Active cables vs passive cables and adapters: What is the difference?
In the cable and networking world, the terms ‘active’ and ‘passive’ are regularly used. Knowing the difference between active cables vs passive cables, and most importantly understanding what their purpose is, is the key to choosing the right solution for your networking set up.
Read on to learn the difference between the two types of products, and which option would better suit your cabling system.
What's the difference between passive and active products?
The key difference between an active cable and a passive cable, is that active cables require power to boost the signal, and passive cables do not.
Active products have a built-in electronics system that allow them to amplify the signal that they receive. They are ideal for connecting devices over a long distance, such as connecting devices between rooms in a house. A great example of a passive product is an active HDMI cable.
Additionally, active display cables and active DisplayPort cables are examples of active products used to transmit high-resolution video and audio signals, and are typically used in gaming and graphics industries. They are essential for the set-up of a high-quality entertainment set up - mainly for TVs or monitors.
Passive products, on the other hand, transmit information from one point to another without any key moderation or interference. Quite often, passive cables are used for data transmission across shorter distances, such as between a computer and a printer that are sitting on the same desk.
A great example of a passive product includes a passive speaker cable. It connects a speaker to an amplifier or receiver. They are typically used in home theatre systems or professional sound systems to produce high-quality audio.
What are the benefits of passive cables?
A key benefit to using passive cables instead of active cables is their simplicity. Passive cables operate in what can be called a ‘plug-and-play’, where they require little to no set up and configuration. Their ease of use in installation makes them a popular choice for consumers, especially when setting up computer networking.
Moreover, since passive cables do not require external power, there are fewer components that are at risk of failure, meaning that they can be more durable and reliable than active cables. What’s more, they are less susceptible to overheating or experiencing signal interference.
Lastly, passive cables are generally more affordable than active ones.
What are the benefits of using Active cables?
Don’t let the benefits of passive cables completely deter you from purchasing active cables. They too have clear benefits for cable management.
One of the major benefits of using active cables is their ability to transmit signals over long distances. For example, active HDMI cables have the ability to transmit signals around 15 meters, as opposed to passive cables that only transmit signals around 7 meters.
What’s more, the improved signal quality in active cables means that there is a reduction of noise and distortion in the signal to ensure a clearer transmission of data. This is pivotal in instances of medical imaging where an accurate signal is needed.
Their active components also allow for greater flexibility. Active cables are able to be used in a wider range of applications including video transmission and high-speed data transfer.
What are Semi-Active cables and Converters?
Semi-active cables combine both active and passive elements to deliver signal. They can provide a better signal quality than passive cables can, but they don’t require the external power sources that active cables do. Semi-active cables can be useful when a weak signal needs to be boosted without adding additional noise or distortion.
Converters are a type of semi-active cable that are used to convert signals from one format to another. A HDMI to VGA converter, for example, converts digital HDMI signals into analog VGA signals. Semi-active converters are particularly useful in connecting older equipment to newer devices, without having to upgrade all of the existing equipment.
If you’re setting up a cable system and are unsure whether you should use active, passive or semi-active products, don’t stress. You can complete our contact form and a member of our team will be able to direct you to the best products for your set up.