PC connections - get to know all computer ports

There are quite a few connections available on the front and back of a PC and on both sides of a laptop. For example, think of hdmi, dvi, vga, displayport, usb, ethernet, eSata, and s/pdif. Is it dizzy yet? We explain in detail which PC connections fulfill which function and how to connect everything correctly.

Tip 01: HDMI

Every desktop has an (integrated) video card that converts the graphical calculations into an image signal. This video card then sends the images to a monitor via a cable. The most commonly used output for this is nowadays hdmi, recognizable by two cut corners on the side. An advantage of this digital output is that it can transmit videos in a high resolution. On a suitable monitor, you can enjoy full-HD quality (1920 x 1080 pixels) or even an even higher resolution, if the video card supports it. Connecting is easy, because it doesn't matter which side of the cable you insert into the monitor or computer. In addition to images, an HDMI cable can also carry an audio signal, especially useful for monitors with built-in speakers.

HDMI versions

There are different versions of HDMI. The higher the standard, the more functions the digital connection contains. For example, the first version only supported video transmission in Full HD, while HDMI 1.4 can also transmit an Ultra HD signal (3840 x 2160 pixels). Today hdmi 2.1 is the latest hdmi version. This even makes it possible to transfer videos in a maximum resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels to a suitable monitor. However, this development is especially interesting for future televisions with a (huge) large screen diagonal. Average computer users are in most cases fine with a lower HDMI standard.

Tip 02: Display port

There are even more digital connections that can transmit images in a high resolution. In particular, we see more and more displayport on video cards for PCs and monitors. Optically, this connection resembles an HDMI connector, with the difference that only one cut corner is visible on the side. Furthermore, Displayport also supports high resolutions, in which the version used has a decisive role. Many devices support displayport 1.2, which makes ultra-HD quality achievable in a high refresh rate. In addition to a video signal, you can also use a displayport cable to transmit sound. If the monitor has built-in speakers, you don't have to connect an extra cable. Displayport is also suitable for connecting multiple monitors via a single connection. This function is called 'daisy chaining'. Keep in mind that not all monitors support this function.

Displayport 1.2 supports ultra hd with a high refresh rate

Tip 03: Dvi-d

For the transmission of a video signal from a computer to a monitor, the HDMI and Displayport connections discussed earlier are preferred. Not everyone uses new hardware, so we also highlight 'dated' connections in this article. There are different types of the dvi standard, with dvi-d (duallink) in particular still very common. If you buy a new computer and/or monitor, chances are that a DVI-D connector is present. You can usually recognize this digital connection by the white-colored connector with space for 24 pins plus a horizontal pin. Make sure you use a DVI-D cable (duallink) with the correct pins. Connecting is simple, because you insert the cable into the connector. If necessary, use both screw connections on the side to securely fasten the cable. Unlike HDMI and DisplayPort, DVI-D does not support the transport of an audio signal. Furthermore, the maximum resolution is in most cases 2560 x 1600 pixels.

Tip 04: Vga

The last video connection that still occurs regularly in 2017 is vga (also called d-sub). Only use this analog connection if there is absolutely no other option. The video quality is significantly lower compared to hdmi, displayport and also dvi-d. The difference with the previously discussed digital video connections is particularly visible on large screens. This video connection is unsuitable for high resolutions. In addition, VGA cannot handle audio transmission. If you are forced to make a VGA connection between the computer and monitor, use the blue-colored connector with space for fifteen pins. Once the cable is properly attached, secure it securely by tightening both screw connections. The confirmation method of VGA is similar to that of DVI-D.

adapter plug

It often happens that the available video connections on the computer and monitor do not match. At the back of the PC, for example, there is only an HDMI connection free, while the monitor only supports DVI-D. Especially when you connect two screens to the video card, you quickly run into this problem. Fortunately, there are all kinds of adapters with which you can solve this problem. For example, there are adapters from HDMI to DVD-D and from Displayport to HDMI. In addition, all kinds of adapter cables are also available. For example, you can connect a displayport connection directly to a monitor with HDMI, DVI-D or even VGA.

Tip 05: Monitor on laptop

Even the smallest laptops usually have an extra video output on the side. Usually that is (micro) hdmi, but it can just as well be (mini) display port, vga or usb-c (see tip 7). You use these connections to connect an extra monitor to your laptop. In fact, you expand the desktop with that, so you have more space. This works a lot better, because you no longer have to minimize dialog boxes to the taskbar. After connecting an external monitor, the operating system of your laptop usually recognizes the screen automatically. If necessary, go to Start / Institutions / System / Display and choose at Multiple displays for the option Extend these displays. This gives you a huge desktop. You can also choose to duplicate the displays. This is useful, for example, when a beamer is connected to the laptop instead of a monitor. The beamer thus displays exactly the same images as the screen of your laptop. Handy when you give a presentation or want to show a slideshow!

Tip 06: USB ports

Every computer user is familiar with the use of USB ports. On the computer, you use this flat connector to connect all kinds of peripherals to the system, such as a keyboard, mouse, printer, USB stick, external drive, digital camera, smartphone and tablet. Advantageously, a USB connection transports data in two directions. For example, you can copy data from an external hard drive to the PC and vice versa. Furthermore, a suitable USB port also provides power to mobile devices. That way you don't have to connect an external 2.5-inch drive to the mains. You can also charge smartphones and tablets via USB without any problems. It is important that you insert the USB plug into the USB port correctly. Pay close attention to the bottom and top and do not press through with any resistance. In addition to the regular USB-a plug, there are also cables with smaller plugs with mini-USB and micro-USB.

