If you’re trying to find a way to set up a new device with your TV, or share media in some other way besides casting, you’ve probably come across the term HDMI cable in your search.
You’ve also, however, probably come across the names of other cables, too – and cable combinations, device suggestions, different terms for different types of cables – overall, it can be a bit confusing to try to learn the definition of each acronym and remember the shape of their ports.
The HDMI cable is one of the most common and versatile cables out there, used for all kinds of things, from televisions to laptops to streaming devices and more. When first foraying into the world of tech accessories, this is one of the most essential ones to learn about.
What to know about HDMI cables
HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. An HDMI cable is a single cable that is able to transmit audio and video from one device to another with one of these HDMI connections, rather than the two- to three-wire combos people needed before HDMI became more common.
Benefits of HDMI
HDMI was invented to create a new standard that would be useful across a number of devices, while also combining audio and visual input to make the wiring less complex for consumers. Before we had HDMI, people who wanted to hook up any kind of audiovisual equipment usually had to plug in two or three different wires in the right places in order to be able to properly display sound and picture.
These previous connections were also far less standardized – hooking up a Nintendo GameCube to your television was different than trying to hook up a DVD player, which was different than hooking up a digital camera. Having the singular, standard connection type has made it far simpler to navigate a world of increasingly complex technology.
That’s not the only reason that a new data transfer format became necessary, though. When HDTV came onto the scene in the mid-2000s, it became necessary to create a new standard that has the capacity to reliably transmit high-definition signals. HDMI transfers have more bandwidth and a higher refresh rate per second, which means that pictures and sound are much smoother and higher quality.
The majority of users access the internet using wireless devices, like phones or laptops. These devices connect to the internet using Wi-Fi, wireless signals that broadcast throughout your house.
But if you’ve been using the internet for a while – or you have a desktop computer that you don’t use Wi-Fi for – you’ll probably be using an Ethernet cable instead. Ethernet cables are wires that physically connect your computer to a router or modem.
Ethernet cables can seem clunky or restricting, but they can substantially improve the speed and stability of your internet.
Here’s what you need to know about Ethernet cables, how they work, and what makes them a handy alternative to Wi-Fi.
An Ethernet cable ‘hardwires’ your computer to an internet connection
An Ethernet cable, sometimes referred to as a network cable, is a cord that runs from a router, modem, or network switch to your computer, giving your device access to the local area network (LAN) – in other words, giving it internet access.
The benefit of hardwiring your internet connection is that it’s faster and more consistent. Without walls or other objects blocking your Wi-Fi signals, you don’t have to worry about sudden drops in internet speed.
Gaming with an Ethernet cable means less lag and faster loading times for multiplayer games. And every major game console can connect with an Ethernet port – although to connect a Nintendo Switch, you’ll need an adapter.
Just be careful not to unplug your cable while you’re using it, as doing so will disconnect you from the internet instantly. Luckily, Ethernet cables are made to snap snugly into place, so it’s hard to pull them out accidentally.
Ethernet cables come in a range of lengths and colors, but both sides of the cord are the same, regardless of the brand of cable or device you’re hardwiring.
Ethernet accessories can help you connect any device
Although newer, slender models of laptops don’t tend to have Ethernet ports, you can still utilize an Ethernet cable with a USB or USB-C adapter.
Another common accessory to pair with an Ethernet cable is a network switch. This add-on lets you convert an Ethernet connection into multiple ones, allowing you to, for instance, hardwire both your Xbox and Chromecast to the internet at the same time.