Johnson

HDMI Cable

The HDMI or high definition multimedia interface is a connectivity standard that has been used globally since 2002. HDMI cables come with a 19-pin plug-and-go connection. They come with a simple structure consisting of ten top pins and nine bottom pins. They are simply fitted, like a USB, to the HDMI port to secure a connection. They carry a digital signal.

HDMI cables are the new DVI cables. These cables are designed to be used with high definition components because they are able to transmit standard and video signals.  They have connectors similar to a large USB and are found in modern television sets, HD definition TVs and the latest digital equipment.

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Coaxial cables are a lower type of cable when compared to HDMI cables. They are commonly used when it is the only cable input available in your television.

Coaxial and high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) cables are both important for your home theater system.

Comparison Chart

 CoaxialHDMI
ConfigurationFiber optic cable consisting of shield, dielectric and center conductor. Can either be 50 Ohm and 75 Ohm coaxial cable.4 twisted shielded pairs with separate conductors
ResolutionLow standard definition resolutionHigh definition
CompatibilityAll TVs have coaxial inputFound on all TVs after 2003
Applications50 Ohm coaxial cables are often used in Ham/CB Radios, 2-Way Radios, Broadcast TV/ Radio Transmitters, Cellular Phone Repeaters/ Wi-Fi.
75 Ohm coaxial cables are often used in TV to cable connections, home video devices, Internet Routers and Satellite TV boxes
Long distance high definition video and audio signal transmissions. Often used for video game consoles, home theater devices, Blue-ray player and other video and audio systems.
Bandwidth0. 1 Gbps (100Mbps)
up to 18Gbps
Signal Analog Digital
Maximum Length
For Ethernet- up to 328 feet (100 meters)For Ethernet- up to 1640.4 feet (500 meters)

Content: Coaxial vs HDMI: What is The Difference?

HDMI cables provide better picture quality than coaxial cables. This is because of how HDMI cables are made vis-à-vis the design of the equipment in relation to how it handles data.

A coaxial cable comes with a shield conductor grounded at both ends surrounding the center conductor. The signal on the inner conductor is not affected by noise and RF interference. A coaxial cable is used when noise needs to be protected over long cables. Signals are separated into different frequencies. The signal does not drop on long cables.

An HDMI cable comes with a detailed and specific digital video and audio transmission that covers separate wires and connector shape to the transmitted digital data format.

The bus topology of coaxial cables makes deployment prone to noise, congestion and security risks. These are not present in HDMI cables.

Picture Quality

It is not the choice between coaxial and HDMI cables that spell the difference in picture quality. It is the manner in how signals are sent through the cables to the equipment they are connected to. There is, therefore, a difference in picture quality over coaxial and HDMI cables.

Coaxial cables use a threaded “F” connector which has long been used on VCRs, televisions and gaming systems. When coaxial cables are used to connect the television and hardware audio and video are forced over a center copper conductor which limits the resolution. This makes the bandwidth of coaxial cables ideal only in sending digital data from satellite and cable services to decoder boxes inside the home.

HDMI cables provide 1080p video resolution. They are able to deliver audio that is not compressed to 8 channels which are popular in DTS HD and Dolby TrueHD used by Blur-Ray disks.  HDMI cables can deal with 4K and 3D content. Content produces prefer HDMI cables because they produce the best quality pictures.

Interference

Coaxial cables carry analog signals while HDMI cables carry digital signals. Digital signals are prone to less interference or less immune to noise. Digital signals are also subject to less degradation than analog signals over time.

Audio Quality

HDMI cables will deliver the highest audio and video signals if the media source of your home surround sound equipment comes with both audio and video signals. If your equipment delivers only audio signals (e.g. CD player), both coaxial and HDMI cables can reproduce the same excellent level of sound quality.

Signals

Coaxial cables are not able to deliver the high definition signal HDMI cables can deliver. Coaxial cables can offer 1080i or 720p but not the 1080p HDMI can deliver.

When used with cable boxes, coaxial cables will never be able to deliver HD signals.

HDMI can deliver full surround sound and deliver the uncompressed quality that coaxial cables cannot. HDMI can also deliver in the same cable full surround sound.

Ease in Use

Coaxial cables are more convenient to use than HDMI cable because they are often smaller than the normal HDMI cable. HDMI cables though are already good for both audio and video signals thus separates cables for audio signals are no longer needed.

