I've been wanting to write this for a while, and keep on forgetting.
Yesterday my parents got a WDTV, and as a result, needed a new HDMI cable to connect it to their TV. Being around the Carindale Westfield, we decided to try and get the HDMI cable from there, so we went to a couple of the electronics retailers to try to buy a reasonably priced 1+ metre HDMI cable.
JB-HiFi had a generic brand 1.2m for $30, Dick Smith's had their own DSE generic brand 1.5m for $40, Harvey Norman had Philips 1.5m for $50 and a Monster 2m cables starting at $140.
Cue my anger and disdain at electronic shops taking advantage of consumer ignorance and ripping people off.
So instead of paying those prices, I went to the semi-dodgy electronic shop down the road (MSY), asked for their cheapest 1+metre HDMI cable, and walked out with a generic 2m HDMI cable for $5.
So what's the difference between my $5 cable and any of the other expensive ones? Almost nothing.
What most people don't understand, is that with cables for a purely digital signal like HDMI carries, the quality of the cable counts for almost nothing. As it is a digital signal, the cable will mostly either work, or it won't. It's not like analogue cables where the cable quality equalled the quality of transmission.
That means that as long as the $5 cable actually works (i.e. you get a HD picture etc., and there isn't flickering picture or sound when the vacuum cleaner is turned on), it will work just as well as well as the $140 one.
Yes, the $140 one may be a higher 'quality' cable, but again, that counts for almost nothing other than maybe durability. The $5 one will almost always work just as well, and if sometime down the track after the warranty expires the cable stops working, then go buy another $5 cable. You can afford to do this 6 times over the next cheapest cable, and 28 times for the $140 one and you'll still be ahead. As there is the default 1 year warranty for the goods, that money will last you in a worst case scenario for at least 6/28 years respectively!
For the record, I've been using similar $5 cables that for 4+ years are still working fine.
So the lesson here is not to be ripped off by 'high quality' HDMI cables at regular lengths (<=5m) when cheap ones will almost certainly do the same job with the same effect. In my opinion, you shouldn't be paying any more than $15 for a cable 2m and under.
There are some dodgily made cables out there, but I'd recommend buying cheap cables from a physical store or a reputable online seller, so that if by a small chance there is something wrong, you can return/exchange it.
The only other small caveat is that you should check the 'version' of HDMI to make sure the intended use of the cable matches its specification (e.g. 3D vision over HDMI is certified to work with Version 1.4 cables and above, although in my experience 'older' version cables can handle this stuff fine too). But in saying that, most cables being sold nowadays are 1.4 version cables anyway (as is the $5 one that I purchased yesterday).