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HDMI or Component? Integrators Weigh In

Component video heavily favored among CE Pro readers over HDMI connections.

In the HDMI vs. component debate, plenty of people have strong opinions on the subject. CE Pro recently solicited these opinions via an e-mail blast.

The vast majority of respondents far prefer to use component video for a number of reasons. Most of the complaints about HDMI center around distance issues, the challenge of terminating in the field, the fact that the connections easily disconnect, the fragility of the cables, the large connector size and HDMI's far greater expense.

There were also a number of complaints about compatibility issues, the lack of HDMI standards, HDCP issues and a negligible quality improvement.

John Isaac of Blueprint Wiring Systems Inc., in Knoxville, Tenn., delved even deeper into the subject. He wrote:

Why are we having this discussion when the technology to process digital video locally at the display has existed for several years? Imagine something like a TV with an Ethernet jack and a terabyte of memory to store video. Imagine a single cable box that can transmit 10 simultaneous streams over a LAN to various televisions. And if I do not like the local cable provider, I can purchase content from 10 other people who stream video.

Why isn't the industry demanding that manufacturers comply to open standards that exist today? It's high time the audio/video and alarm industries come out of the dark ages and embrace the future. I thought we had made it when Polk Audio announced an IP-addressable speaker more than two years ago ... Our industry should be launching the next killer app, but instead we are debating cable standards. Who cares?

Nevertheless, we divided the the CE pro responses into three camps: Component lovers, those supporting HDMI and those that use both.

Component Video Still Rules

By far, the largest number of respondents believe that component video is the only way to go. While some do believe HDMI offers a better quality picture, they have found that the assorted problems associated with the format far outweigh its benefits.

Many have tried, and failed, to successfully install HDMI and have now written it off. Most agree that until the issues are better addressed by the manufacturers, they will not offer this option to their clientele.

I stay as far away from HDMI as possible. It is unreliable, and often doesn't produce as good a picture as component video. I run all my video in component, with either optical cable or digital coax for audio. -- Bob Bentley, Bentley Electronic Systems, South Glastonbury, Conn.

We use component video distribution because it works every time! No worries about the handshake, or if the connector comes off, or distance limitations -- within reason. -- Greg Calvimontes, Pgh Custom Home Theater, Pittsburgh, Pa.

We use component because it is more reliable and we can make custom lengths as needed. There doesn't seem to be that much of a difference in quality for most customers to notice. -- Darryl Kuder, Red Dot Audio Video, Carlsbad, Calif.

I guess I am old school and do not convert to the newest and more expensive options right away. I still utilize the component video cables as most of my runs are rather long so it is very cost effective. And I really cannot see the need to use HDMI at this time for two reasons.

First, there is no material other than HD DVD and Blu-ray DVD that are sending true 1080p to the display. When my local cable or DirecTV or even a broadcast channel make that leap -- and I do not think it will happen soon -- then I may change my mind. And the second reason, there is still confusion over format of HDMI cables! I find this very unsettling for myself and my customers.

Our industry needs to finalize on this format stuff before bringing products to market. Can you imagine if the other industries were this way? Michelin tires only work on Ford and Jeep? Sunbeam toasters only work with Wonder Bread? -- Jim Barto, Conexus Network Systems, Altamonte Springs, Fla.

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20 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Marc  on  04/17  at  01:27 PM

I have 3 flat panel tvs with HDMI hookups.  I have three different dvd players, one Blu and two upscaling players.  I have NEVER had a problem with encryption issues.  To utilize a 7.1 surround sound setup with my blu ray player and new receiver, it requires an HDMI cable.  Once again, I have never had an issue.  HDMI is the only way to go and I’d be very afraid of a professinal installer if he advised me to use component.

Posted by Scuba Steve  on  04/17  at  02:13 PM

It was stated by several installers that working with HDMI is fine in point-to-point applications (like yours), but handshake issues, cable fragility, lack of custom lengths, HDCP, and large/unsecure connectors make it a headache.

I would put more faith in an installer that recommends a cheaper and more reliable alternative.

Posted by Robert Archer  on  04/17  at  02:22 PM

I would add too that one install is a small case study. Installers have a much wider scope of experience with HDMI to form an opinion.

Posted by Jeff  on  04/17  at  02:40 PM

All the issues raised by pro installers are valid.  Our family did a high end HT and everything was done with HDMI.  Much of the blame of the HDMI fiasco lies with HDCP handshaking.  The reliabity of a successful handshake maintained through cycling inputs in particular just has not worked on some devices, especially the smaller more niche manufactures that pro installers tend to use.  Also equipment from 2003 and 2004 sometimes just doesn’t work with other devices period, or you have to perform perfectly timed button pressing “workarounds” like you are getting 30 lives on Contra.   
  People running HDMI from a cable/or satellite STB directly into a medium sized flat panel don’t really understand just how bad HDCP can be when you throw something into the middle of the chain. 
  If the customer demands HDMI though, he or she needs to find an installer who can meet his/her demands.  It’s that simple.

Posted by john chacha  on  04/18  at  01:57 AM

i currently use both component and hdmi but i noticed i had my upconverting dvd player hooked up through the component cables and the signal was only converted up to 480p realizing this i had to change to a hdmi cable.Big problem when using an up converting dvd player to receive 720p or 1080i or p picture you must use hdmi cables.