HDMI cables also allow many connections with minimal cables thus it offers a simpler connection process without the need for multiple cables as coaxial cable connections would require.

Cable Solutions

HDMI cables can be the only cable type you can use in connecting your audio and video equipment. A single HDMI cable can be used in place of up to eleven other cables (including coaxial cables) to connect TVs, TV boxes, DVD players and other videos/audio receivers.

Distance

Distance is a major disadvantage of HDMI cables. The maximum distance of HDMI cables is approximately up to 35 meters for Category 1 cables and up to approximately 10 meters for Category 2 cables. Beyond these distances, cable extenders are needed. Coaxial cables are feasible for longer distances as they are ideal for outside sources.

Noise

Coaxial cables can have some noise problems in its return path. The receiving equipment, therefore, needs additional intelligence to take care of this error control. HDMI cables, on the other hand, are noiseless.

Colors

HDMI cables can handle 10-bit, 12-bit and 16-bit color depths rendering in superior detail over one billion colors. Coaxial cables do not carry this much dolor depths thus HDMI is really best for high definition resolution.

Data Transfer

HDMI cables have the fastest speed for data transfer. The older version has a speed of up to 10.2Gbps and the newer version –HDMI 2.0 h has a speed of up to 18Gbps. HDMI cables can be connected to the latest devices such as DVD players, HDMI TVs etc. with so much ease without any distortion and interference during data transfer.

Coaxial cables have a data transfer rate of 0.1Gbps (100Mbps). Its advantage though is in its data transfer range.

Cost

Coaxial cables are cheaper and easier to install. They are easier to modify, too than HDMI cables. HDMI cables per feet are more expensive than coaxial cables.

Bandwidth

HDMI cables with high speed come with higher bandwidths of up to 18Gbps for a more efficient signal. Coaxial cables provide more bandwidth per channel.

Signal Integrity

This ensures that the signal is moved from the source to the receiver with enough integrity and quality. HDMI cables store, transmit and view digital signals in its original form without any changes.

For high definition content, analog signals through coaxial cables require conversion from analog to digital thus there is no prominent signal degradation. It is always better to transmit HD content through HDMI cables.

Cable Termination

Cable termination is the connection of a cable to equipment and allowing the cable to be connected to other devices. Field termination is better than factory termination in the sense that you can simply pull the cables to terminate them at a later time.

HDMI cables have limitations in field terminations. HDMI cables do not allow the easy termination in the field while coaxial cable does. So it is easier to do on the spot repairs of coaxial cables.

Transmission Loss

HDMI cables allow loss-less transmission for better video quality at higher resolution and low brightness. Video quality is much better than when sent through an analog signal (coaxial cable) because there is also no conversion. High contrasts videos have sharper displays, too.

Multi-channel Audio Sources

HDMI cables can transmit audio sources to multiple channels but they do not have the capacity to simultaneously transmit to two-channel stereo and multi-channel signals. This can be a problem when many devices with different audio formats are connected.

Coaxial cables can support multiple channels with good enough capacity.

How to Connect Cables

  • Coaxial Cables

While most new televisions come with high definition many contents is still being delivered through coaxial cables which connect to the TV signal source may it be through an antenna, satellite or cable. HDTVs have the capacity to get content through coaxial cables.

  • Bring the coaxial to the “Cable in or “TV in” jack at the back portion of the TV.
  • Position and secure the cable to the port with a gentle press. Avoid over-tightening the coaxial cable to the “Cable in or “TV in” jack.
  • Screw the coaxial cable to the port by turning the connector of the cable clockwise.
  • Position, secure and screw clockwise the other end of the cable to the source of the TV signal.
  • Plug in the TV and if necessary also the source of the TV signal.

 

  • HDMI Cables

HDMI cables are connected to the TV and the signal source in pretty much the same way as other cables are connected.

  • Connect one end of the HDMI cable to the HDMI port located at the back of your TV set. Most HDTVs have at least two HDMI ports. Remember which HDMI port (HDMI 1 or HDMI 2 you connected the HDMI cable.
  • Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to the signal source.
  • Turn on the TV.
  • Set the input or source of the TV to the chosen HDMI port. This can be done using the remote control or from the TV “source” button,
  • Adjust the picture resolution.

 

Coaxial and HDMI cables work on different signals. A converter can change a coaxial signal (analog) to an HDMI signal (digital) if you are connecting a programming source with only a coaxial output to a television with only an HDMI input. The plugs are changed, too so the HDMI cable can be connected to both components.

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