A Simple Guide to Cables and Adapters

Dec 22, 2011

Baffled by the ever-changing world of connection standards on your electronic devices? Use this guide to make sense of the most common cables, adapters, dongles and other high-tech connectors. We’ll explain what all those acronyms mean and how to use them to make the most of your hardware.

USB Data Cables

USB or Universal Serial Bus is a common PC connection standard that lets you attach a variety of peripherals including hard drives, mice, keyboards and media players. USB connectors come in several variations, known as Type A, Type B and so on. You can recognise them by the USB logo (a circle with three arrows coming out of it) that usually appears on the cable. The most common is USB type A: a flat, silver connector terminating in a squat, rectangular face.

USB Data Cables, also called PC-to-PC Data Sync Cables, use this Type A plug to link two computers directly without allowing either one to switch into sleep mode. With Samsung USB Data Cable, you can copy files from one computer to another. The USB connection lets the first computer share the second’s optical drive, so you can install software or watch a movie—a perfect solution if the first PC lacks a DVD drive.

Adapters

The term adapter has several meanings, but basically it translates one format into another. If a cable has one kind of connector on one end and a different one on the other, you can bet it’s an adapter of some sort. Samsung makes adapters that can help you take full advantage of your devices and solve innumerable interconnection problems. They come in a few major categories:

  • • Connection adapters. Many adapters connect a digital port designed for one standard to a port of a different standard. They’re easy to recognise by the different connectors at either end. A common example is a VGA-to-HDMI adapter, which has a D-shaped multipin plug at one end and a narrow trapezoidal plug at the other. Don’t confuse this type of adapter with a simple cable, which has the same type of connector at both ends (although sometimes in male and female variations).
  • • Power adapters. Power or A/C adapters translate between the alternating current that flows from an electrical outlet and the direct current that drives a computer or other device. You can recognise them by the rectangular box (or brick) attached to the cable, which terminates in a two- or three-prong electrical plug at one end. Auto adapters are designed to accept power from a car battery, so they terminate in a bulky plug that fits into an automobile’s cigarette lighter. Aircraft adapters take advantage of the EmPower standard built into airline seating and feature a round connector.
  • • Dongles. The term dongle describes a special type of adapter, a compact unit that features two connectors without a cable in between. The dongle’s body houses electronics that process the signal as it flows from one end to the other. A LAN dongle is a good example (see below). If a device requires a dongle, the dongle is usually included in the package.

Ethernet Adapters and LAN Dongles

An Ethernet adapter connects a device, often a computer, to an Ethernet network. One end usually terminates in a USB Type A connector. The other end features an Ethernet (also known as RJ45) jack, which looks like an oversized rectangular telephone jack, designed to plug into a wired network connection—essential if wireless networking isn’t available.

While most computers include Ethernet ports, very slim laptops aren’t thick enough to be able to house this port. The solution is a LAN dongle, a compact adapter that connects to a smaller jack on the computer and provides a full-size Ethernet jack on the other end. LAN stands for Local Area Network, which is logical, since the dongle helps you network your PC.

Micro HDMI-to-VGA Adapters

The latest standard for televisions, monitors and projectors is HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface). The plug for this digital video and audio standard looks ike a longer, flatter USB connector. Micro-HDMI is a shrunken version common on ultraportable laptops. However, many computer users are still hanging on to older equipment that uses the analogue VGA (Video Graphics Array) standard, a trapezoidal plug with 15 small pins inside. To convert between them, you need a Micro HDMI to VGA Adapter (also known as a VGA dongle). Samsung offers these adapters, letting you view what’s happening on your late-model computer’s display on the latest high-definition televisions and monitors.