I warned you that it was back on. Monster's priciest—a $250 35-foot HDMI cable—goes toe-to-toe with Monoprice's longest and thickest—a $35 35-footer and a $53 50-footer. Which will win? Or more importantly, which will fail? Let's have a look, shall we?As I mentioned this morning, I skipped the testing on the shorter cables because, using Monster's own gear, we showed that they could carry today's 1080p signal without trouble. (One, from XtremeHD, had trouble with some extreme video simulations, but it passed all of the real-world simulations, so you can keep using it... for now.)
But as you know, both the 35-footer and 50-footer from Monoprice failed the 1080p test in the lab. I used the very same cables from the lab for the real world test below, and guess what? The 35-footer did just fine, as did the 35-ft cable from Monster. But Monoprice's 50-footer gave me some unmistakable trouble signs, as you will see below.
The TV in all of these shots is a Samsung LN-T5265F 52-inch 1080p LCD. It's nice and big, the better to spot any aberrant cable behavior. I recognize that you might think the TV's error correction is interfering with the test, to which I reply: • I ran preliminary tests with a Sony Bravia KDF-37H1000 rear-projection set, but since it had 1080p inputs but only 720p display, couldn't use it for the finals. • We are only testing 1080p TV signal. Given that tightened criteria, wouldn't all new "full HD" sets have at least some competent error correction? • If error correction is truly the name of the game, then it especially doesn't matter which cable you buy.
You will notice that all of the cables in the pictures are coiled. I did that on purpose, in order to amplify any problems in their performance. If there was a weakness, I wanted to get to it.
Here are the test shots:
Monoprice 35-ft In-Wall CL2 ($35.17) Test 1: Sony PS3 with Hellboy BD All good Test 2: Samsung BD-P1200 with Happy Feet BD All good Monster 1000HD 35-ft ($250) Test 1: Sony PS3 with Hellboy BD All good Test 2: Samsung BD-P1200 with Happy Feet BD All good Monoprice 50-ft In-Wall CL2 ($53.64) Test 1: Sony PS3 with Hellboy BD All good Test 2: Samsung BD-P1200 with Happy Feet BD What the...? Is that screen noise? There was actually quite a lot of noise—a bouncing picture that happened so frequently I was able to capture the effect with a still camera. I was able to reproduce the noise with some consistency, too. Here's the noise detail for you to scrutinize: While it may seem conclusive that the 50-foot Monoprice is not a good choice, I was fortunate enough to have another 50-footer from the company, one that was not part of the original lab test. When I used it, I was not able to reproduce the noise. Furthermore, I double-checked the noisy cable on the Sony Bravia KDF-37H1000 with 1080p input (but 720p display) and again could not duplicate it.
The missing piece is Monster's "No Frills" $300 50-footer. I know some of you wish I had tested it, that it had been part of this from the beginning. I don't have a time machine to fix that, but I will say that, given how the Monster 35 footer (10M) did in the lab, chances are you're not going to see noise on the Monster 50 footer.
For the love of God, what does it all mean??? I have to say I for one have learned a few things with all of this testing, and I hope you have too. The way I see it:
• It never pays to buy a Monster cable first. It doesn't even make sense to buy the "marked down" $50 cable you can buy if you don't want Monster. Go online, order your cables, and wait.
• Even if you're going for the long haul, try a cheaper cable from a reliable vendor first. Monoprice isn't the only one. During this process I've spoken with good people at FireFold, DataPro International, and others, and tested an assortment of discount products, with no noticeable problems. I am confident that, if a vendor has a solid return policy and satisfaction guarantee, you should feel free to buy even a super-long cable from a discount house. In the case of my 50-footer noise, a quick return would have been all that was required.
• Monster has a point about future-proofing. I have no doubt, given our testing, that Monster cables can outperform other cables in video formats that are not yet in use. What does this mean for a consumer? Does it make sense to spend $300 now on a 50-foot cable, assuming you will spend thousands to upgrade all of your video equipment around it in the next few years? Logic dictates that the answer is no.
• The only people who should buy Monster cable are people who light cigars with Benjamins. Fortunately for Monster, there are plenty of those people. They're not even suckers, they are just rich as hell, and want the best. This testing did not prove that Monster is not the best. It just proved that the best is, for the most part, unnecessary.
This was not the easiest task to undertake, and I appreciate everyone who helped out with encouragement, tips, wisdom and wild speculation. I hope it was both entertaining and educational. For me, if I never look at another cable it will be too soon.