How to Select Network Cables
Image credit: Pasternack Enterprises, Inc.; Digi-Key Corporation; Allen-Bradley / Rockwell Automation
Network cables are used in the transmission of data across networks.
The GlobalSpec SpecSearch database contains information about numerous types of network cable protocols. These protocols can be further classified by the cable technology or intended application.
IEEE 1394 or FireWire® cables are used for very fast digital data transfer with PC peripherals, such as hard disks, CD-ROMs, graphics cards, direct video and monitors.
Industrial cables are used in automation, industrial control and sensing applications. AS-i, CC-LINK, Fieldbus and CANopen are all industrial protocols.
Parallel cables transmit multiple bits of information over separate lines. Small computer systems interface (SCSI) is an example of a parallel interface.
Patch cables are flexible cables with a plug on both ends. They are used to connect circuits on a patch panel.
Serial cables transmit data one bit at a time in sequence. RS-232/422/485, Fibre Channel, and USB are examples of serial protocols.
This video contains basic information about networking cables, connectors and wiring.
Video credit: eHow / Dimitri LaBarge
BNC connectors are bayonet-style locking connectors. They are typically used for A/V applications, as well as older devices and third party monitors.
A BNC connector. Image credit: CONEC
Centronics® connectors are used with Centronics brand as well as third party peripherals.
A Centronics® connector. Image credit: Electro Standards Laboratories
DB connectors are used to connect computer peripherals. They are available with a variety of pin arrangements.
DB9 (9 pin) connectors. Image credit: APC by Schneider Electric
DIN connectors are designed to adhere to standards from Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN), a German national standards body.
DVI connectors are able to transmit analog (DVI-A), digital (DVI-D) or analog / digital (DVI-I) data. The DVI-D is the most common DVI connector.
DVI connectors. Image credit: Digi-Key Corporation
FireWire® connectors are available in 4-, 6- or 9-pin configurations.
High-speed serial data connection (HSSDC) connectors facilitate high-speed data transmissions.
RJ connectors are modular connectors used for telecommunications and serial applications.
An RJ-11 connector. Image credit: Newark / element14
USB connectors are available in various sizes and configurations.
A USB connector. Image credit: Samtec, Inc.
Cable connectors are available in multiple gender configurations. Male connectors, sometimes called plugs, consist of a protrusion which fits into the female connector, sometimes known as a receptacle.
A male (left) and female (right) connector. Image credit: Amphenol Alden Products Company
Common cable configurations include:
Male-Male: both ends of the cable terminate in a male connector.
Male-Female: the cable features a male connector on one end and a female on the other.
Female-Female: both ends of the cable terminate in a female connector.
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Cable assemblies are collections of wires or cables banded into a single unit with connectors on at least one end.
Coaxial Cables and Triaxial Cables
Coaxial cables have an inner conductor insulated by a dielectric material and then surrounded by an outer conductor that is shielded with braid or foil. Triaxial cables add an extra layer of insulation and a second conductive sheath. They are commonly known as coax and triax, and are chosen because of their protection against external electromagnetic interference.
Flat cables are used in computers for internal connections to peripherals. They consist of highly stranded, individually-insulated conductors that are laid parallel and then fused in a flat, flexible ribbon form. Flat cables are also referred to as ribbon cables.
Multiconductor cables contain two or more conductors. Each conductor consists of a single wire or a combination of wires.
Serial cables are used for the serial transmission of data. They support communication standards such as RS232, RS422, and RS485, as well as Fibre Channel, IEEE 1394 or FireWire® (Apple Computer, Inc.), and universal serial bus (USB).
Video cables are used for the transmission of video signals, including monochrome, composite and component color video signals.
- Bulk Cable
- CE Marking
- CSA Mark
- Cable Assembly
- Centronics® 36
- Centronics® 50
- DIN / Mini-DIN
- Fibre Channel
- High Density 15
- IDE/EIDE Cable
- IEEE 1394 (FireWire®)
- LAN / Ethernet