In this decade, almost every household has a crucial and helpful piece of tech a personnel computer. Along with other peripherals including printers, scanners, mobile phones, digital cameras, and many home essentials. Each of these mentioned items comes accompanied by some ports and one or two kinds of cables and connectors. This varies in the case of computers as they contain a web of cables and connectors inside and outside the cabinet. Cables and connectors connecting RAM, processor, hard-disk/disks, input-output connecting ports, cooling fan/fans, graphics card/cards, and power supply. This cabinet is further connected with input devices like keyboard, mouse, scanner, etc. and other output devices like monitor, printer, audio, etc. These are all the questions among many more which will be answered to clear all the air surrounding these cables and connectors by the Visual presentation of Cables and Connectors of Computer in this article.
There are many acronyms, standards, and terms to know. Many questions to answer like: Do one need SATA or IDE for hard drives? What are the different types of USB and what’s the difference? What are thunderbolt and display port, Are they same or different? What is USB Type C every tech giant is talking about as a revolutionary invention?
1. USB Cables and Connectors
Since the dawn of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) in the 1990s, for performing the function of simplification of connections between computers and other peripheral devices, its applications and uses have just shown exponential growth. USB owes its popularity to its compatibility with different platforms and operating systems, low cost of implementation, and ease of use. USB 2.0 and USB 3.0(faster) are the most commonly known types of USB but there is much more to it than meets the eye.
This ubiquitous port’s standards are developed and maintained by an industry namely USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF). Type A and Type B are found in the majority of devices and also the only one’s initially defined as the connector types in the original specification. Though revisions of specifications and increasing demand for fast ports have led to the expansion of connectors used for USB devices.
Types of USB connectors
This A-style connector is flat and has a rectangular interface. Found on host controllers in hubs and computers. The interface uses friction to hold the connection and hence makes connecting and disconnecting easier. This connector uses flat pins instead of round pins, which increases the endurance.
They further come in two variants as USB-A Male connector and USB-A Female connector. The female connector is usually available on computer and hubs and, Male connectors complete the connection by connecting to the female connectors. A-A cables are commonly used to connect USB devices with an A-style female port to a personal computer or another USB device. A USB upstream port connects to the host device (Personal Computer) while the downstream ports are where one plugs peripheral devices (printers, flash drives, etc.).
This B-style connector is somewhat square in shape with slightly bevelled corners on the top. This is designed for use on peripheral devices and is an “upstream” connector, also being the reason for the use of A-B cables for the majority of USB application.
Like the A connector, this connector also uses friction to stay in place.
The USB-C or the USB Type-C is the latest, most robust, multifunctional and hassle-free connector on the market. This connector’s symmetrical and reversible design can be plugged into any USB-C device using either end. The USB-C cable is competent of carrying USB 3.1, USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 signals. This connector is commonly paired with USB-A, USB-B, Micro USB-B, and remaining USB connectors while supporting the previous versions of USB specifications.
While using USB-C cable for connection between two USB 3.1 devices, the cable will support data transfer rates of up to 10 Gigabytes per second, enhanced power delivery of up to 20 volts, 5 amps and 100 watts for charging. This cable additionally has built-in support for Display Port video and four-channel audio for speaker and microphone.
This is recognized by USB-IF and is found in new mobile devices such as cell phones, digital cameras, PDAs and GPS units.
This USB A is physically smaller than USB Mini-B but still offers the high-speed transfer rate of 480 Megabytes per second and on-the-go features.
This connector also recognised by the USB-IF shares its features with Micro-USB B, with little to no difference in shape and size.
This connector is easy to identify with its black receptacle and compact 5-pin design contrary to a white box in Micro-USB A.
USB Mini-b (5 pins)
One drawback of B-type connector was its size. This made it unsuitable for compact devices. Hence, many manufacturers began the production of this miniaturized USB connector Mini-b. And, is the only one recognized by USB-IF.
There is a USB Mini-b (4 pins) which is also in used but is unofficial or not recognised by USB-IF. However, it is smaller than the five pin version.
3.0 A Type
Also known as “Super Speed” (SS), this A-style connector comes with a blue receptacle. With the rectangular interface and flat pins, it is easy to attach and remove and, uses friction to hold in one place.
This connector provides a downstream connection. It has some additional pins as compared to the previous versions of USB 2.0 & USB 1.1 A-Type. Hence, it carries data at higher transfer rates with the characteristic of being backwards compatible (meaning that one can connect USB 2.0 in USB 3.0 port and vice versa but A USB 3.0 device hooked with USB 2.0 port will perform at lower transfer rates) with USB 2.0 ports.
3.0 B Type
This USB type connector is designed to carry power and data in USB SuperSpeed applications. Cables with this type of converter aren’t backward compatible with USB 1.1 or 2.0 devices.
However USB 3.0 devices with this connector can accept cabling of previous USB 2.0 and 1.1. Also, this connector with similar properties and different design is available as USB 3.0 Micro B.
USB 8-pin Lightning
This type of connector is used in iPhones and iPads. Evolution of USB can be seen from the speed of multiple USB versions as USB 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1 and 3.2 can transmit data at speeds of 1.5MB/s, 60MB/s, 625MB/s, 1.25GB/s and 2.5GB/s respectively.
With future versions like USB, 4.x will provide the capability of data transfer at the rate of 5GB/s. One point to remember is that the data transfer rate is limited by the slowest connection between the two endpoints of the USB cable.
2. Audio Cables and Connectors
The most common is the audio fringes which used in the interfaces with digital and audio. With many applications ranging from personal to professional uses, audio cables and connectors are everywhere to be found and the common characteristics they share among them is the ease to connect and disconnect.
5 mm Headphone Jack
It is the most common audio cable and standard headphone jack. Also known as TSR connector, this jack comes in several sizes, but the most common being the 3.5mm or 1/8” audio jack.
