Why Cable Matters
One of the most important things that people forget about, like when building a new computer rig, are cables like audio, internet, and I/O.
Why would someone spend three times more for a cable that is essentially made the same as all the others? Although it may not seem like it, not all cables are made the same and anything from the physical cable quality to transfer speed capabilities can vary. However, the more expensive does not always equal better; there is a happy medium ground where the customer gets the best value for money and it can be optimized with just a little research.
Cable quality can mean the difference between hours of troubleshooting and a quick cable swap as many tech workers can attest for.
One of the biggest advantages of sourcing a quality cable, is its build quality. Build quality will result in longer durability, better connectors, and interference shielding. When a cable is made, there is more to consider than just sticking a conductive metal in between a sleeve of protective plastic. Anything from the number of bends in its lifetime, to the conductivity of the metal must be taken into account. Usually, the more expensive and nicer boxed cables are quality.
This trend is very commonly seen throughout HMDI, audio, DVI/VGA, display port, and countless other cables regardless of their application. The better the quality of the product, the longer its lifespan and ability to resist being damaged while being bent over time.
Finding a nice cable may mean a larger initial investment, but less of a hassle by not having the connector start to break like on phone cables, which is most commonly seen due to how often they’re used.
Customers should aim to find braided cables if they wish for maximum durability; braided cables are braided with a cloth or fabric instead of, or on top of, the plastic shielding to improve durability. Also aim to find cables with a little extra plastic or protection near the connectors. This should help prevent the cable from fraying since the connectors are the most used and bent part of the cable.
Another important area of concern when purchasing cables is the material inside of the cable. High quality cables are usually made of copper for the most efficient transfer of data between the devices that are sending and receiving data. Sometimes manufacturers use other metals to reduce cost, like aluminum.
Although other metals may also be conductive, the reason why copper is used is because it is superior than most metals for this application, while still providing a reasonable price per performance. It would be completely unreasonable to make a gold cable, due to cost and durability concerns; not to mention that gold cables would also have to be kept a close eye on to prevent it from being stolen.
With the superiority that copper has over other metals, like aluminum and steel, it is usually the standard for most cables spanning more than a foot or two of length. A cable more than a foot or two long, if it were another metal, would result in poor data quality received by the receiving device due to how inefficient the metal is at keeping data together. The longer the cable, the more important the quality is due to signal loss.
In combination with the above, another important thing to keep in mind is interference shielding inside of a cable. Usually, a way to determine if a cable has shielding is to look at the cable. Thinner cables will more than likely not have shielded due to low power requirements, like traditional and cheap in ear headphones.
However, when looking for cables that are crucial in keeping data intact, they will be a little beefier to add shielding against the electro magnetic interference of other cables nearby. When running current through cables or any form of high electrical power, electricity is able to form magnetic fields that could affect signal integrity of other cables.
Last but not least, take the connectors of the cable into consideration. If the connector of the cable gets damaged, usually the whole cable is trashed, unless you are qualified to safely replace the connector. Having the proper skills to change the connector of a cable can result in a daunting task, if not dangerous. Unless the cable is worth hundreds of dollars, which is usually the case in commercial settings, it is unreasonable to risk an electrical fire. Search for cables that look to have a solid connector. Visually inspect the connector to make sure that they do not look cheaply made or fragile.
Any cable purchased should be glanced at before buying if possible. It can be extremely frustrating buying a new cable and noticing that it is not working because the connector is broken. Also, gold connectors on cables, like audio and HDMI cables, do not improve performance. Cables with gold covered connectors are to entice you to purchase the cable; even if the gold were to provide an improvement, it is a negligible improvement on quality and signal integrity making it not worth the price increase.
When buying cables, there are hundreds and thousands to chose from. However, doing a little bit of research can save a lot of headaches down the road. Also, take reviews as an important tool. Other customers will usually report back with their thoughts and impressions of a product if they feel satisfied or not. Even the quality of quality control on a product can be determined by reviews. If a large number of users are reporting unusable cables or not as advertised, try to avoid them.
With a little bit of research, a long-lasting cable can be obtained therefore reducing electronic waste, money, and time troubleshooting your next tech problem.
Firestorm Cyber provides world-class structured cabling for your infrastructure needs, from small offices to multi-story buildings and warehouses. Contact Us and find out what we can do for you!