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How to Connect and Control Displays at a Distance

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Make sure to take into consideration cable length in your digital display setup. There are important limitations for HDMI cables that impact signal quality for digital content. You may experience signal degradation resolution if the distance between content source device and showroom digital display exceeds cable limitations. Here’s what you need to know to connect HDMI cables from source to receiver at lengths appropriate for your cabling.

Standard HDMI cables reach around 50 feet

There is no official maximum length cited in the standards specification for HMDI cables. Compliance-tested HMDI cables max out at 45-50 feet; vendors may list longer cables as compliant but do your diligence and approach such claims with skepticism.

Standard HDMI cables transmit 1080-pixel video up to 50 feet. Wall plates (right) neatly pass cables through walls.

 

Should you wish to pass cable through a wall, use an HDMI wall plate. This conceals long cabling, and provides an extra input to port into on the other side if you opt for a dual-port wall pate. Some have a status light help monitor the connection during setups and troubleshooting.

Active HDMI cables reach around 100 feet

So-called active HDMI cables have a signal boosting amplification mechanism that takes advantage of the 5v power rail built into all HDMI cables. They can push 760-pixel content around 125 feet from the source. Lower resolutions will show at longer distances; 480-pixel content at 200 feet is attainable.

Active HDMI cables are one-way, with designated ends for source and receiver.

 

Ethernet cables extend HDMI to 125 feet, possibly longer

With an HDMI-to-Ethernet converter, Cat5e and Cat6 cables extend the range for a 1080-pixel high definition signal farther. You won’t get 4K, but 3D content will show nicely.

This HDMI over Cat5 Active Extender Kit is capable of a 60Hz frame rate, 1080-pixel HD @ 200 feet

This HDMI over Cat5 Active Extender Kit is capable of a 60Hz frame rate, 1080-pixel HD at 200 feet

 

Professional AVs often opt for a setup called a Cat 5/6 piggyback. Here you’ll install an HDMI extender—called a ‘balun’ in the industry—into a wall. Think of it as a one-port Ethernet switch for video. The HDMI end runs to the screen, the RJ-45 Ethernet end runs out to the source. Cat 5/6 extender kits are rated for cable length, frame rate, and resolution.

Share a HD television or projector with four different video sources with an automatic video switch (top). A matrix switch (bottom) routes video from multiple sources onto multiple screens.

Copper and fiber coaxial cable converter can extend HDMI up to 300 feet

A copper or fiber HDMI-to-coaxial adapter that extends 1080-pixel high definition signals up to 300 feet. You will find these in our pro converters and scalers store.

 

Note that you need at least two, sometimes four, coaxial cables running between source and screen. Note that it takes deft cable management for this setup to appear neat and tidy. It’s the most extreme DIY setup to tackle, and companies commonly consult AV professionals to supplement expertise.

Wireless HDMI solutions reach around 30 feet

Cable-free HMDI solutions are a comparatively new technology. Products continue to improve, but do not achieve the range of a cable setup. Wireless HMDI solutions consist of two boxes: a transmitter and a receiver. Plug the transmitter into your source device, and the receiver goes into the display.

Wireless might be the neatest solution cable-wise, but on the whole, the technology mains a mess due to competing standards and lack of compatibility. There are three standards for universal wireless HDMI streaming.

  • WirelessHD has a working distance of 33 feet for 1080-pixels @ 60 Mhz, and is capable of transmitting 4K if you have the content. You need a direct line of sight between transmitter and receiver, otherwise you’ll likely get interference. The signal doesn’t pass through foot traffic, which might be problematic for some retail locations.
  • WHDI 2.0 has a working distance of around 100 feet for 1080-pixels @ 60 Mhz. The signal can pass through walls. In theory, WHDI products support 4K transmissions once they reach the market. Fewer manufacturers make wireless HDMI solutions that work on the WHDI standard than WirelessHD for reasons unspecified.
  • WiGig is comparable to WirelessHD, and it’s an IEEE standard known as 802.11ad which the Wi-Fi Alliance adopted in 2013. It’s still new and products appear to be in the works as of this writing. Similar to WirelessHD, signal does not pass through walls or solid objects.  
  • Source-specific wireless HDMI streaming refers to screens and receivers designed to work together. There are a number of solutions available. Several manufacturers make hardware utilizing Google Cast, Miracast, and Apple’s AirPlay.

Shop and compare wireless HDMI solutions if you’re looking to connect displays free of cabling.

Summary
How to Connect and Control Displays at a Distance
Article Name
How to Connect and Control Displays at a Distance
Description
Make sure to take into consideration cable length in your digital display setup. There are important limitations for HDMI cables that impact signal quality for digital content. Here’s what you need to know.
Author
Adam Lovinus

Adam Lovinus

A tech writer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast from Orange County, California.

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