Purchasing a projector can be quite tricky. It involves careful planning, acquiring the right size of screen relative to your home size, and loads of cables to connect your different media devices unto it when setting up your home cinema. Wrapping your head around technical terminologies and acronyms is par for the course when dealing with the different ports, cables, connectors, and connection standards supported by your projector.
It’d be fine if it were just HDMI, but usually, it involves more than just HDMI. You should know about the types of projector cables and The Converters to use Projector wise.
You may also like: What is a Smart Projector? Why Do You Need a Smart Projector?
Types of Projector Cables and Connectors
Here are the different types of projector cables and connectors for its video and audio, including the power cord or cable.
- Digital Video Cable: Digital Video (DV) cables are used for the DV format for storage of digital videos.
- HDMI: Released in 2002, the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) standard is the most common and de facto standard for A/V connections in the 21st Century due to the ubiquitous availability of HDTVs that play HD media content. HDMI cables are used to connect HD media players to HDTV or HDMI monitor displays. These cables cover both audio and video signals in one cable as opposed to RCA cables that require separate audio cables or with component video and its three extra connectors for video alone.
- DVI (DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A): Digital Visual Interface (DVI) is the third alternative to HDMI and DP. It was released back in 1999 and was supposed to be the successor to VGA. Because it’s a computer monitor connection standard it didn’t support audio like the unified cables of HDMI and DP until later on. DVI-A is the analog-only DVI, DVI-D is the digital-only DVI, and DVI-I is the digital and analog DVI.
- DisplayPort: Released in 2006, DisplayPort or DP is the second alternative to HDMI when it comes to HD A/V transmissions. It’s another high-bandwidth HD interface that transmits both video and audio through one cable and two ports. It’s designed to work on most devices from cameras to computers and even projectors as well as BD players and game consoles. DP also works with older technology, featuring backward compatibility with HDMI, DVI, and VGA.
- Mobile Handheld Device: A projector can also interface with mobile handheld devices like a tablet, smartphone, and a projector powered by the iOS (Apple) and Android operating systems for extra portability and convenience.
- USB-C: USB-C is the 24-pin USB connector system used mostly for Android phones since iOS devices have their own propriety connecting system. It’s simply the cable and port used to link an Android smartphone to your projector. Published by the USB Implementers Forum, it was finalized in August 2014.
- Lightning: Lightning is the Apple-owned computer bus and power connector. It served as their answer to the USB standard, and it came before the USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 variant. Its the successor to the 30-pin dock connector and it’s used to connect iPads, iPods, and iPhones.
- Thunderbolt 3 is used for devices like MacBook Pro. Any USB-C device can work with the Thunderbolt 3 port but only Thunderbolt 3 devices can take advantage of its maximum 40 Gbps speeds.
- Analog Video Cables: Before HDMI became the A/V standard for both computer and TV use, here were the following cables and interfaces available at the time.
- RCA Cable: The RCA (Radio Corporation of America) analog cable or phono cable with the familiar red, white, and yellow plugs serve as probably the oldest A/V connector available that some projectors have a port for. Otherwise, you need a converter to use this.
- Composite Video: It’s the analog video signal format for standard definition or SD video. It’s mostly used to connect old VCRs and Betamax players to CRT TVs but also projectors. It covers three variants based on region—NTSC, PAL, and SECAM that mostly varied by frame speed, color variation, and picture size.
- S-Video: S-Video, also known as Y/C or separate video, is a signaling standard for A/V connections on SD video. It covers videos with a resolution of 480i or 576i for NTSC, PLA, or SECAM region variants. It offers better image quality than composite video but has lower color resolution compared to component video.
- Component Video: Component video, also known as YPbPr or RGB connection, is an A/V standard that splits the video signal into multiple component channels. It uses a cable that has three separate signals and plugs like with RCA cables, but this time they’re colored red, green, and blue. It covers Luminance (Y), Blue (Pb), and Red (Pr) signals, with green derived from those three as well.
- VGA: Video Graphics Array (VGA) is a video interface introduced by IBM in 1987 for its PS/2 line of computers. VGA became the de facto video display controller standard for computer monitors and PC video cards because of PC clones using it instead of all other interfaces available. As far as projectors are concerned, it was the connection standard to connect PCs and laptops to projectors (especially business projectors up until HDMI became the new standard.
- Audio Cable for Projector: The most common audio cables for projector connection includes the following.
