Just Make It Work: Types of TV Cables

by Meg on November 8, 2010

Just make it work is a series of articles aimed at helping women embrace technology to make their life easier!  Tech for non-tech girls by girls.

Just Make it Work!

A basic guide to TV cables:

As TV’s have gotten bigger and better, there have been more and more kinds of cables to come out. Here is a handy guide as to the basic differences.

In order of quality:

1) Coaxial Cable

What you should understand: This is your very basic cable that works with pretty much any TV that can still turn on. This is the lowest quality cable.

Use cases:
To connect basic cable from the wall to your TV set.

It looks like this:

And plugs into this:

2) Composite Cables

What you should understand: Composite cables are the ones you see that are typically the colors of: Yellow, Red, and White. The yellow cable is the actual video signal. The red and white cables are the sound cables (red cable is for the right stereo signal and the white cable is for the left stereo signal). This set of cables are commonly found on most entertainment equipment. However, since composite cannot transmit digital video signals, they are slowly being phased out in favor of component cables.

Use cases:
To connect anything from a VCR, DVD player, older video game systems, to your TV set.

They look like this:

And plug into the yellow jack, and the two audio jacks, keeping yellow with yellow, red with red, and white with white.

3) Component Cables

What you should understand: Component cables are the cables you see that are red, green and blue (RGB) and often paired with two more cables for audio (red and white). Component video cables transmit a high definition video signal with the way the video is split between the three cables.

For the last few years, TV’s, DVD players, and newer video game systems all have component video connections.

Use cases:
To connect newer DVD players, newer video game systems, and newer cable boxes to your TV set.

They look like this:

And plug into the green, blue, and red jacks.
Pro-Tip: With two red cables, make sure you keep the red audio cable with the white audio cable and the red video cable with the blue and green video cables.

4) DVI & HDMI cables

What you should understand: DVI and HDMI cables are digital cables that can do both standard and high definition signals. If your TV set and entertainment devices have either of these plugs, you should use them!  DVI stands for Digital Video Interface and HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface.  DVI connections DO NOT transmit sound.  HDMI connections DO transmit sound to other HDMI connections.

**DVI can be tricky sometimes as there are quite a few forms. Reference this chart on Wikipedia to get the correct name with the type of DVI cable or input you have before you buy cables.

Use cases: To connect newer DVD players, newer video game systems, and newer cable boxes to your TV set.

They look like this:

HDMI

DVI sample

And plug into this:

HDMI:

DVI sample:

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