by Stephen Lilley
Anyone with a high-end television and home theater setup is probably familiar with component video cables. They are the red, green and blue A/V cables that connect a device like a DVD player to a television. What many don't realize is that all component video cables are not created equal. Learn how to compare cable quality to get the most out of your home entertainment system.
Consider the length of a set of cables. The longer a video signal has to travel from point "A" (a DVD or Blu-ray player, for example) to point "B" (a television), the more signal quality will be lost. Loss of signal quality can lead to a loss of overall image quality. Measure how far your device is from your TV and only get cables that are as short in length as you need.
Consider the price. You can buy a set of component cables that cost just a few dollars or you can buy cables that cost far more. Independent testing of video cables has shown that many inexpensive cables provide the same quality as far more expensive cables, so don't feel obligated to buy the most expensive cables you find. If you're happy with the image quality of inexpensive cables, then that's what really matters. (Of course, if you get a chance to try more expensive cables with your TV, then you'll know firsthand if they make a big enough difference to justify the added cost.)
Buy cables that operate at 75 ohms. All component video cables will have a list of technical specifications printed on the package. In those technical specs will be their "impedance" rating. This describes how strongly the signal is transmitted through the cables. The ideal rating is 75 ohms, but all cables will be different. Purchase the cables that are as close to this number as possible.
Consider the timing of your cable setup. "Timing" refers to how long it takes for the signals from all three of the component cables to get from one device to another. If the lengths of all three cables are the same, their timing will be the same. If two cables are 3 feet long while the other is 9 feet long, the timing will be slightly off, which may result in the degradation in picture quality.
Make sure that both ends of the connection support component cables. Component cables became the standard connector for DVD players when progressive scan was introduced, and new televisions at the time that supported 480p resolution started including connections for component cables. For the best picture quality, you always want to make sure that you use the highest bandwidth connection that both ends of the connection (such as the TV and the DVD player) have in common; component cables let you transmit a 480p-resolution image, which is higher in quality than the 480i resolution that S-video and composite (also called RCA) cables can carry.