- HDMI cables transmit high-definition audio and video signals, replacing VGA cables which required separate ports for sound and video.
- Ethernet cables connect devices in wired networks and come in different types like Cat5, Cat6, Cat7, and Cat8, each offering different data transfer speeds.
- Fiber optic cables use light-based transmission for significantly higher speeds than copper cables, but have limited flexibility.
- Thunderbolt cables support high-speed data transfer, power delivery, and display connectivity, allowing connection of up to 6 peripherals with a single connector.
In today’s world, cables have become an integral part of our daily lives. Whether watching your favorite TV show, connecting to a router, or transferring data between devices, cables are critical in ensuring everything works out perfectly. So, which cable type should you use for your tasks? Due to the wide range of cable types available today, it is crucial to understand the different types of cables and how to use them for better output.
In this guide, you will get acquainted with the 12 types of cables available today, their uses, and how they work. You’ll also have insights into factors to consider when choosing the cable type that meets your needs and preferences. Let’s dive right in!
What Is a Cable?
A cable can be defined as a set of wires sheathed in a plastic or rubber used in the transmission and distribution of data, power, or other forms of communication in homes, businesses, etc. Cables use connectors known as cable connectors or cable terminations, to connect for transmission. Generally, cables connect one device to another for data transfer. For instance, connecting monitors and printers, transmitting signals, and many more.
- Connects a Mini HDMI-enabled device to a device with HDMI input
- Corrosion-resistant gold-plated conductors for improved connectivity
- Supports Ethernet, 3D, and ARC
- Meets the latest HDMI standards
High Definition Media Interface (HDMI) is one of the most popular and commonly used cables. It connects devices like computers, TV, Game systems, and other peripherals to transmit high-definition audio and video signals. HDMI cables send crystal-clear images, and the video and audio quality are not compromised.
HDMI cables were introduced in 2004 to replace the VGA cable since they could transmit high-definition video and audio signals together, whereas VGA needed separate ports for sound and video connection. HDMI cables vary in length, ranging from less than 1 foot to over 20 feet, making them suitable for setting up an entertainment system or simply connecting a computer to a monitor. Due to the increased demand for high-definition entertainment, these cables have become popular and often included in new devices, such as video game systems, monitors, and home projectors, so it’s likely you own one or more HDMI cables at your home.
- 15-foot long
- Heavy-duty, braided Nylon cable
- Up to 40Gbps speed at 2000 Mhz
- Shielded cable reduces interference
- Backward-compatible with previous versions of Ethernet cables
An Ethernet cable is used to connect two devices and transmit high-speed signals in a wired network. Although they were invented years ago, residential consumers have never shown significant interest in them compared to HDMI, USB, or VGA cables. This is because ethernet cables are specifically used to connect switches, PCs, and monitors to the LAN (Local Area Network) or Wide Area Network (WAN).
The length and sturdiness of the Ethernet cable have a direct impact on the quality of the connection. If the cable is excessively long (exceeding 328ft/100m), it will impact the speed and quality of the signal due to attenuation. As a result, Ethernet cables come in different types and colors, such as Cat5, Cat6, Cat7, and Cat8, each offering different data transfer speeds.
Ethernet cables are also used to connect network security cameras, allowing users to control them from a central point instead of each camera working separately.
- Contains 10 foot VGA to VGA cable
- Comes with a screw-in VGA cable
- Support high-resolution LCD and LED monitors
- Clear, quality transmission
VGA (Video Graphics Adapter) is a cable that transfers video signals through the CPU and monitors connection. Currently, these cables are used in projectors, older computers, and HD TVs. They come with 15 pins arranged in rows, each row containing 5 pins. The VGA is easily fitted by plugging one end into the monitor and the other end into the computer system CPU and is responsible for all the information displayed on the monitor.
Since the introduction of digital alternatives like DisplayPort and HDMI, the VGA cables have largely been replaced and are only used to connect older computers and laptops to monitors and projectors.
DVI (Digital Visual Interface) cables connect the video card and the LCD monitor. Through this connection, users can view high-quality images without interruption. The DVI cable has a VGA connection and is used mostly in CRT monitors, and it can transmit digital and analog signals to the computer system.
The introduction of DVI cables was intended to replace the VGA cable after analog content transitioned to digital. These cables offered faster transmission speeds and improved data quality, enabling users to play video games, watch television, or enjoy a high-definition output when working on their computers.
However, soon after HDMI cables came onto the market, they superseded the DVI cables before they could completely replace the VGA cables and became more popular. Currently, a few businesses or home offices still use DVI cables to connect multiple monitors to a computer or a computer to an old monitor. However, DVI cables are continuously falling out of use.
3.5mm Audio Cable
Also known as aux or auxiliary cable, 3.5mm Audio Cable has been one of the most commonly used cables for over a decade. They are used to connect to your devices, like when listening to your favorite podcast or getting some studying done. Just use the 3.5mm cable on your headphones to your device. This cable also connects the PC sound card, mini-stereo audio device, or CD player to any compatible speaker.
