Cables and plugs Explained

There are at least four different kinds of USB plugs, two kinds of FireWire, millions of different ways to connect something to a TV or a monitor.

USB Type A Universal Serial Bus, the gold standard.

The whole idea behind it was that this one interface will connect everything (except the stuff it doesn’t), killing off the old guard, like parallel and serial ports.
It moves data, mostly USB 2.0 now the aging USB standard, theoretically it can transfer data at 480 megabits per second (mbps), or 60 megabytes per second (MBps). That’s impressive, but not as much as the newer USB 3.0, which can handle up to 5gbps (640MBps)—over ten times as fast as the USB 2.0 maximum.

USB Type B The USB Type B plug is basically a USB connector for peripherals-you’ve probably seen it jacked into a printer or scanner.

Mini USB It’s a type of USB connector for smaller devices like cameras and phones-it takes up less real estate than a port for a Type A connection, obviously.


Micro USB Even smaller than the above Mini USB. Since it’s, like, even smaller, we’re starting to see it adopted by LG, Motorola and others-hopefully this is the last time they all switch power adapters on us, till wireless power makes adapters unnecessary. Mostly used Android, phone end. 


Mini vs Micro


MICRO USB is typically the old style connection to Android Phones… now generally being replaced by USB Type C So the cable would have been USB Type A to Micro USB … the Type A on the power transformer, the Micro USB into the phone.

Micro USB is being replaced by..

USB TypeC is reversible, meaning you can plug it in upside down and it will still work. However, you cannot plug existing USB A or USB B connectors intoUSB TypeC port, nor can you plug a USB TypeC connector into an older port.


USB 3.0 with a Type A (usually blue) connection is a Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard, released in November 2008.

Most new computers and devices being manufactured today support USB 3.0.
Older USB devices, cables, and adapters may be physically compatible with USB 3.0 hardware but if you need the fastest possible data transmission rate, all devices must support USB 3.0.

USB 3.0 Connectors

The male connector on a USB 3.0 cable or flash drive is called the plug. The female connector on the USB 3.0 computer port, extension cable, or device is called the receptacle.

Not sure if a device, cable, or port is USB 3.0? A good indication of USB 3.0 compliance is when the plastic surrounding the plug or receptacle is the colour blue. While it’s not required, the USB 3.0 specification recommends the colour blue to distinguish cables from those designed for USB 2.0.


IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire 400) An alternative to USB, Apple popularized the IEEE 1394 interface as FireWire (Sony called it i.LINK). You’re probably most familiar with it on a digital camcorder (or an old school iPod), since it’s really speedy for data transfers. You’re looking at the four- and six-pin versions of FireWire 400. The six-pin version delivers power, the four-pin version (originally favoured by Sony) doesn’t.

FireWire 800 A revised, faster version of FireWire introduced in 2003, it doesn’t use the same connectors as the original, making it rare for non pros-and an unnecessary pain the ass.


RJ45 The kind of plug you’re used to seeing on the end of a Category 5, Cat5 enhanced or Cat6 (commonly known as Ethernet) cable, which is plugged into your router or computer’s networking port. Cat5e is an update to Cat5 that supports faster Gigabit Ethernet. Cat6 is the next-gen standard that will handle speeds twice as fast as Cat5e, and has stricter rules about noise and crosstalk. Interestingly, the most recently approved IEEE 1394 spec (aka FireWire S800T) uses RJ45 connectors as well.

HDMI High-Definition Multimedia Interface is another one of those “it’ll connect everything except all the stuff it doesn’t” deals, but for high-definition audio and video. It basically replaces DVI (see below) plus S-Video and all that other analog crap. Laptops, desktops and even high-end cameras and other gadgets are getting HDMI. Besides fat bandwidth, another benefit is control: The Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) profile already lets machines send commands to other products over HDMI-that or something like it could be very useful in the PC space, too.


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