A Guide to Navigating Cables: Which Is Which?

Updated on December 5, 2017


With a high bandwidth and greater transmission capacity, coaxial cables are used for video, communication, and audio transmissions. Most commonly seen in connecting televisions to cable services, these are also used in networks and allow a broadband cable internet connection using a cable modem.

The cable is shielded with a copper core. It is uniform in size to give a precise, constant conductor spacing, which is needed to function efficiently as a transmission line. It has a metal male connector line that is screwed into a female connector.


Displayports, or DP, are used to connect a video source to a display device. They are similar to HDMI but better designed for computer displays, which is likely why they are uncommon with televisions. While they are similar in terms of bandwidth, displayports have a much higher refresh rate at peak resolution.

Both video and audio can be transmitted simultaneously, they are not mutually dependent. To do all this, they utilize a packetized data transmission, similar to an Ethernet or USB connection, which allows for both internal and external display connections. There are two variations of displayports—standard and mini—but the two function the same.


Short for Digital Video Interface, these were developed for transmitting digital video content to display devices with resolutions as high as 2560 x 1600. Computer monitors and projectors most commonly utilize these.Only a few DVI cables can transmit audio signals as well, which makes them less suited for use with televisions.

In instances where DVI and VGA are both available, DVI is suggested for a better picture quality. DVI cables do vary depending on the signal they support. DVA-A are analog only, DVI-D are digital only and DVI-I can be both digital and analog.


HDMI is short for High Definition Multimedia Interface. These cables transmit high-quality and high-bandwidth streams of audio and video between a wide range of devices, including televisions, projectors and DVD players. Developed collaboratively by several industry leaders, such as Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba, it replaced three composite audio/video cables, making it easier to connect devices together.

There are some versions and varieties with HDMI cables. They have progressed from Version 1.0 to the recently released Version 2.1. Their sizes and styles come in standard and dual link, along with mini and micro.


Originally designed for phonographs amplifiers in the 1940's, RCA cables are named for the company that created them: the Radio Corporation of America. For a broad definition, RCA, sometimes casually called AV cables, are used to connect audio and video devices. Even with some replacement by HDMI, they are still regularly used to connect things like VCRs, DVD players, camcorders and gaming systems to displays, monitors and even speakers.

Cables normally come with at least three connectors which are color coded. The ports are also generally color coded as well. With composite RCA cables, the standard is red and white for audio - separated by left and right - and yellow for video. Component cables are more sophisticated versions that are sometimes used on HD TVs. These are usually red, green and blue with two audio lines either red, white or black. If there are two red connectors, they will have an additional marking to distinguish the two.

TOSLINK Optical Audio

TOSLINK is short for Toshiba Link, but they are also more commonly referred to as optical audio cables. It carries a digital audio stream from components like DVD players and video game consoles to an AV receiver, like a television or sound bar. Unlike HDMI, TOSLINK does not have the bandwidth to carry versions of Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, or more than two channels of PCM audio without loss.

TOSLINKs have several different media and physical formats, but the rectangular EIAJ/JEITA RC-5720 is the most common. The optical signal is a red light with a peak wavelength of 650 nm but depending on the type of modulated signal being carried, others may be present. Several types of fiver can also be used for TOSLINK, allowing much faster data. A less common format is a coaxial cable ending in RCA jacks which are found in some receivers.


VGA, short for Video Graphics Array, is a display standard developed by IBM. They provide a 640 x 480 resolution color display with a refresh rate of 60 Hz and 16 colors displayed at a time. A significant jump in colors follows lowering the resolution to 320 x 200, with 256 colors are shown. This is because VGA utilizes analog signals which are only capable of lower resolutions and generally lower quality displays.

These are three-row 15-pin DE-15 connectors. It is found on many computer monitors, laptop computers, projectors, and television sets. On laptop computers or other small devices, a mini-VGA port are sometimes used in place of the full-sized VGA connector.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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      2 years ago

      Good stuff here. This post will be useful to many trying to decipher what's what with their equipment.


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