The type of video cable you need directly relates to how you intend to use it. Video cables don’t just relay pictures; many transmit sound too. Advancements in technology happen so fast, that what was current two years ago, is now outdated.
If you scratch your head at the mere thought of which video cable type is right for you, we give you the complete lowdown of video cables, telling you everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
Types of Video Cables Infographic
What Is a Video Cable?
A video cable is a cord that transmits using fluctuating electronic signals or digital binary codes to carry video. There are two specific types of video cable known as analog and digital. So, what are the main differences?
Cable Types: Analog vs. Digital
Analog cables use an undulating wave, known as a fluctuating electronic signal, to transmit video. It is an older and simpler system, which makes it susceptible to interference. The main types of analog cables include coaxial, S-video, composite, and component.
Coaxial RF cables are the most basic, transmitting low-quality 350i, which is substandard in today’s advanced world. Often, coaxial cables deliver fuzzy images. There are different varieties of coaxial cables, with some transmitting high-frequency signals used in phone lines.
Back in 1956, the first transatlantic phone line, known as TAT-1, used coaxial cables to communicate between England and the United States.
Composite cables are a step up from coaxial because they are capable of transmitting a 480i signal. This is still low by modern standards, but they do create a clearer image. S-video also transmits in 480i, but they deliver color and brightness separately, improving the coloration.
Component cables transmit 1080p, making them compatible with most HDTVs.
Digital cables use a binary code of 1s and 0s to transmit higher quality signals compared to analog varieties. Unlike older systems, digital cables are less susceptible to interference, making them more reliable.
When digital was introduced in the 90s, it cost cable companies close to $65 billion, as they made the switch to the high-speed digital revolution. There are three types of common cables in the digital world, HDMI, DVI, and Firewire.
What Are the Different Types of Video Cables?
BCN, or Bayonet Neill-Concelman cables, are coaxial cables commonly used in aviation electronics, testing equipment, and amateur radio. They are an excellent RCA alternative for professional video components.
2. Apple Display Connector
On older Apple equipment, the DVI connector consisted of a USB and power cord that combined analog and video in one. Modern Apple devices use standard DVI connectors.
3. AV Multi
Sony developed AV Multi cables exclusively for their Playstations. At one end, you have an AV port, while at the other, there are color-coded red, white, and yellow jack inputs. This cable is widely used across the Sony Playstation range, although newer models now use HDMI cables.
Display ports connect computer monitors and other electronics like home theater systems. They are closely related to HDMI cables, except HDMI cables also have audio return channels.
DisplayPort connectors are less common on TVs, but they still deliver the same high-resolution video as HDMI cables.
5. Mini DisplayPort
This is Apple’s alternative to a HDMI cable. Mini DisplayPorts connect computer displays.
High Definition Multimedia Interface cables are the popular kids on the block for audio and video content. It was developed by a collection of major tech firms, including Sony, Sanyo, and Toshiba.
HDMI is used in many electronic devices within the home and comes in three connector variants: Type D (micro), Type C (mini), and type A (the largest). HDMI uses the same video format as DVI, so the two are compatible using an adaptor
HDMI is a standard technology for video and audio. There are many devices within the home that utilize HDMI inputs, from DVD players, video game consoles, Apple TV, and TVs. These cords are useful in eliminating additional audio cables when transmitting video.
The newest version was launched in 2017, called HDMI 2.1, to support the rise of 4K and 8K resolution.
7. RCA Connector
RCA connectors are commonplace within the home and have three color-coded jacks. The yellow input is for composite video, while the red and white plugs are for audio.
RCA gets its name from the Radio Corporation of America, the company which first popularized this type of cable.
These plugs can be used independently of each other because each connector takes a specific signal, meaning you can plug in without the audio, depending on what device you are using.
8. VGA Connector
Users of old IBM computers will recognize the VGA connector or DE-15 analog connector to give it the proper name. VGA stands for Video Graphic Array and was invented by IBM in 1987. The original 9-pin design was phased out in 1999 when the DVI connector replaced it.
VGA can support resolutions of 640 x 480 in 16 colors, although you can increase the color variants by lowering the resolution.
Mini-VGAs are still used by many Apple and Sony computers, although this is in decline.
Digital Visual Interface connectors were launched in 1999 by the Digital Display Working Group to replace the VGA cable. It comes in five variants: DVI-I single link and dual-link, DVI-D single and dual-link, and DVI-A.
The single link can support 1920 x 1200at 60Hz, while the dual link can increase the resolution to 2560 x 1600 at 60 Hz.
These cables are standard with computer video cards.
This is another throwback to older Apple computers. Mini DVI cables are the predecessor to the mini DisplayPort cords.
Mini DisplayPort cords replaced micro-sized DVIs, but initially they were commonly used in older Apple products like the MacBook.
DB12W3 cables were used in older-style Apple, IBM, and other computer systems. It is an analog computer connector that includes pins, and has since been replaced by VGA and DVI connectors.
