Office tasks and activities at home alike frequently require users to have more than one window open on their computer screen. Clicking back and forth between these windows on one screen is an option, but that becomes tedious rather quickly. Setting up a desktop or laptop with multiple displays makes multitasking much easier. It may sound simple to set up additional monitors, but there is a bit of forethought that goes into the process.
How Do I Connect Multiple Monitors?
Start by checking the back of the computer and look for the ports to see what kind of video connections the machine has. This could include HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, VGA, and more. On a desktop, one of these should already be in use for the existing monitor. Laptops frequently feature an extra video port for dual monitor set-ups. If you do not have an extra video port, a USB adapter can be used instead.
Posted: June 06, 2019
There are a variety of different cables that can be used for video connections. While there have been industry efforts at streamlining, even today there are multiple options on the market. Each type of video cable is easily identified by its unique size and shape, but there are also differences when it comes to the quality of each cable signal. Knowing these differences can enable users to make educated choices when selecting cables for electronic devices.
4k (3840 x 2160)
4k (3840 x 2160)
1920 x 1080
Of all the different ports that are built into computers today, none is more prominent than the USB port. Every computer, from the most budget-friendly laptop to a high-end liquid-cooled desktop, has at least one USB port somewhere on it. The trouble is when you have a computer with USB ports and not much else. Luckily, USB adapters can be used when you need to change USB into another format.
USB to Ethernet (RJ45)
A lot of modern laptops and even some desktops are built with wireless transceivers for WiFi but no ethernet port for a hardline. So what happens when a wireless connection is too slow while you are trying to stream a TV show or download a movie? A simple USB to Ethernet Adapter can make the computer ethernet ready, giving users much faster download speeds via a reliable hardline connection. Simply plug the adapter in, connect the ethernet cable, and you will be good to go. There is even a version supporting the newer USB Type-C, seen on the latest cell phones and computers.
USB to HDMI
Cables to Keep Around the House
Spring is here and a lot of us are going to use that nicer weather to get a little cleaning done. If your house is anything like everyone else's, there is probably a junk drawer somewhere with a big mess of old cables. After untangling all the knots, you will want to look at each cable to see what you should keep and what can be tossed.
Keep: Micro USB 2.0
Micro USB is better known as a “phone charger” since they are mostly used for Android phones. Not to mention tablets, streaming devices, smart speakers, and more. Micro USB is not going anywhere anytime soon, so keeping a few extras around is a good idea right now.
Keep: Micro USB 3.0
This upgraded Micro USB is mostly used for external hard drives. Some cell phones use these for charging cables too. While not as widespread as the older 2.0 version, this is new enough that hanging onto one or two of them is worth it.
Posted: April 18, 2019
Many electronics have to be connected to a monitor before you can use them. Even devices with their own screens like smartphones and laptops have that option so users have the option of using bigger displays like televisions and projectors. Over the years, many new video cables been introduced and gradually replace the old as technology continues to grow. Modern high-def TVs have come a long way from the black and white TVs of old.
1956: Composite RCA is introduced, becoming a common standard for televisions, VCRs, LaserDisc, video game consoles, computers, and more for the next several decades. Each cable can only send a single signal, paving the way for multi-signal cables to eventually replace RCA in the future.
1979: S-Video is released as a superior (for its time) alternative to composite RCA. It is included on VCRs, home computers, and some early video game consoles up through the early 90s.
1987: VGA was initially created by IBM for their x86 machines. It worked so well that VGA went on to become an industry standard on computers, televisions, projectors, and other electronics. Over time, it becomes the most successful and longest lasting analog connector.
1990s: Component RCA, an upgrade to composite, is developed. While powerful for an analog cable, it has little time to catch on before digital cables start becoming the new standard.
Hooking up a computer monitor is not terribly complicated but there are a few different types of cables that can be used to get the job done. Before even purchasing a monitor, start by checking the computer itself. Look at the back to the machine to see what kind of video ports are on there. Ideally, you will want the same type of connection on the monitor and computer. If you find yourself with a mismatching monitor and computer, you can use an adapter or converter to change one type of connection to another.
When making your selection, there are five main types of connections built onto modern monitors: VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB.
VGA (also called HD15) is an older type of video-only connection. Many used or outdated monitors will have this type of connection while newer models probably will not. VGA is the old standard for monitors and has since been replaced with newer formats. Out of all the monitor connections still in use today, VGA is the only one that is purely analog. This means VGA has a maximum resolution of 640 x 480, a far cry from the 1080p quality available with digital connections. Generally, users only want to use
“Pinout” is a term describing how an electrical cable is wired. Some cables do not have pinouts because they only contain a single internal wire, like coax cables. But if a cable has multiple pins on the end of the cable, it will have a pinout.
Each type of multi-pin cable has a standard pinout or two, but these layouts are not set in stone. Some machines will require non-standard pinouts; this will require users to use a custom cable.
Pinouts also come into play when using a cable with two different ends. For example, going from DB9 (9 pins) to DB25 (25 pins) will mean the DB25 side has 16 unused, “dead” pins.
If you need to know what pinout a cable needs, ideally there will be a spec sheet handy showing it. The next best option is contacting the manufacturer of the equipment the cable will be used with to see if they have a spec sheet available. If you have a cable tester available, that can be used to see how the pins line up. As a last resort, a cable can also be cut open to verify the pinout.
In the guide below, we will be highlighting the standard pinout configuration for common types of multi-pin cables.
Ethernet uses two main pinouts, straight and crossover. Straight cables are used to connect computers to other devices, like modems and routers. Crossover cables are used to connect two computers directly. The wires inside ethernet cables are color-coded to industry standards, making it easy to follow the standard pinout options.
Cable switches are used to connect multiple signal inputs (computers, DVD players, video game consoles, etc.) to a single output (televisions, computer monitors, etc.). Switches all work on the same general principle and most are purely mechanical. A switch only goes from multiple inputs to one output; if you need to go from one input to multiple outputs, you will need a splitter instead.
Switches are used when you have a screen, such as a TV or computer monitor, that does not have enough ports. For example, say you have a TV with one HDMI port but you want to connect a DVD player, a laptop, and a video game console. One option would be to constantly reach behind the TV and switch the cables, but that gets old fast. The simpler solution would be using a switch that connects all three devices to the TV and lets you change between them at the push of a button.
Most switches are mechanical and do not require a power cable to work. The inside of a switch works similar to switching the rails on train tracks. Say you have a 2-way switch, so the signal can come in from Input A or Input B. If the switch is set to Input A and you press the button to change it to Input B, parts inside the switch move from A to B to change the connection. This is why switches can only use one input at a time. If a switch was built to use multiple signals at once, the signals would interfere with each other and none of them would work.
Audio and video cables go hand-in-hand, often being paired together. Some cables can even transmit audio and video on just one line. Over time a lot of new audio and video cables have been introduced, so the cable you need will often depend on the age of the equipment you are using. Most TVs, computers, and other devices can use multiple types of audio and video connections, so it is good to be able to identify them and know your options.
Audio-only cables include:
- Optical Toslink
Video-only cables include:
Audio/video cables include:
3.5mm, also called ⅛” cables, is one of the most common audio cables. They are sometimes called “headphone jacks”, being the type of connection used for headphones. These ports are frequently found on cell phones, computers, and televisions.
There are a few different versions of 3.5mm: TS, TRS, and TRRS. TS cables will have one ring, dividing the metal sections into two conductors and are most often used for mono connections like microphones. TRS has two rings to give it three conductors, allowing them to be used for stereo connections such as speakers. TRRS has three rings for four conductors to support stereo aud