BTX Field-Terminable HDMI Cable First Look
- Product Name: Field-Terminable HDMI Cable
- Manufacturer: BTX Technologies
- Review Date: April 01, 2010 07:00
- MSRP: $225 for Crimping Tool, $14.95 for Termination
- First Impression: Pretty Cool
$225 for BTX-HDMI2830HT Crimping Tool
$14.95 for BTX-HDMI2830M Termination
IDC process requires only a blade and the crimping tool
HDMI 1.4 compliant
1080p, 12-bit deep color support up to 39 feet without amplification
65 feet with amplification
You know why custom installers love coax and Ethernet cables? Field termination. What's the big deal you ask? Have you ever looked at the back of a professionally installed home theater panel? Even if it is a fairly basic installation, the potential for a rat's nest of wires is immense. Add in a few phone lines and interconnectivity and distributed audio and you'll see enough wiring to build a fort for your kids. If you've picked your installer correctly, instead of the mess of wires you'd have if you tried to do it yourself, you'll find everything neatly arranged, wrapped, and labeled. If they've done their job right, they'll even leave explicit instructions for the cable/telephone installer so that they don't muck anything up. They will, and you'll have to call your installer back out, but that's not really their fault it is?
The way the custom installer is able to create such a pristine panel with wires that all hang perfectly is by terminating them in the field. This means that they bring out bulk wire and specialized tools for attaching connectors. The bane of the custom installer is extra wire. Well, probably more accurately, the bane is an ignorant, demanding customer but extra wire comes in a close second. See, that wire has to go somewhere. If the wire is poking out of a wall, you can push the extra (theoretically) back into the cavity but when running between components there is very little you can do.
Ethernet and coax have long been field terminable. There are a number of tools for doing it and even dedicated enthusiasts have been known to pick one up from time to time. Ethernet, specifically, is a breeze in that you can buy terminations that you can install at home without any specialized tools. That sort of termination is way too slow for a custom installer but for your hobbyist, it is perfect. The coax crimpers vary widely in price based on model and often work only with a specific brand of connectors.
HDMI, unfortunately, has become the new de facto standard in cabling. While we were promised ease of use and setup, what we've gotten is an endless stream of profile updates - each either adding minor improvements or making the previous obsolete. Users aren't sure the cables they bought just a few years ago will work with the new spec, manufacturers often don't know either, and a few are making money by fear-mongering that you need to buy extra-special, super-fast, silver-plated, cryogenically-frozen HDMI cables or nothing will work.
BTX Technologies is looking to change all of that. The newest HDMI spec (for now) is HDMI 1.4. BTX has made their new terminations compliant with this latest spec that supports 3D, audio return channel, and Ethernet channel. Utilizing an insulation displacement connection (IDC) process, which requires only a blade and a HDMI hand tool, the BTX process should be easy for field workers to pick up. Considering the price of HDMI cables, the BTX solution is quite reasonable. The crimping tool comes in at only $225 with each connector at $14.95. The tool will quickly pay for itself with the price of the connectors easily offset by the ease and cleanliness of the install.
The way the IDC process works is that there are tiny V shaped blades in the termination that cut into the different wires within the HDMI cable. These wires pierce the jacket and make the connection without cutting the wires. This is typical of this type of termination and has been done many times before with different wire types. This is the first time it's been tried with HDMI.
The question we have is how good the connection will actually be. BTX is claiming that their field-terminated HDMI cables will support 1080p, 12-bit color un-amplified at 39 feet (10 meters or so) and up to 65 feet with amplification. Traditionally, wire manufacturers have been optimistic about their specs. They aren't lying per se but they tend to take a best case scenario approach. Any mistake in the termination could, at best, lower this effective range or, at worst, render the cable unusable. It is unknown if the terminations will be reusable in such an event (seriously affecting how we feel about the $15 per termination cost) or what the actual field performance will be. We look forward to reports from industry professionals that have used this new technology.
While the new field-terminable HDMI solution from BTX Technologies might not excite the general consumer that much, it indicates that manufacturers are finally figuring out how to work with the notoriously difficult HDMI cable. The HDMI group has been very quick to add features through their profile updates which have caused no end of headaches for cable manufacturers. But one thing they haven't done is change the physical geometry of the cable. This is great for BTX. As long as the HDMI group doesn't change the physical geometry, their field-terminations should still work regardless of other profile changes.
For more information, please visit BTX Technologies.
According to the mfg website:
The crimp tool is $125
The crimp tool is $125