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Your Best Choice

Know Your Cables and Wires


Video Cables

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High-Definition Multimedia Interface, 1080p
Quality: Highest

The new king of video and audio, HDMI is your best bet for HD content. Providing true 1080p video, as well as true surround sound audio in one connection, HDMI is the cleanest and easiest solution. This is what you’ll want to use for most situations, HDMI is common in everything from Blu-ray players to up-converting DVD players. Most HDTVs now ship with at least two or three HDMI connections. Also, don’t be fooled by more expensive HDMI cables—they all do the same thing!

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DVI Video

HDVI-D, Digital Visual Interface, Digital Computer Video
Quality: Highest

The digital equivalent of the VGA cable, the DVI connection stands up a bit better quality-wise. This used to be the HD standard for older hi-def TVs, but this connection has been all but cast aside as well by HDMI. I some cases the sound will come with the video, but some others you’ll need extra audio cables to complement the video. A much better choice over VGA if you’re hooking up a computer, and perfect for home media centers.

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VGA Video

RGB, PC, 15-pin D-sub, Computer Video
Quality: High

The cable of choice for most PC monitors (especially a few years older ones), the VGA connection has been known to pop up on TVs occasionally. An analog video cable, it provides high quality video, but isn’t as good as a digital connection. Also, as tempting as it might be this shouldn’t be used to connect to a TV as stand-in for a computer monitor; most TVs can’t come close to the resolution of a computer monitor.

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Component Video

HDTV, 720p, 1080i, 480p, Y-Pb-Pr, Y-Cb-Cr
Quality: High

The gateway to hi-def video, these three cables are the common choice for any components that allow HD video. Basically the “Yellow Video” of the hi-def world (even down to them usually be coupled with the Red and White Stereo Cables), there are better options out there, but this is the standard. These cables will maximize your DVD viewing and let you get a much better picture on HD content, but for the highest hi-def standard out now (1080p), these cables fall a little short. Be careful about confusing the Y-Cb-Cr and Y-Pb-Pr versions of the cables though. You can learn more about component cables here.

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Quality: Medium

The better choice than the Composite Video cable, S-Video connections are the best choice for 480i, or “standard-def” video. Always a good step up from the yellow guy, but if you want hi-def, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

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Composite Video

Yellow Video, Video Cable
Quality: Low

By far, the “standard” for video connections (though not due to it being the best). Odds are this guy will be hanging out with his buddies, “White and Red Cables,” who bring stereo sound to the party. Be it a game console, DVD or VCR player, or cable or satellite box—odds are it’ll have this video connection. Unfortunately, the quality isn’t the greatest and there are a lot of better options out there. If you run out of HD video ports on you TV, don’t be afraid to throw a VCR on with this connection. Other than that, I’d look at better options.

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RF Cable

Radio Frequency, Antenna, Cable, F-Pin, UHF/VHF
Quality: Lowest

The grandpa cable, this one has been around for decades. You’ll find this primarily when dealing with old cable and satellite boxes, VCRs, and antennae viewing. It’s definitely had a good run, but it’s time to let it die. Avoid this at all costs.


Audio Only Cables

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Optical Digital Audio

Optic Cable
Quality: Highest

All the benefits of Coaxial Digital Audio, but with a couple of added perks. Optical cables send their digital sound information using light, as opposed to electrically. This allows them to be immune to any EM and RF interference, and guarantees the cleanest audio solution available. On a side note, the hole is normally plugged or has a flap cover—so be sure to remove the protective covers on the cable tips before you plug them in!

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Coaxial Digital Audio

Orange Speaker Cable, Coax Audio, Surround Cable
Quality: High

This single cable sends audio for a complete 5.1 surround sound system over one cable. A great choice for complementing a home theater’s surround sound, the Coaxial Audio cable provides clean, digital information directly to your audio processor.

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Stereo Audio

Red and White Cables, Audio, Left and Right Audio
Quality: Medium

The “go-to” for audio, these analog cables are everywhere. Usually tagging along with Composite and Component Video cables, the red and white offer stereo (left and right) sound. Also, they can be seen grouped with 2 red, 2 white, and 2 black cables to make up a 5.1 surround sound system (front/rear left and right, center, and sub-woofer). A decent choice, especially without high end audio components and speakers to complement better surround cables, and perfectly fine for using on a TVs included speakers.


Note: Some of the Video Cables, such as the HDMI and some DVI Cables, also carry Audio. Be sure to read the full description to see if there are Audio capabilities and to determine the quality. For simplicity, you can't go too wrong with an HDMI Cable handling your Video and Audio…