- 3.5 mm: It’s the format using the metal audio phone jack and port everyone is familiar with. It’s used to connect music players, cellphones, and electric musical instruments to speakers and headphones. Also known as the phone jack, it’s been in use since the turn of the 20th Century and it was patented back in 1884.
- Composite Audio: The companion audio cables to composite video. It has white and red connectors for the left and right audio respectively. They cover two stereo speakers for stereo sound where certain sounds are only coming from one speaker to create better audio fidelity.
- Optical: Also known as the TOSLINK, the optical audio cable and port deliver digital audio streams from components such as CD and DVD players, computers, videogame consoles, and DAT recorders to an AV receiver that decodes the two channels of uncompressed PCM or compressed surround sound.
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth is a wireless standard available on PCs, laptops, and phones that allow you to connect two Bluetooth-compliant devices together. If your projector has Bluetooth then you can use it to connect to a Bluetooth speaker or ear pods for wireless audio action. Just activate the Bluetooth and wait for the confirmation prompt from your speaker, headset, or pod.
- Other Cables: Here are the miscellaneous other cables that you might be able to connect to a projector without needing an adapter. If the ports aren’t available, then get the right adapter or converter for them.
- RS-232: You can control an older or vintage projector through the RS-232 port. You can use it to turn the projector on and off, for example. This port appears like the VGA port and it’s available in a rounded format as the RS-232 port. The serial port is mainly used to interface with communication devices such as the modem and other peripherals.
- USB-B: The USB Type B or USB-B connection is mainly used in the projector context to allow you to control your presentations through projector remote control. The signal is looped through the projector to your PC by linking them together via a USB-B cable. The USB-B is typically used to connect old models of smartphones or peripherals like an external hard disk drive or printer.
- USB-A: The other end of a USB-B or USB-C cable is usually the standard USB-A connector that connects to the USB port found in nearly all projectors at this point. The USB port of a projector has various functions, like allowing you to link a flash drive, smartphone, or external HDD to your projector directly. You can also connect it to your computer or plug to power a converter or other peripheral.
- LAN (RJ45 or Ethernet): The Local Area Network was developed for the transmission and control of data, superseding the older serial port or RS-232 and RS-232C. Projectors with a LAN, RJ45, or Ethernet connection for CAT56/7/8 cables should allow you to transmit video and audio data to the projector like an HDMI, DVA, or even VGA connection would but the image quality is lower.
- Power Cord for Projector: Your projector power cord, like any other power cord for an appliance, allows you to connect your projector to an electrical socket in order to power it. Some projectors work like laptops in that they have their own batteries, allowing you to use them outside without cords for a specified amount of time. Others rely solely on this plug—usually 100 to 240 volts—to power itself.
- Wireless Projector: Your projector can also be advanced enough to do wireless connections. This depends on a variety of factors, ranging from having a wireless transducer/transceiver and receiver to facilitate the connection or having a smart projector that can use your Wi-Fi network to connect with smart-compliant devices like your laptop, smartphone, or tablet. The transceiver wireless plug or dongle is mostly used for more primitive LCD projectors that can’t do wireless connections on their own.
The Best Cables for Projector
Here are the best cables for projector use in accordance with the cable type according to our in-depth research.
- What is the Best HDMI Cable for Projector? We believe the best HDMI cable for projector use on the market to date is the SecurOMax HDMI Cable (4K, HDMI 2.0) with Braided Cord. It’s a 4K or premium high-speed category 2 HDMI cable with male connectors on either end. The product is backwards compatible and supports all the way to the HDMI 2.0 specification. It’s an Ultra HD cable that supports HDTV, 3D, 1080p, HD 2K, QHD 1440p, and UHD 4K 2160p resolutions from various media sources, whether it’s a Blu-Ray disc or streaming media from Netflix.
- What is the Best VGA Cable for Projector? We also highly recommend the amazingly resilient and topnotch SHD VGA to VGA Cable. With this 3-foot cable with VGA male to VGA male connectors on either side, you can easily plug it into any VGA port from 1987 to 2020. It’s amazingly capable of supporting resolutions ranging from 800 x 600 all the way to 1440 x 900 or even 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) and higher. Its two ferrite core and aluminum foil shielding that minimizes noise and protects against EMI/RFI can also easily interface with any TV box, laptop, PC, LCD/CRT monitor, and (of course) projector.
