The newest in “smart TVs” is the 8K television. With twice the pixels of 4K screens, 8K offers higher resolution that is great for home theaters. But higher resolution means more data transfer and requires more bandwidth. Are your cables up to the challenge?
Can’t I Just Use WiFi?
Many smart devices use Bluetooth to wirelessly connect to an Internet network. It’s favorable because it’s fast and easy, sidestepping the complications that hardwiring can bring. But it isn’t really the best choice for smart TVs.
Why? It has to do with bandwidth. What is bandwidth? Essentially, it is the volume of information that an internet connection can handle at a time. A large file takes longer to transfer on a smaller bandwidth, but transfers quickly on a larger bandwidth.
This is relevant to 8K televisions because all those pixels all represent a piece of data–33,177,600 pixels, to be exact. That’s a lot of data being transferred, and in order for the image on an 8K TV to look its best, it needs to transfer cleanly, with no lags to cause jumping or blurring in the pixels that make up the image.
WiFi is incredibly useful, but even high-speed wireless internet lacks the higher bandwidth and signal stability that wired Ethernet networks provide.
So, then, what kind of Ethernet wires provide the best performance for 8K TVs?
“Cat” or “category” cables make up the backbone of any wired Ethernet network. Cat5 and Cat5e cables are “audio quality” and largely obsolete.
Cat6 has been the general standard since the early 2000s, but it is Cat6a that most “smart” networks use these days. Cat6a has additional shielding around its core wires to reduce data interference, and is capable of moving 1Gbps of data over 330 feet, or 10Gbps for half that distance–which is essentially Gigabit-speed internet, capable of streaming data at high speed with low-to-zero lag.
Cat7 cable is the next level up from Cat6a, introduced in 2010 and primarily used by data centers and servers rooms at first. It is now used in homes and offices where large amounts of data are traded or as a way to “future proof” a hardwired system. Cat7 features two layers of shielding around it core wires that can transmit 10Gbps over 330 feet. Cat7A cable does even better, with speeds of 1GHz and 40 Gbps of data, but only up to 165 feet.
Cat8 cable is the newest, fastest, and most advanced cable on the market, with speeds of up to 2Ghz and a bandwidth of 40Gbps at a length of 100 feet.
So which cable is best for an 8K TV?
8K televisions require a lot of data simply to transmit pixel information, even apart from the data required for streaming services or internet connections. So it’s smart to invest in a cable type that can transmit higher amounts of data–as long as it can do so in the distances you need.
Cat6a is the budget pick for 8K TVs, while Cat7 and Cat8 are great investments for facilities that want to future-proof their entire Ethernet network along with wiring their upgraded television. The higher bandwidth, data speed, and increased shielding of these cables mean that they will be able to handle equipment and device upgrades far into the future.
But there is one more cable we need to talk about when it comes to 8K TVs, and that’s the HDMI cable.
HDMI Cable for 8K TV
“HDMI” stands for high definition multimedia interface. This type of cable is the industry-wide standard connector that transfers audio and visual signals from a source, such as a cable box or streaming hub, to a video display device–such as an 8K television.
Simple enough, but the terminology used to label HDMI cables can be at best vague and at worst genuinely confusing.
So when it comes to an HDMI cable for your 8K television, look for these key words on the packaging:
- Ultra High-Speed HDMI
- HDMI 2.1
- 48G Cable
- Real 8K
- 8K UHD
Anything labeled as such is certain to be Category 3 HDMI cable, which is the HDMI guaranteed to support audio and visuals to 4K, 5K, 8K, and 10K.
If you have a 4K TV and you are upgrading to an 8K, you can still use the same HDMI cables and have most content come through crystal-clear. This is because most content still tops out at 4K resolution. As more 8K content becomes available, however, you’ll need to upgrade to 8K-capable, Category 3 HDMI cable.
What Else Can Structured Wiring Do?
A hard-wired Ethernet network is a big investment all for one device, even an 8K television. But wired networks do have major benefits, which we already talked about:
- Larger bandwidth
- Faster data speed
- Less interference
- Stable internet connection
These all make wired networks hugely useful for signal-dependent applications such as:
- Digital security systems (CCTV, sensors, entry intercom)
- Internet of Things networks
- Computer-controlled equipment
- Digital collaboration tools or shared databases
An 8K television is only one aspect of a “smart” Ethernet network!