DMS-59 connectors are another pin-type cable and were typically used to connect multiple makes and models of monitors. These are older versions of the twin DVI adaptors.
HDBaseT connectors are standard in phone and ethernet Local Area Networks (LAN). 8P8C connectors, as they are sometimes called, transmit high-definition video and audio, making them a tour de force.
Mini-Din connectors are round, with many variations ranging from four to ten pins. These connectors are S-video types.
17. F Connector
F connectors first appeared in the 1950s when people started watching cable TV. By the 1970s, they were the norm for connecting TVs to access local stations. F connectors were a mainstay of old VCRs, computers, and game consoles.
Beyond North American shores, these types of connectors have adapted to connect TV aerials or antenna plugs.
18. N Connector
N connectors belong in the professional world of video connectors. They are rarely used in home electronic equipment.
Back when TV aerials featured more prominently, twin-lead connectors were commonplace. However, as systems switched to satellite and cable, its use declined. Today, you are more likely to see twin-lead connectors in places outside the US.
Firewire cables are a relic from a few years ago and are rarely used today. They go by the name iLink and IEEE 1394 and were widely used in external hard drives and older digital cameras. They were available as either “bilingual” port or b-port only.
Video Cable Materials
The old saying that you get what you pay for is true when it comes to video cables. Some have cheap components and inexpensive materials, which affects how well the cable works. It could also shorten its life.
There are four main components to video cables:
Inside the video cable are wires that transmit the video data. These wires contain oxygen-free copper (OFC) for maximum transmission quality, or lower grade copper-clad aluminum (CCA), which is a cheaper and inferior material.
The costs vary, but OFC transfers more information and costs more than their cheaper alternative, CCA.
To protect video cables from interference from electromagnetic forces, you need shielding. There are two popular types of shielding: foil and braiding. And the quality of the shielding varies according to how many layers there are. Typically there are one to three layers.
Braiding is better for lower frequencies, while foil works best with high frequencies. Some cords use a combination of both materials.
The type of metal plating you have on your connector is the bit that plugs into the jack. Gold-plated connectors are cited as the best by the experts, but for complex reasons. Gold doesn’t tarnish like other materials but it is more expensive.
Digital cables don’t need to be gold-plated as you are likely to get the same quality signal.
The outer jacket protects the internal wiring of the cable. Unless you are installing cables outside, it is unlikely you will need a heavy-duty jacket. The most common material used is polyurethane, as it protects against moisture, heat, cold, and damage.
Video Cable Types Compatibility
When you connect different devices, you need to know that the cables you are using are compatible.
The compatibility of your cable can vary from make to model. Most computers use VGA cables, but this is not always the norm. As technology advances, so does the standard equipment, and that includes cables.
You might also want to connect a second or third monitor, so choosing the right cable is crucial. Some companies are offering wireless connection options for their monitors, removing the need for a cable. You just need a WiFi connection.
PCs have standard video ports that support cables like:
- DVI (most types)
- DisplayPort (including mini)
- HDMI (all types)
Video Game Systems
Playstations use AV multi-connectors, which is a Sony-specific cable, but other game consoles have their own set of cord requirements, removing the ability to mix and match.
Here are some cable types and the consoles they are compatible with:
- Playstation: AV Multi
- Xbox 360: HDMI, VGA, HD, and AV
- Nintendo Switch: Type C HDMI
- Nintendo Wii: AV Multi
The most widely used connector for TVs today is the HDMI cable. That said, it depends on your TV’s age. You might find a coaxial connector on the back. Modern TVs also cater for component video cables with the three color-coded jacks.
Apart from HDMI, televisions typically use four other connectors: component video, coaxial, composite, and S-video.
If your TV is an older model, don’t panic because you can buy adaptors that convert outdated cables so you can plug them into a HDMI port.
HDMI cables are the simplest way to connect your smartphone to a TV or monitor because they transmit video and audio simultaneously. You can also pair using a wireless cast to your TV screen, although an HDMI cable is easier and more efficient.
You can also buy adaptors that connect HDMI cables to your smartphone, which then plug into the back of your TV. Android phones often use mini-HDMI cables, but make sure you have a standard HDMI connector on the end that links to the television.
Where to Buy Video Cables
You can buy video cables easily online. There are many different mainstream sellers on the internet selling affordable cables and connectors. Here are a few you should check out:
Technology moves so fast these days. What is current today is old news tomorrow. This includes the humble cables that you connect to your device. There are many cables created by manufacturers for exclusive use with their products only.
However, this is only half the story because as technology progresses, it moves away from proprietary connectors in favor of standardization.
And thanks to adaptors that convert one type of cable so that it works with your TV, games console, computer, and smartphone, you no longer have to consign your equipment to the trash.
Please get to know your cables and what they do, to ensure you get the best all-round performance from your electronic equipment.