- What is the Best Component Cable for Projector? The best gold-plated component video cable for projectors that support the standard by our estimation is the Cmple 5-RCA Male to 5RCA Male RGB Component Audio Video Cable. Component video is particularly still in use in certain CRT and LCD smart TVs as well as alternative ports for HDMI on HDTVs. They’re mostly 1080i (interlaced instead of progressive scan) resolution with 3 RCA video (blue, green, and red) and 2 audio (right and left) connectors. Component video is the best analog A/V standard available before the dawn of HD video and HDMI, DIV, and DP.
- What is the Best RCA (composite, AV) Cable for Projector?: Yellow is for video. white is for Left audio, red is for Right audio. The cables worked perfectly for my projector.
The Converter and Adapters to Use for Projectors
Not all devices have HDMI, VGA, or component video ports. For older or vintage media sources and displays, you need the right converters to allow projector use to happen.
- What is the Best HDMI to VGA Adapter? An HDMI to VGA adapter is a cable or connector you use to connect an HDMI source like a BD player to a VGA projector. The best one we could find on Amazon.com is the UGREEN Active HDMI to VGA Adapter. It’s a cable with a 3.5 mm audio jack and HDMI male to VGA female connector. It can link up VGA projectors to more advanced laptops like Chromebook Black, Raspberry Pi, Ultrabook, and various other PCs. It also costs only $10, making it practically a steal. It includes a micro USB cable for powering purposes.
- What is the Best VGA to HDMI Converter? As for the VGA to HDMI connections, it involves linking a vintage notebook PC or desktop workstation to an HDMI projector as well as an HDTV and modern flatscreen monitor. In such cases, we’ve seen that the GANA 1080P Full HD Mini VGA to HDMI Audio Video Converter is a dependable choice in the converter to have. It might be way more expensive than an adapter, but it’s the cable to have to combine your audio and video signals together into something that’s readable for a projector with an HDMI port due to its 12bit per channel support and 6.75 Gbps transmission rate.
- What is the Best Component to HDMI Adapter? Yes, aside from smart TVs in the mid-2000s, there were also LCD and DLP projectors that also allow for component connections for the DVD players of the time. We’ve had an easy time using EASYCEL Component to HDMI Converter because it comes with a Scaler function for legacy DVD players like Denon as well as Bose 3-2-1 compatibility. This 5RCA YPbPr to HDMI converter showcases the full capacity and quality of component analog technology and how it can match the digital Full HD of HDMI. It can even make your Nintendo Wii run smoothly on your modern projector.
- What is the Best HDMI to Component Adapter? The beauty of HDMI to component conversions is that little conversion is necessary so an adapter is enough to do the job. This is because component video can give HDMI a run for its money with its 1080i maximum resolution. For $40, you can use the durable aluminum EASYCEL HDMI to Component Converter in order to essentially split the HDMI signal of your DVD or Blu-Ray player as well as your game console or cable box into R/L audio signals and YPbPr RCA video cables with red, green, and blue connectors.
- What is the Best USB-C to HDMI Adapter? A USB-C device is usually a smartphone, laptop, tablet, or computer peripheral that’s portable or mobile. With that in mind, you can depend on the Uni USB C to HDMI Cable for Home Office for your mobile connection needs. The adapter is Thunderbolt 3 compatible, so you can use it on a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or iPad Pro as well as Galaxy S20, Surface Book 2, and so forth. It’s quite versatile and cost-effective compared to its inferior competition.
- What is the Best Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter? Here’s a rarer but still viable adapter for VGA projectors. It’s in your best interest to invest in something like the Benfei Mini DisplayPort to VGA 6-Foot Cable. We chose this Benfei cable as our recommended Mini DP adapter because it offers excellent transmission, superior stability with its 24K gold-plated pure copper connector, and its universal compatibility to even the Chromebook by Google and Zeusbook by Cyberpower.
- What is the Best Mini DisplayPort Thunderbolt to HDMI Adapter? The AmazonBasics Mini DisplayPort Thunderbolt to HDMI Adapter is just what the doctor ordered in regard to your Apple and Thunderbolt device needs. It’s compatible with devices such as the MacBook Pro, MacBook, iMac, and so forth. This $10 deal can even connect to projectors, BD players, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, A/V receivers, and some such while supporting up to 1920 x 1200 resolution. Warning—this product doesn’t support Thunderbolt 3 connections.
- What is the Best iPhone/iPad to HDMI Adapter? If you want to connect your iPhone or iPad to your HDMI projector, and then you need a Lightning to HDMI converter or adapter. The Marphar iPhone and iPad to HDMI Adapter Cable is just what you need in order to link an iPad, iPod, or iPhone 6, 7, 8, XS, X, and 11 to an HDMI projector for only $20. Why would you want that? It’s because mobile devices are like miniature PCs now, so you can mirror their screen to watch Netflix or local movie files as well as play games and browse the Internet on a larger interface.