The microphone port on the computer is a conventionally pink while; the speaker port where one inserts stereo audio cable is green. Some PCs have additional port coloured black, gold and grey; these are for the rear, front and centre subwoofer output respectively.
Digital Optical Audio
When one wants to connect the output of a CD-player or set-top box to a Dolby home theatre for high-end audio, one will require the TOSLINK (Toshiba Link or S/PDIF) connector.
These are fiber optic cables and hence are capable of transmitting pure digital audio through light.
3. Video Cables and Connectors
The video devices use a variety of different interfaces, the most common devices being the televisions and projectors which use the widest variety of these connectors. VGA, DVI Monitor port and S Video being the most preferred and used video connectors.
VGA (Video Graphics Array)
VGA cable is the most common video connectors for monitors and HDTVs. A standard VGA connector comes with 15-pins which is used to connect a computer to a monitor and also a laptop to a TV or a Projector.
Converter cables available in the market lets users connect VGA monitors to connect to newer models that only output HDMI or DVI signals. A smaller variant Mini-VGA is also available on some laptops.
DVI Monitor Port
The latest versions of computer and monitors are switching from VGA to 29 pins (or less depending on the configuration) DVI cable and connectors. This new breed of thin laptops uses DVI instead of VGA.
DVI’s video signal is compatible with HDMI. Hence a simple converter can allow DVI monitor to receive signals from an HDMI cable.
S-video cables, also known as Separate Video or Super video cables are commonly used to carry analog video signals.
They are usually used in connecting camcorders, DVD players and others. They are round in shape and have anywhere between 4-9 pins.
4. Audio and Video Cables
RCA Connector Cables
These cables generally are a group of 2-3 cables including Composite Video (Yellow coloured)/ Component Video (for the better picture quality) and Stereo Audio cables (red for the right channel and black or white for the left channel).
RCA cable can be plugged into the computer via video capture card and this will help one to transfer data from camcorder to hard-disk of your computer.
HDMI Cables (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
HDMI cable is the new standard of high-quality video and audio. It can provide resolution of 4096p to 2160p (for comparison HD is only 1920p to 1200p), with up to 8 channels of high quality digital audio support. Used for connecting Blu-Ray players to an HDTV.
HDMI connectors come in five types: Type A, Type B, Type C (Mini), Type D (Micro), and Type E.
Display port, like HDMI, is also a media interface cable of transmitting both HD video and 8 channel audio and was designed to replace VGA and DVI. It is mainly used to connect devices to monitors.
There is also a Mini Display Port, which is mainly used in Mac computers but can also be used in future id personal computers. Following are the different types of display ports different in relating to their bitrates: RBR, HBR, HBR2, and HBR3.
5. Data Cables and Connectors
Firewire IEEE 1394
It’s a faster alternative to USB, with 4/6 pins in its connector it is commonly used to connect camcorders and external hard-drives to computers.
IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics)
IDE connector cables are ribbon-like with more than two plugs. These connectors commonly have 40 pins with the 2.5-inch drive variety having 44 pins.
These cables are generally used to connect storage devices to a motherboard.
SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment)
With the need for increased speed of data transfer, the need for evolution increases and the new SATA cables are used to connect hard drives to the motherboard instead of IDE.
They are easy to recognize with their L-shape design, 7pins, and an empty notch.
eSATA (External SATA)
SATA is used to connect internal hard-drives to the motherboard, eSATA was designed to connect external hard-drives and optical devices to connect to a computer and provide high transfer rates.
But their popularity declined with the increase in transfer rates of conventional USB’s.
6. Networking Cables
Phone RJ11 Cable
This telephone cable (RJ11) is still in use around the world to connect to the internet through DSL/ADSL modems.
It has 4 wires and the connector has 4 pins according to the set standards. The clip on the top helps in maintaining a tight connection.
This cable has now become the standard for the wired network around the globe. This cable is also known as RJ45 and is based on the cat5 twisted pair cable made of 8 individual wires. The connector has 8 pins and looks similar to a phone plug. It too has a clip like the RJ11 cable for a tight connection.
They can be used to connect a computer to the network through a modem or to set-up a LAN in office or home space through cross-over Ethernet Cable. The different types of Ethernet cable available supporting different bands of speed are 10BASE-T Ethernet, 100BASE-TX, 100BASE-T, and 10GBASE-T Ethernet.
7. PS/2 Cable
PS/2 ports on computer and PS/2 cables on a mouse (Green) and keyboard (Purple) are used to establish a connection between them.
8. Computer Power Cord
This power cable is the most basic but most important to run a computer. It consists of a three-pin plug on one end which connects to UPS and the other end has a three-pin female port which is connected to the computer.
Mainly used in Apple devices released in 2011 and later, these cables are used to connect external devices to a computer.
These cables come in three variants mainly: Thunderbolt1, Thunderbolt2, and the latest being Thunderbolt3 (compatible with USB-C connections).
This visual presentation of Cables and Connectors of Computer covers the majority of wired connectivity options used in today’s personal computers and other peripheral devices to connect and share. And will surely help one in understanding the functions of different cables and connectors used in devices, recognizing and differentiating between ubiquitous and non-ubiquitous cables and connectors which users come by in all day to day activities. This guide will also help the users in connecting the right cable with the right connector while assembling a personal computer or connecting different peripherals to the same. Knowledge of cables and connectors which are actually in use and are helping you run your computer rig will prove fruitful in one way or other.
Pulkit Goel is an experienced freelance writer with ability to write on variety of subjects who finds his passion in technology and finance. Apart from his contribution to the techcoffees website from posting tech-based article with the SEO implementation, he devotes his time in handling investment portfolio and guiding people in investment related decision making process.