Knowing the difference between cables will help you work out how to connect your devices.
- Some devices can be connected with more than one type of cable.
- Some digital cables enable copy protection that ‘locks’ content.
- Cables vary in price depending on the type of cable, materials and length.
Please note: this information was current as of February 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Price guide: $10 for 2.0 m
Universal serial bus (USB) is a standard type of connection that was originally designed for PCs and Mac computers. It’s now used in a variety of devices — modems, hubs, mice, routers, storage keys, digital cameras, camcorders, smartphones, printers and portable media players.
The data transfer speed of USB 2.0 has improved from the original USB 1.0 standard. The smaller USB plugs and connections are called mini USB. You’ll need an adaptor or special cable to use these connections with regular USB cables.
Price guide: $30 for 2.0 m
FireWire is also known as IEEE 1394 or i.Link. It’s extensively used in Apple computers for audio and video but some PCs also use the connection.
FireWire requires a special inbuilt chip in the device so it’s more expensive to build into products, but many manufacturers absorb the extra costs.
You may also see FireWire used with digital video gadgets such as camcorders and home theatre components.
Price guide: $40 for 1.5 m
This cable takes its name from a French standard and uses a large, rectangular, 21-pin connector. It’s more common in Europe than Australia and was developed to allow one plug to connect many different devices.
SCART will carry both video and audio signals and is used with TVs, VCRs, DVD players, projectors and games consoles.
Price guide: $15 for 2.0 m
A video graphics array (VGA) cable has a 15-pin plug and connect monitors to computers to carry video signals.
They’re also being used to connect computers to TVs and projectors.
Price guide: $10 for 2.0m
RCA is the common round audio or video connector that’s used in home entertainment equipment. The name comes from the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), which created the plug to connect turntables to amplifiers.
RCA cables have a male plug with a protruding connector and metal ring that fits into a socket. RCA plugs are used for both component and composite video connections.
Price guide: $20 for 2.0 m
A composite cable is an analogue cable that’s used to carry television and video images. It doesn’t carry sound. It uses an RCA plug and is usually yellow.
A composite cable is often accompanied by white and red RCA cables to provide (left and right) stereo sound.
Price guide: $50 for 1.5 m
A component cable is a type of RCA cable that transmits analogue video signals where the picture is split among three separate cables — red, blue and green.
Component cables are used with TVs, VCRs, DVD players and personal video recorders.
Price guide (optical): $30 for 1.5 m
Digital audio cables are used with PC audio cards, CD players, DVD players, car audio systems and other digital audio systems. They use the Sony/Philips Digital Interconnect Format (S/PDIF) and carry mono, stereo and multi-channel audio signals.
Digital audio can be transmitted by either electrical (RCA) or optical (Toslink) cables.
Price guide: $30 for 1.5 m
This is an analogue video cable, abbreviated from separate video, which carries the data as two signals — luminance and colour.
The cables use a small, round, four-pin connector and are commonly used in TVs to connect DVD players and game consoles.
Price guide:$30 for 1.5 m
Digital video interface (DVI) cables use a rectangular connector with up to 29 pins. They’re used with LCD computer displays, digital projectors and some DVD players and televisions.
The cables and connectors can carry both digital and analogue signals.
Price guide: $35 for 1.5 m
High definition multimedia interface (HDMI) cables connect set-top boxes and DVD players to digital televisions and PCs.
HDMI cables support standard and high definition television and video as well as multi-channel audio, such as Dolby Digital surround sound. However, HDMI cables can enable content protection to ‘lock’ or restrict what you can do with the material.