Mar 31 2022

Get the Performance You Expect from High-Resolution Monitors

Do high-performance cables make a difference?

The data rates going through a cable continue to increase as monitor resolutions increase — from 1080p (Full HD) to 4K and 8K (UHD). The bandwidth and signals that go through a DisplayPort or HDMI cable are significant. In any application, cables are so important that one small quality or performance issue in your setup can bring an entire application to its knees. Performance, compatibility, durability and reliability are requirements when designing and engineering cables.

Here’s a real-world example to demonstrate the importance of cables: Imagine a virtual meeting where you experience a loss of image quality or even the complete failure of video connectivity, wasting both time and resources as staffers try to reconnect and the IT team attempts to address operational issues.

Consider 1080p, which has 1,920 horizontal and 1,080 vertical pixels for a total pixel count of more than 2 million. Doubling both horizontal and vertical pixel amounts yields 4K, which means almost 8.3 million pixels total. Cutting-edge 8K monitors, meanwhile, take pixel counts up to nearly 33.2 million.

DISCOVER: Dive deeper into IT connectivity with StarTech.com.

More pixels mean more data, which requires DisplayPort or HDMI cables capable of handling this throughput in order for users to gain the full value of the technology (if using a laptop, this could be USB-C to DisplayPort or USB-C to HDMI). While DisplayPort 1.2 cables offer bandwidths up to 21.6 gigabits per second — enough for 4K’s 60 hertz — making the most of 8K requires a DisplayPort 1.4 with Display Stream Compression at 32.4Gbps or HDMI 2.1, which is capable of supporting up to 48Gbps. Below is a chart that shows how much data and bandwidth needs to flow through a cable at various resolutions.

Video signals typically consume the most bandwidth. Let’s look at some popular video resolutions and their corresponding data requirements.

Video Standard

H

V

Hz

Bits/Pixel

*Data Rate

1080p

1920

1080

60

24

4.00 Gbps

Quad HD Wide

3440

1440

60

24

9.39 Gbps

Quad HD Ultrawide

5120

1440

60

24

13.86 Gbps

4K

3840

2160

60

24

15.68 Gbps

5K

5120

2880

60

24

27.73 Gbps

8K

7680

4320

60

24

62.06 Gbps

Special Cases

4K (10bit HDR)

3840

2160

60

30

19.60 Gbps

4K (High Frame Rate)

3840

2160

144

24

39.19 Gbps

*Data rate is calculated with video blanking and technology encoding overhead.

LEARN MORE: Discover how technology can boost communication in a hybrid environment.

How to Find Quality Monitor Cables

As technology advances, more data moves through digital cables. With each technology iteration, digital cables are tasked with meeting ever-increasing data requirements. Cables that worked five years ago may not work with the latest technologies to achieve the best performance.

When it comes to finding quality cables, Nirav Gandhi, StarTech.com’s vice president of product development says, “It’s important to understand how a brand defines a performance cable. Any cable can look nice or be marketed to a certain specification. What differentiates a cable is the performance expectations.”

Gandhi adds, “A high-performance cable requires mechanical design considering many aspects, such as quality connectors, strain relief, cable jacket material, copper wiring and solder consistency. The cable is engineered to minimize signal noise and interference by measuring electrical performance through shielding, insertion loss, return loss, cross talk and eye diagrams. Finally, the cable is rigorously tested for compatibility and by third party labs for technical and/or compliance certifications.”

“We’ve heard from IT teams that cables are a big problem,” Gandhi adds. “One of the things they constantly echoed was that they were setting up $100,000 meeting rooms, but the cables ended up frustrating them the most. We wanted to solve this problem for our customers.”

Nirav Gandhi
What differentiates a cable is the performance expectations.”

Nirav Gandhi Vice President of Product Development, StarTech.com

Look for Thoroughly Tested Monitor Cables

For StarTech.com, this means taking an end-to-end approach, looking at every single part of the cable, from materials to connections to standardization.

StarTech.com then tests cable functionality using a host of different devices in its testing lab to ensure compatibility. For example, to ensure its cables reliably transmit digital signals between sources and receivers, the company uses a Vector Network Analyzer to measure:

  • Return loss, defined as the amount of signal reflected back to the source. Any imperfections in the copper lines or at joints will cause signal reflections.
  • Insertion loss, which is the amount of signal lost over the length of the cable. Signal reflections and electrical noise can cause poor results.
  • Eye diagram, which is an overall indicator of how reliably a digital signal will be measured by the receiver.
  • Impedance, or signal resistance, which is measured at boundary points, including the connectors, solder joint and strain relief. The impedance must remain as stable as possible to minimize signal reflections.
  • Crosstalk, which refers to signal interference between data lines due to electrical inductance, a not-uncommon occurrence when running high frequency signals in wires of close proximity.

Each factor above can cause performance issues, and StarTech.com tests each cable it manufactures to minimize them. Yet even after that’s done, cables are sent to third-party labs for further testing, verification and certification.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Explore the tech trends businesses should look for in 2022.

Mechanical design and build quality are also rigorously tested to ensure the mechanical aspects of the cable meet performance requirements.

Mechanical testing and build quality considerations include:

  • Bend tests. In this test, cables are placed into a bending machine where they are rotated at the connector end, between the connector and copper wires at thousands of repetitions.
  • Insertion tests. Here, a machine inserts and removes a cable connector plug into a mating receptacle over thousands of repetitions at a constant force and velocity.
  • Strain relief design. The weakest part of the cable is usually the solder joint between the connector and the copper wires. To prolong these connections, a good strain relief design is crucial to minimize forces acting on the joint.
  • Solder consistency. In manufacturing, it is important to have a consistent and reliable method of making the solder joint between the copper cables and the connector.
  • Cable jacket. Care is taken to choose materials that are robust and stand up to constant bending, tensioning, torsion and abrasions, as well as to adequately protect the internal wiring and connectors. TPE is often used as a robust, extreme temperature and fire-resistant jacket material. TPE is also PVC-free and environmentally friendly.
  • Only connectors that are certified by the standards committees are used to construct the cables to ensure a reliable connection is made between plugs and receptacles.
  • The most susceptible area to external electromagnetic interference is where the cable meets the connector. To combat this, a metal shield is wrapped around the connection to block out all unwanted noise.

“Just for cable testing, we’ve invested millions of dollars in our Innovation Lab in our London, Ontario, office,” says Gandhi. The right cables make all the difference when it comes to getting the most from your monitors. While 4K and 8K monitors provide the potential for great video meetings, high-quality cables are a requirement for reliability and performance.

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