- What is the Best Micro HDMI to HDMI Adapter? By our estimations, the best Micro HDMI to HDMI adapter cable is the Anbear Micro HDMI to HDMI Cable. This quality Anbear product is capable of ensuring a connection for devices like the Lenovo Ultrabook, ZenBook, IdeaPad, GoPro Hero, any other action camera like the GoPro, various digital cameras like the Nikon B500, and any device supporting the Micro HDMI standard. Additionally, it is 3D supported and can handle 2K and 4K (1080p and 1440p) resolutions. It also offers multi-channel digital audio.
- What is the Best MHL to HDMI Adapter? The best MHL to HDMI adapter we could find online is the RayRow MHL to HDMI Adapter. It’s the adapter you can depend on when it comes to providing HDMI 1080p signals to your projector when dealing with MHDL devices like Android phones and tablets. It also doubles as a Micro USB to HDMI converter, which is a nice touch and gives you more value to your dollar. It’s also plug & play, making it easy to use. Fair warning, though—it requires charging through its power supply port.
- What is the Best S-Video to HDMI Adapter? The best S-Video or S-video to HDMI adapter is, by our estimations, is the CoolDigital S-Video to HDMI Adapter Converter. It offers the usual requirements for S-video A/V connections, such as the ability to upscale your standard definition S-video VCR or LaserDisc player to 720p and 1080p on your HDMI projector, allowing you to watch vintage VHS tapes or LaserDiscs at your leisure through an S-video and RCA composite video adapter package. This is for the vintage media lovers out there.
- What is the Best Composite Video to HDMI Converter? We believe that the ABLEWE Converter Adapter for PAL/NTSC is the cream of the crop of converters that should allow you to watch vintage composite video media for classic game consoles and media players or alternative connections to recent generation devices on a modern HDMI projector. It boasts of compatibility with any media for TV, PC, PlayStation 1-3, satellite or cable box, Xbox, Xbox 360, older Blu-Ray or DVD players, VCRs, and so forth.
- What is the Best DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter? The best DP to HDMI adapter we could find on the Internet is the AmazonBasics Uni-Directional DisplayPort to HDMI Display Cable. We chose this specific adapter because of the ease by which it connects your computer to an HDTV as well as a projector with an HDMI port. It comes with foil-and-braid shielding, bare copper conductors, and gold-plated connectors on top of uncompressed digital audio support from DTS 5.1 to 7.1 and 1080p 1920 x 1200 resolution support.
- What is the Best USB to HDMI Adapter? Many projectors have USB ports included along with their HDMI ports. However, for those that only have HDMI outputs or lack enough USB ports (another converter requires a USB power supply, for example), you can use the Cable Matters SuperSpeed USB 3.0 to HDMI Adapter to get the job done. It’s Windows compatible and handles 1440p resolution. Because it’s USB 3.0, you can get up to 5 Gbps bandwidth from it too for quick reads of external HDD and USB flash drives.
- What is the Best DVI to HDMI Cable? Last but not least is the best DVI to HDMI cable on the market to date, which is the BlueRigger DVI to HDMI Adapter Cable. It’s a 6.6-foot, male-to-male, gold-plated DVI adapter cable for HDMI monitor and projector use. It’s also fully compatible with all HDTV formats, which is good because many modern projectors follow the same HDMI formats as HDTVs (they’re up to 4K resolution at present, with 8K and 10K resolutions in the near future). Its outer layer is fully shielded with PVC coating for good measure.
- What is the Best RCA to HDMI Converter: RCA to HDMI Converter: Converts analog RCA composite (Yellow, White, Red) input to HDMI 720P/1080P (60HZ) output, displayed on Projector/HDTV/Monitor.
Final Things to Consider
After purchasing the projector, you should make sure to get the right cables for it in order for it to connect properly with your media source devices like DVD/BD players, cable/satellite boxes, streaming service players like Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick, smartphones, tablets, HDTVs, and even notebook/desktop PCs.
Some modern projectors feature both VGA and HDMI ports while others only have HDMI ports alone. For the latter projector-type, if you want it to interface with a vintage media source like a VGA PC or a VHS/VCR player, then you should get the right HDMI to VGA or HDMI to A/V adapter for it. You’ll also need extra cables from your gear to the unit for good measure.
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