Smaller, faster, cheaper, better. It is the holy grail of electronics, but sometimes even hitting one or two of those items is enough to have created a truly brilliant product.
Recently I was pitched by a PR firm representing a company called “RedMere.” RedMere makes a tiny little chip that goes inside an HDMI cable which greatly reduces the cable’s thickness (by up to 70-80%), making it thinner than a standard USB cable. RedMere doesn’t make the cable themselves, they just make the chips that go inside them (you can find RedMere chips inside brands like Vizio, Samsung, PNY, Monster, and Radioshack). The reason, they argue, for the existence of the chip is that a thinner cable is a lighter, more flexible, more portable cable and it can run longer distances than a standard HDMI.
They are not wrong. A RedMere-powered HDMI cable is incredibly thin when compared to a traditional HDMI cable. It does in fact (as they suggest) fit comfortably in one’s pocket despite being of standard length.
Now, while they tout the portability and light factor, the way we see the world, most folks don’t travel all that often with their HDMI equipment (although you can buy an “active” cables with three different HDMI connectors so it can work with your digital camera and other devices). We still see the cable is a win though simply due to its basic thinness. We, and we suspect many of you, have way more devices connected in our entertainment system than anyone ever suspected possible, and certainly more than furniture manufacturers conceived. Simply put, those little holes in the back which you have to snake cables out of become incredibly clogged making it hard—without breaking your furniture—to add devices. If you can replace your traditional thicker cables though with powered, thin, cables things become noticeably easier.
As for the ultimate question, does a RedMere cable deliver a signal properly from one device to another? Our test cable certainly did which means that the chip does exactly what the chip is supposed to do – there was absolutely no noticeable issue with the signal quality with a RedMere powered cable versus a standard, passive, HDMI cable.
The website HDMI.org, in its discussion of “active” versus “passive” cables states that “active cables have built-in electronics to enable long cable runs, and typically these cable require a power supply.” To us, that seems like a huge pain (and certainly hurts any notion of portability), RedMere’s chip requires no external power supply, and RedMere says that cables with the chip are being made up to 50 feet in length, easily surpassing HDMI.org’s acknowledgment of standard cables hitting a maximum of 10 meters (roughly 33 feet).
Not having tested a vast array of powered/active cables, we will not suggest here that RedMere is the only choice. What we will say is that we are incredibly impressed with the look, heft, and portability of what their chip makes possible. Outside of a potential increase in price in order to get such a cable (you’ll have to do your own research on how various brands of RedMere-powered cables compare to passive cables), there seems no downside to having such a cable. We, in fact, have a laptop with an HDMI out and it will be great to be able to hook it up to TVs and other entertainment systems when we’re on the go without really losing space in our already tightly squeezed laptop bag.
In the end, with the ability to run a longer distance at a lighter weight and be more flexible, all without losing signal strength, RedMere seems to make active HDMI cables hit two of the smaller, faster, cheaper, better criteria (and even if it isn’t faster, it’s not slower). This really makes an active HDMI cable something worth looking into the next time you’re in the market for an HDMI solution.