In some multimedia devices, there are several 3.5mm ports with different colors for different outlets. For example, the green port is for headphones and computer speakers, the pink port is for connecting microphones, and the blue port connects MP3 and DVD players. It’s worth noting that while computer speakers use the 3.5mm audio cable, bigger speakers use more robust audio cables for high-quality audio data transmission.
The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) transmits various types of music-related data, such as panning, vibrato, and event messages. These cables were commonly used in earlier computer systems where sound cards featured MIDI ports that connected various electronic musical instruments to computers. Additionally, this cable can also be used to connect a synthesizer or MIDI keyboard to a computer.
The Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable is a standard cable that connects devices such as phones, keyboards, mice, flash drives, and many more to a computer or a universal device. USB cables help to charge devices like smartphones, trimmers, etc, and transfer digital data over a short distance. There are different USB cable types as listed below:
- USB Type-A: While other USB cables link small devices, like phones or tablets, USB-A cables are crucial for almost every computer peripheral device, including external hard drives, wireless adapters, headsets, flash drives, mice, and keyboards. These cables have a flat, rectangular design and should be inserted in the correct orientation; otherwise, they will not fit into the USB port.
- USB-C Cable: USB type-C is the newest USB cable type and can transfer audio, video, and text data. These cables are available in small rectangular designs with rounded ends and are used with smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Unlike the older cable types that had limited functionality, USB-C cables can be used to transfer data as well as device charging. These cables are steadily replacing traditional controller cables since they can be used with laptops and video game consoles. This makes USB-C cables a remarkable advancement in cable technology.
- Micro-USB: This is an older type of USB cable that was a standard for tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices until it was superseded by USB-C cable. However, newer devices such as keyboards, external hard drives, and digital cameras still feature micro-USB ports. USB-C cables nowadays have a more limited range of applications than micro-USB cables. Like USB-C cables, micro-USB cables are used for data transfer and recharging compatible devices. They come with a trapezoidal design with a short flat top and a long flat bottom.
- Lightning Cable: While lightning cables are not technically USB cables, they are often categorized together because they serve the same basic purpose of connecting tablets, smartphones, and computer peripherals. However, the lighting cables are a product exclusively made by Apple for use with Apple devices. These cables can be used for recharging Apple devices and transferring data. Lightning cables and USB-C cables are similar, but it doesn’t come with a rectangular or trapezoidal design, rather, it’s a thin piece of metal with multiple contact points at its tip. The drawback of lightning cables is that they are only compatible with Apple devices, which makes USB-C more useful given the ongoing popularity of Microsoft and Samsung devices.
PS/2 (Personal System/2) is a standard cable with a round connector having six pins and is used to connect the keyboard and mouse to the computer system. These cables are available in two sizes, but the smaller size can be converted into a larger size using adapters based on the requirements. Since the introduction of USB cables, PS/2 cables have largely been replaced because USB cables are universal and are much easier to plug in.
Fiber Optic Cable
Fiber-optic cable is a high-speed transmission cable that is made up of transparent hair-like flexible glass fibers known as optical fibers. Fiber optic cables replace the traditional electric pulse transmission design with a light-based transmission. These cables contain hundreds of optical fibers that send data through rapid pulses of light. Since light travels much faster than any other form of energy, the transmission rate for fiber optic cables is significantly higher than for copper cables.
However, fiber optic cables have limited flexibility and are not widely used in residential settings. Many ISPs have started replacing the old copper cables with fiber optic cables to enhance the speed and potential of their network.
- Deliver sharp and clear video
- Connectors made from high-quality nickel
- Economical solution
- Transmit analog audio and video signals
RCA cables are connectors commonly used to transmit analog audio and video signals. They comprise three color-coded electrical connectors; Yellow signifies composite video, and red and white or black corresponds to the right and left audio channels of stereo audio, respectively. These cables are used to connect camcorders and other compatible video sources and video game consoles.
Thunderbolt is a cable that helps with the connection of external peripherals, such as hard drives, displays, and audio interfaces, to a computer. This cable supports high-speed data transfer, power delivery, and display connectivity. Thunderbolt cable merges DisplayPort (DP) and PCI Express (PCIe) into two serial signals and provides DC power all in a single cable. This allows the connection of up to 6 peripherals supported by a single connector through various topologies. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 use a similar connector as Mini DisplayPort (MDP), while the Thunderbolt 3 and 4 versions reuse the USB type-C connector from USB.
This is a cable made of solid copper and a steel conductor enclosed in a metallic sheath. The coaxial cable is covered with an insulating layer, a braided sheath, and an outer jacket, allowing it to transmit high-frequency signals with less noise interference. This cable is used in satellite communication, cable television, and high-speed internet access.
Choosing the right cable for you depends on several factors, like the type of device you want to connect, the distance between them, and the data transfer speed required. It’s crucial to understand your needs and preferences as well as the cable type specifications so that you can make an informed decision. Ultimately, cables are essential in our lives, and understanding their uses and capabilities is critical. From HDMI to Coaxial, each cable type has distinctive features and specifications that make it suitable for different tasks.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Mycola Huba/Shutterstock.com.