With thousands of products to choose from, selecting cables for your IT installation can be confusing. Below we’ve simplified the process by dividing the products into four main uses and touching on some of the chief differences among the products for each use.

Networking Cables

Copper vs. fiber optics. An IT network transmits data with standard category rated copper cables, fiber optic lines, or a mix of the two. Each type of cable has its advantages. Fiber can carry data more than 1,000 times faster than copper-based Ethernet networks and for much greater distances. But copper Ethernet cables cost less and are much more widespread − most networking products are built withRJ45 copper ports rather than fiber ports. Media converters can translate signals between the two but going fully fiber can be costly and is unnecessary for many applications. In most cases copper-based Ethernet is fast enough. But if you need to transmit high volumes of voice, video and data in an environment like a data center or a financial institution, fiber optic connectivity can make sense.

There are a variety of copper Ethernet cables to choose from. Below we list the main types and their features.

Cat5e cable is the minimum standard unshielded twisted pair cabling used for LAN drops. It is used in 100Base-T Ethernet. It has a bandwidth of 100 MHz and a maximum data rate of 1 Gbps at up to 100 meters.

Cat6 has less cross talk and system noise than Cat5e. It can carry gigabit Ethernet in commercial buildings and is also used for phone lines and in residences. It has a bandwidth of 250 MHz and data rates of 1 Gbps at up to 100 meters and 10 Gbps at up to 37 meters.

Cat6a is commonly used for gigabit Ethernet in data centers and commercial buildings. Its 500 MHz bandwidth is twice that of Cat6 and its data rate is 10 Gbps at up to 100 meters.

Cat7 has the same data rate and distance specs of Cat6a but offers 100 MHz more bandwidth and costs about 20% more. It is used for 10 Gbps core infrastructure and is commonly found in data centers.

Cat7a is an improvement on Cat7, with 1000 MHz bandwidth, 40 Gbps up to 50 meters and 100 Gbps up to 15 meters.

Cat8 has a bandwidth of 2 GHz over 30 meters and a data rate of 40 Gbps. It is ideal for switch-to-switch communications in a 25Gbase-T or 40Gbase-T network.

Computer Cables

USB is the data cable used most today. The most common versions are USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 types. Connector options include Type A, Type B, Micro and Type C. Type B usually connects printers to computers. Micro is used to recharge Android phones and other small devices. Type C transmits both data and power on one USB 3.0 cable. USB 2.0 can handle speeds up to 480 Mbps, while USB 3.0 is capable of 5 Gbps.

KVM/PS2 cables combine VGA and PS/2 connectors into one cable that is separated at each end, minimizing desktop clutter. These cables are often used to connect a VGA switch with a mouse and keyboard.

Wi-Fi connections are not completely without cables. Coaxial cable is needed to connect a broadband modem or a router to the internet.

SATA connects a computer's host bus adapter to storage devices such as hard drives, optical drives and solid-state drives.

FireWire is an older type of data cable developed by Apple for Mac computers. While not as common as some other types of computer cables, it is still used on devices like camcorders and external hard drives.

VGA is an outdated analog video connection for most electronics, though there is still wide use of computers, monitors and other devices with VGA.

Serial cables, also called D-Sub cables, have largely been replaced by USB and FireWire.

Home Theater Cables

HDMI is a type of high-definition digital audio/video cable.

F-type is a coaxial audio/video cable with metal connectors that screw in place, most commonly into the back of a television or set top box.

DisplayPort is a high-def digital audio/video cable usually seen on more modern computer monitors.

Toslink, or optical toslink, converts an audio signal into light, sends it down the cable, and converts it back into audio at the other end.

DVI is a video-only cable that comes in three versions. DVI-A (analog) is compatible with older devices that only have VGA connections. Digital-only DVI-D comes in single link for lower resolutions and dual link for higher resolutions. DVI-I (integrated) supports analog and digital, single link and dual link.

RCA audio/video cables and S-video cables are being phased out but are still used on older equipment.

Satellite Cables

F-type cable is a coaxial audio/video line with a screw-on connector typically used with televisions and set top boxes.

RG-6 is the type of coax cable most used for television. RG-11 coax is a thicker but less flexible version of RG-6 and is used for longer cable runs. RG-59 coax is used in low-power video transmission such as closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems.

ShowMeCables has a big selection of IT network cables in each of the four product groups discussed above. We also offer a line of cables for telephone, as well as cable installation products. Most of our 15,000+ items are in-stock and available for same-day shipping. If you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you at 1-855-958-3212.