Posted by Robert Archer  on  04/18  at  06:08 AM

Your comments are generally correct regarding the handshake, but there are also issues with distances, which are dealt with with either Cat-5 conversion type systems or active cabling, and the termination of the cable, which doesn’t lock in like DVI.
The distance issues add costs onto an installation in the scenario of a multiroom video system or a centralized rack where the equipment is in another room.
The locking termination also leads to system failures, which make the installer look bad even though it’s not his or her fault. I can say I am having a personal experience with the review of a projector right now that features HDMI inputs that are upside down. My HDMI cable keeps falling and it’s become annoying to me. The projector is an excellent product, but the HDMI connection detracts from the experience.
Installers may use niche, high-peroformance brands, but most of their installs use popular brands like Sony, Panasonic, Denon, Integra, etc. This is verified through our upcoming CE Pro Brand Analysis story, which finds the above brands used far more frequently than high performance brands.

Posted by kabster  on  04/18  at  09:51 AM

We run both component and HDMIfor equipment interconnect and HDMI.
I far prefer component and will continue to do so with all the HDMI issues raised above and others not mentioned.
Component JUST WORKS

Posted by Ed Wilfong  on  04/18  at  10:46 PM

I thought was being resistant to change thinking component was better. Guess not. Despite individual successes, etc almost anyone who has used both has had at least 1 issue with HDMI. I have yet to hear anyone say component doesn’t work. And yes, I am tired of replugging in HDMI over and over, and over and…..

Posted by Michael Johnston  on  04/21  at  06:21 PM


What if you had an HDMI solution that guarantees 1080p up to 150’ without DC power amplification that is installer friendly. No Baluns….no kits….no proprietary plates…..terminates into a standard 1-6 port wall plate… connector issues….cost effective!

Would you use it? I really need to know.

Posted by kabster  on  04/21  at  08:00 PM

Michael Johnston It depends on cost vs retail. There still is the issue with the HDMI cable locking into the equipment. I just don’t understand why HDMI connectors don’t have at least a lock or longer foot print to ensure it stays in the component its connected to.
Picture just this one install. A 50 inch pioneer Elite TV hooked up HDMI and Component.
The TV is mounted on a cantilevered arm mount. When we took the job over it was having issues with the HDMI disconnecting when the TV was pulled out. We did a little re routing of the HDMI and its been fine (so far). But that was a preventable problem it HDMI had a positive lock of some kind.

Posted by Ben  on  04/22  at  06:33 AM

Some very interesting points raised from the point of view of an installer. It’s a pity that HDMI fell so short of the mark when DVI was already a perfectly good digital video standard (locking nuts and all!).

Unfortunately there isn’t a nice standard for 8 channel hidef digital audio outside of HDMI.

Of course all future connection options will most likely be ruined by the industries insistance upon quality reduction with tripe like HDCP.

Posted by John Hudson  on  04/23  at  03:04 PM

HDMI vs. Component…….

Installers, have your cake and eat it !!

A number of manufacturers have announced or are about to announce product that enables transport of “digital” HDMI / DVI signaling over “analog” RGBHV / Component / Catv coax cables.

These products enable long reach (up to 330 feet @ 1080p60 depending on cable), digital connectivity over standard coax cabling. They provide a robust latching connection (BNC) and simple in-field termination using inexpensive, familiar cabling and connector technology.

All the advanced features of HDMI v1.3 are supported, and the products have the potential to provide a future proof installation operating at data rates up to 10.2 Gb/s.

The HDMI products are fully backwards compatible with DVI and all versions of HDMI (1.1, 1.2) and are also HDCP v1.3 compliant.

Great for retro-fit applications (i.e. VGA [RGBHV break out], to HDMI / DVI / DisplayPort upgrade) and new installs.

Speak to Gefen, Liberty Wire, Ethereal, Phoenix Gold, Tributaries, CablesToGo, Belden, Canare, Savant Systems, DVIGear etc and ask for HDMI over Coax.

Also watch out for DisplayPort over coax solutions which are coming soon.

Posted by Scott Stewart  on  05/07  at  01:34 PM

All these points are great, but WHEN (not if) your BluRay payers & Set top boxes start down rezing because of the broadcast flag gets implemented, the component will look worse!!

Grant, this is not a technology issue, but a IP (intellectual property and political)

This point seems to be either not discussed by most media people and it only now starting to be understood by the CE industry. And in commercial environments, most mfg. are in denial, IMHO.

Posted by Rick Ciaccio  on  03/06  at  02:20 PM

I believe if we all had our way, obviously we would keep things simple and stick to analog. However, digital media is here to stay and we’d all better embrace it and evolve. In the near future, all high-end components will deliver their content digitally, this includes stereo audio. Analog connectors will disappear. There is a shift toward streaming media and deep color bandwidth… as we speak, Blu-ray is becoming obsolete. Fiber cabling here in the US is ramping up and if your AV company has not begun to look at the possibilities you’d better start. You might start by taking a look at Crestron’s Digital Media product. That is a very succinct glimpse at where we are headed. The learning curve is steep, but the opportunities for those who start early are immense.

Posted by TLG Scott  on  03/07  at  11:25 AM

I agree with Rick. I especially agree with the fiber point.
However, we who have had many birthdays have been over promised before on the “fiber technology” will be every where within 10 years deal.

Price of fiber is already there. The tools are now affordable for cut & terminate. The issue is the interface boxes are too high priced compared to the Cat5/6 ones

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