Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Review: Blue Jeans Cable BJC Series-1 HDMI Cables

As I've stated a few times previously, I have a bit of a hobby in Home Theater PCs. That said, I'm not a trained engineer in the performance of cables, so this is a non-technical review and should be considered as such before deciding to make a purchasing decision based on its content.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with HDMI, or more importantly, why HDMI sucks, you might want to visit those two links before you go buy your spanking new HDTV and Blu-Ray player (or cable/satellite set-top).

It's worth setting up a bit of history before I get into my very simplistic review. For those of you who want to just take my word for it, go to Blue Jeans Cable and buy one right now. While your at it, swear off buying AV cables from any retail establishment ever again.

HDMI sucks (did I say that already? Yes, I think I did). It's basically DVI-D with a Digital Audio Signal jammed into the same casing and crippled by HDCP (a form of Copy Protection). It's a nasty method for delivering digital video/audio, but it's the only choice at this point. As a result, companies like Monster cable make a cottage industry out of selling ridiculously priced HDMI cables that don't seem to offer any real performance benefit.

To make matters worse, the Best Buys and Circuit Cities of the world don't offer much of an alternative to those purchasing a new television.

"Save $100 on your next HDTV, and use the $100 to buy one lousy cable."

I didn't fall for it. I knew HDMI carried a digital signal, and the general rule is "the signal gets there or it doesn't". So I went to Wal*Mart and plopped down $30 dollars for a suitable HDMI cable that claimed to meet the rigorous specifications set by the HDMI folks themselves. Unfortunately, as those above links will tell you more than my summary would, there are no rigorous specifications.

None-the-less, the cable worked fine for a long time. Then I got Satellite and tried to get my satellite receiver to work at 1080p via HDMI -- No Dice. So I went component 1080i.

Then I happened upon this story through a few blogs I follow. The CEO, a former lawyer, stood up to a large corporate Monster. A small bit of research later and it turned out this company has some pretty unique products in what is otherwise the boring world of cables.

So onto the review


Despite being from a part of the world where "Buy American" is the same as saying "Save Your Neighbor's Job", I will not sacrifice quality in order to buy a product that's made domestically (I do, incidentally, own two American cars, but I digress...).

This company assembles their cables in the United States. That's nice. It's great to know that you can buy a high quality product that is at least mostly US made.

The first thing you notice when shopping for the BJC Series-1 is that despite the fact that it is Blue Jeans Cable's best cable, at 6' it doesn't cost $100. It costs $30. Lets consider this for a moment: A cable that is quality enough to take a lousy HDMI signal 100 feet costs as much at the 6' size as the lousy Wal*Mart cable I purchased after buying my first HDMI capable HDTV.

The first thing you notice when opening the box containing your newly purchased BJC Series-1 is that they're thick and rigid. You can feel the shielding surrounding the cable and it takes a bit of working it through to get it to not lift your very light DVD player right off the place it is sitting.

So how did it perform? Well, as I said early, the signal either gets there or it doesn't, right (I know, not precisely, but lets pretend)? Well, it got there. It worked flawlessly with my Satellite receiver at 1080p. It worked flawlessly with my new DVD player at every up-converted resolution it supported. But there was even one bigger surprise: I had an old LG LDA-511 DVD player that I positioned in such a way as to guarantee an overheat. As a result, it stopped working via HDMI (hence, the *new* DVD player). It worked flawlessly using the BJC Series-1 at all resolutions. I scratched my head, plugged in the Wal*Mart cable, and it failed.

Pros


Inexpensive.
High Quality. These guys have more than a few good reviews about their products (here's one for their component cables, also rather inexpensive considering the quality).
Up to 100-feet runs (read the site before plunking down the cash, though).
Assembled in the US.
Even if you decided not to buy the cable from them, their web site has an incredible wealth of information on HDMI. If you read it over, you'll be a better informed consumer.
Shipping was Priority Mail, reasonable and processed very quickly.

Cons


Paypal is the only accepted form of payment.
The web site could use a designer (though, look who's talking from his template blog).

Conclusion


You'll note that the two cons I listed had nothing to do with the cable, and that's the important part. If you want a great quality HDMI cable, buy from them. Ignore the site design, clearly these guys are good at one thing: Making a great product. Who cares if the site is a little raw?

You'll end up with the quality of cable that Monster -- at $100 -- would have you believe you've just purchased at a price that the limp Wal*Mart HDMI cable can't beat. What more would you like?

Just a note of clarification. I own a couple of Monster cables from several years ago (before they were so expensive). They work fine. I can't imagine someone making a case that they're worth as much as they cost at the retail outlets that they are sold. In addition, this post was not paid for or solicited by bluejeanscable.com. This blog is a hobby, and I don't do paid posts for anyone. I also have no relation to anybody who works for BJC. This review is my own opinion and as I stated in the opening, I am not an engineer in this field, just a hobbiest. Yell at me in the comments.

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