USB standards

In addition to various USB connections, there are also various USB standards. The higher the version number, the faster the data transfer is possible. An 'old-fashioned' USB1.1 port supports a maximum speed of 12 Mbit/s, while USB 2.0 is theoretically good for 480 Mbit/s. The most recent standard is USB 3.1. Confusingly, there are two variants of this, namely usb 3.1 gen1 and usb 3.1 gen2. Although the difference in naming is limited, the data rate is not. USB 3.1 Gen1 is suitable for a theoretical data transfer of 5 Gbit/s, while USB 3.1 Gen2 doubles the data rate to 10 Gbit/s.

Tip 07: USB-c

A new variant of the traditional USB connection has also been available for a number of years, namely USB-C. Compared to regular USB-a ports, this modern connection is a lot more versatile. In addition to the transfer of data and power via the common USB standards (see box 'USB standards'), USB-C also supports all kinds of other protocols. For example, you can use USB-C for video connections via HDMI, DVI, VGA, Displayport and Thunderbolt. The latter standard can be found on MacBooks. In addition to outputting a razor-sharp video signal, MacBook users can also charge mobile devices and transfer data with it.

It is beneficial that more and more equipment is equipped with USB-C, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, monitors, power banks and external drives. Since it is possible to transport power, data and video simultaneously via a single cable, it is expected that fewer cables will be required in the future. Unfortunately, it is not yet there, because not all potential functions are automatically available on devices with a USB-C connection. For example, some products cannot be charged by a computer via USB-C, while data transfer is possible. Fortunately, the compatibility is getting better and better. Unlike a traditional USB port, USB-C has no top and bottom. Wrong connection is therefore impossible thanks to the reversible plug! Do you use a recent computer with USB-C, but your other peripherals are not yet suitable for it? In that case, a usb-c-to-usb-a adapter plug offers a solution.

In addition to transferring data and power, USB-C is also suitable for video connections

Tip 08: Ethernet port

All desktops and by far most laptops have an Ethernet port. You plug in a network cable so that the device connects to the internet. You push the so-called RJ45 connector of the cable into the port until it clicks into place. The status lights show you whether there is currently data traffic. If you want to disconnect the cable again, gently push the plastic clip down and then pull the plug out of the connector. Each Ethernet port supports a maximum speed. Older devices usually have a network adapter with a data rate of up to 100 Mbit/s. If your PC or desktop is slightly newer, there is a good chance that the Ethernet port supports a speed of 1 Gbit/s. Finally, there are also network cards that can tolerate a speed of 10 Gbit/s. A speed of 1 Gbit/s is very common in 2017, it is necessary for this that the router, any switches and network cables can also handle this throughput.

Wireless or wired?

Do you have the choice between a wireless or fixed internet connection? In terms of stability, a wired connection is always preferred. The radio waves of a Wi-Fi connection are sensitive to interference, for example from neighboring networks or devices that broadcast on the same frequency. Furthermore, the bandwidth of a wireless network signal is limited. This can cause problems, especially if you stream movies in a high resolution or play heavy network games.

Tip 09: Keyboard and mouse

If you still use an older mouse and keyboard, you can connect these control devices to the so-called PS/2 connections on the back of the PC. These are two round inputs, with the green connector for the mouse and the purple connector for the keyboard. Lots of connection. Make sure that the pins match the holes. Instead of two separate connections, many PCs only have a combined PS/2 connection available. In that case you need a special adapter cable, so that you can connect both control devices just as well. Keyboards and mice with a PS/2 connection are hardly available anymore, although they still exist in some (web) stores. Usually the connection now takes place via USB. Furthermore, many control devices work wirelessly via a special USB adapter or Bluetooth.

Tip 10: Sound output

Many monitors have integrated speakers, but the audio quality is not ideal due to the small sound box. For better sound, connect external speakers to the PC. For this you use the (usually) green-colored 3.5 mm sound output. It is important that you use specific PC speakers. These usually concern active loudspeakers with an integrated amplifier, where a suitable connection cable with 3.5 mm plug is included. Surround sets often require multiple 3.5mm sound inputs, for example for the center speaker and rear surround speakers. Some computer speakers can alternatively be connected to the PC via an optical s/pdif connection (also called toslink), although these are quite rare. Alternatively, S/PDIF is usually used to connect the computer as a source to an amplifier or receiver. In this way, for example, you can play MP3 files directly on a stereo system. An optical s/pdif output is square except for one side and usually contains a black dust cover. An alternative way to send the sound to an amplifier or receiver is via a coaxial s/pdif output. It is round and usually orange in color.

Use the colored 3.5mm sound output to connect speakers

Tip 11: eSata

Some laptops and computers have an eSata connection. The function of this is simple, which is to connect an internal drive externally. Handy if you still have a hard disk somewhere from which you want to read the data. That way it is not necessary to install the hard disk. You also enjoy a faster transfer speed than is usually achievable with an external USB drive. Incidentally, an eSata data cable is required for this connection. Manufacturers usually combine an eSata connection with a regular USB port.

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