So You Want To Sound More Intelligent Than The Best Buy Salesman… (Finding the right computer cable)

So You Want To Sound More Intelligent Than The Best Buy Salesman… (Finding the right computer cable)

Posted on January 22, 2010. Filed under: So You Want To Sound More Intelligent Than The Best Buy Salesman... (Finding the right computer cable) |

When you go  to Best Buy looking for a specific cable for your computer you can feel like an idiot with your lack of knowledge… here is help…

First, you should know that a port is a generic name for any hole(s) (sometimes with pins sticking out) on a computer into which a cable can be plugged.

The gender of a port is determined by whether or not it has pins sticking out or hole(s). As you would expect, the males have the pins, the females have the holes. The cable plug that fits in it will be the opposite gender.

Here are some common ports:

D-sub ports on the back of your computer are shaped like rectangles (technically trapezoids) with soft edges.

These include parallel (multiple lane data transfer) and serial (single lane data transfer) connections.

Parallel ports and cables (mainly for printers) use the DB-25F female port on the computer and the DB-25M male plug on the cable. The best parallel port is the enhanced IEEE 1284. It is is bidirectional, fast, and backward compatible. The IEEE 1284 is available in either the EPP (600KBps-1.5MBps) or ECP (2 MBps) ports. The cable must also have full support for IEEE 1284 in order for it to work to its potential.

Serial ports and cables are the standard connections. There is always at least one serial port on every computer. It has either a DE-9M male port with a DE-9F female plug or a DB-25M male port with a DB-25F female plug (max speed is 57Kbps ). These are often used for printers or modems. If you have a null modem serial cable you can hook together two computers that work as if connected with a modem, without one. Serial ports and cables also include USB and FireWire. They use increased signaling and frequencies to overcome their single-file-data-transfer slowness.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) are serial ports and cables and are used for everything nowadays from keyboards and mice to digital cameras and printers to external hard drives.  They usually have the typical Type A plug on one side and then either a standard mini-B (i.e. digital camera) or a Type B (i.e. printer) or some variation of the two plugs on the other side of the cable. The best USB port is called USB 2.0 and is labeled with the “High Speed USB” graphic. Not all USB cables work with the USB 2.0 port- Look for the cables that are transparent with a view to the silver metallic shilding within. The 2.0 USB can support data rates as high as 480Mbps- 40 times that of its predecessor.  Note: You can buy a hub for USBs if you need to where multiple connections (up to 127) can be plugged into one (like an extension cord, but for USBs)).

IEEE 1394 FireWire (400 Mbps transmission rate) is used primarily for getting digital video into a PC for editing, but it is also used for hard drives, optical drives, and digital video editing equipment. The next generation of FireWire (IEEE 1394b) promises to speed up to 800Mbps. The IEEE 1394c proposes to use the same infrastructure that supports Ethernet (your Internet or Network connection). FireWire can also connect computers together- networking them so that they can communicate directly with one another instead of communicating through a host computer.

Other ports and cables in the D-sub category include:

Game /MIDI ports are the DA-15 female port with a DA-15 male plug.

Video/ Monitor ports are the DE-15 female port with the DE-15 male plug. This is the standard Video Graphics the Array (VGA) analog port that can be used with CRT or LCD monitors.

However, a better port for the digital LCD monitor is the DVI port that are found on some LCD monitors.

To get a DVI port on your computer you need to purchase a DVI-enabled graphics card (video card) and DVI cable.   The traditional VGA  interface (port) was designed for use with analog CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors. It converts digital signals received from the graphics card into analog signals which it sends to the monitor. This conversion to analog creates minute distortions in the integrity of the signal. While necessary for CRT monitors, LCD displays are themselves digital. With a DVI interface on the video or graphics card, pure digital output can be achieved using DVI cables, resulting in a sharper picture.
The main types of DVI cables are:
DVI-D (Digital, for use with digital displays): These cables link DVI-graphics cards to digital displays. They transfer digital-to-digital signals, eliminate analog conversion and cannot accommodate CRT displays.
DVI-A (Analog, for use with analog displays): These DVI cables run from the DVI graphics card to an analog CRT display, converting digital-to-analog. Although some purity is lost in the conversion from digital to analog, using a DVI card and DVI-A cable with a CRT monitor delivers superior performance to using a VGA interface.
DVI-DL (Dual Link): DVI cables can be single link, or dual link. Dual link cables have the ability to provide greater speed, greater signal quality and extremely high resolutions by utilizing an additional “pipeline” when the first line has been maximized. This is especially relevant in very large-screen displays requiring high resolutions of over 2.3 million pixels. By comparison, most 17-inch to 19-inch digital displays have a native resolution of about 1.3 million pixels.
DVI-I (Integrated, for use with either display): These cables work as digital-to-digital or analog-to-analog, hence their designation as “integrated.” They do not convert digital-to-analog or analog-to-digital. These DVI cables can be used to connect a DVI graphics card to a digital display, or a DVI card’s VGA interface to an analog display (The picture below is a DVI-I port).

If your monitor has an HDMI (High-definition multimedia interface)  port you can connect to an HDMI-enabled video card or a DVI-enabled video card with an adapter. HDMI is an all digital technology that advances the work of DVI with higher motion-picture frame rates and digital audio on the same connector. It also supports remote control and dual-link capabilities. It is compatible with HD DVD and Blu-ray. It is not the same connector as the DVI, but they are electronically compatible. You will need to purchase a DVI to HDMI converter (adapter) to use this port with a DVI port on your PC. Make sure you get the correct DVI cable for the DVI end of the cable. HDMI are compatible with DVI-D and DVI-I cables through proper adapters, but unlike the others, only single-link is supported, and the audio and remote control features are lost (HMDI type A is standard, type B is superior and type C is for mobile devices).

Other ports include:

Infrared (IR) These ports are often found on laptops and PDAs- they are dark small squares of plastic on the front or side that receive and transfer data wirelessly. They are slow (less than 4Mbps) and can only be used within very short distances, but cool nonetheless.

RJ-11 (phone jack) This is the port you plug your telephone cable in to.

RJ-45 (Ethernet jack) This is the port for your network or Internet connection and looks like a giant phone jack.

Audio jacks Everyone knows about the small typical RCA audio jack. RCA jacks can transmit either audio or video information.

PS/2 (mini-Din 6) is the port for your keyboard and mouse if you don’t have USB ports for these. They are roundish and the keyboard port is usually purple and the mouse port usually green. The plugs are always PS/2 male mini-DIN 6 connectors.

That was your crash course in ports and cables. Now you can go in confidence to Best Buy…

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