It's always exciting to bring home a new TV, home theater receiver, printer, or other electronic gadget, but many of these products don't include the cables you need to connect them to other devices and begin using them right away. You have to buy the cables separately, and if you don't shop around, you can end up paying way more than you need to. Big brick-and-mortar retailers such as Best Buy and Walmart sell a variety of cables at different prices, and some may seem like a bargain. But as you'll see below, you can often find even cheaper HDMI or USB cables by spending just a little time shopping around. We looked at the prices of three common types of home electronics cables to see how much you can save.
The prices of HDMI cables vary quite a lot. In stores, you may find a cheap HDMI cable for less than $10, but you'll discover that most of the HDMI cables retailers display online cost a lot more. For example, we found a 6-foot HDMI cable from AudioQuest at Best Buy for a whopping $60. Best Buy also sells a 6-foot HDMI cable from Monster, one of the most popular cable makers, for $40. Radio Shack offers a 6-foot house brand cable for $25, which seems pretty reasonable compared with the prices of the other cables. Still, you can do better. Radio Shack also sells an NGX Basix cable for $9, and if you swing back to Best Buy, you can find a cheap Dynex Direct HDMI cable for a mere $7. While those are pretty solid deals, you can top them if you head to Newegg and buy a Link Depot HDMI cable for a mere $3 plus $2 for shipping and handling. You shouldn't see a difference in video quality if you use a cheap HDMI cable rather than an expensive one, so use the extra money you save to buy a few extra Blu-ray movies.
Cheap USB cables.
USB A/B cables are often used to connect PCs to external peripherals such as printers and scanners. The "A/B" refers to the two types of connectors on the ends of the cable. The "A" connector is the familiar, flat rectangle that plugs into a PC's USB port; it's the type found on USB mice and keyboards. The "B" end of the cable is square-shaped and plugs into the printer or scanner. You may find that some printers or scanners include a USB cable in the box, but more often than not, they don't; you have to buy a cheap USB cable separately.
USB A/B cables aren't very expensive to begin with in most cases; you can usually find a cheap USB cable in stores for about $10 to $20. But there are still savings to be had if you shop around. For example, we found a Belkin USB A/B cable at Walmart for $15, which isn't too shabby, but a quick trip to Target turned up a GE-brand USB A/B cable for only $10 -- pretty reasonable, right? Before you put your money down, stop by the Amazon Marketplace. We found a cheap USB cable made by Hitech for only $2.76, with free shipping no less.
Cheap optical digital audio cables.
Optical digital audio cables transfer audio signals from one device, such as a CD player, TV, or Blu-ray player, to a home theater receiver. Prices for optical audio cables vary quite a bit, but you can usually find one in stores for about $20 to $30. Radio Shack offers an Auvio optical digital audio cable for $27. At Crutchfield, prices for optical cables start at $18 and run as high as $162. Best Buy has a Dynex-brand cable for only $18. That's still a little pricey for our taste, though. We found a Belkin optical digital audio cable at Buy.com for only $8.59, plus free shipping. That's a steal, especially for a well-known brand such as Belkin.