Video Lead Buyers Guide

Like if this guide is helpful
Video Lead Buyers Guide

Learning all of the different video leads (cables) on the market today can be a confusing and complicated task. However, it is time well invested as choosing the compatible video lead is essential for the proper functioning of video equipment within a home or business setting. The basic role of a video lead is rather simple: it connects a video source, such as a DVD player, to an output source, such as a television or DVD recorder. The wires within a video lead send the proper signals from one unit to the next to display a picture. For that reason, finding the right lead for the equipment is the only way that the system works, and this involves understanding the different video lead options available.

Buyers benefit by familiarising themselves with the number of video lead options on the market today, such as are listed here, including an overview of each type of lead and their basic components, including inner construction and connectivity structure. A comparison chart (see below) designed to help buyers decide upon the best video leads for their particular system is a handy reference source.

Different Types of Video Leads

Although there are several different types of video leads on the market today, there are really only five that need to be covered in a basic overview. One or a combination of these five types of video leads, coaxial, component, HDMI, standard video, and S-Video, meets most systems' needs.

Coaxial Video Leads

Also known as coaxial video cables, coaxial video leads are some of the most familiar cables to cable and satellite users. They are used to relay a video signal from a main source, such as one that is routed through a building via a cable line to an outlet or receiver, such as a cable box. The receiver then connects to the television. Coaxial video leads are made of copper wires which are braided around a central wire and insulated by a plastic outer casing. The end of the coaxial video lead contains a screw tip which attaches to the device receiving the video signal.

Component Video Lead

Component video leads, also called RGB cables, are capable of transmitting high-definition (HD) video. Although they closely resemble standard video leads in appearance, component video leads include five different plug-in connectors, rather than the standard three. These five connectors are colour coded according to their function. The red, green, and blue plugs (hence, 'RGB') transmit video signals while the other two plugs, sometimes coloured black, with one red and one white stripe, transmit audio. Component video leads are commonly required in newer television models which support the higher-quality pictures, such as high-definition televisions (HDTVs).

HDMI Leads

HDMI stands for 'high definition media interface'. These leads provide the highest quality digital images on the market and are used for every device, from DVD and Blu-Ray players to computers. HDMI cables are easy to recognise as they sport a distinctive rectangular plug with one side slightly tapered from the other on the actual connection port. Most top of the line electronics require HDMI leads for both video and audio transmission.

Standard Video Leads

Long used for basic-quality video transmissions, standard video leads are the tri-coloured plug-ins common on old VCRs, TVs, and DVD players. Like component video leads, standard video leads are designed to transmit different signals across their differently coloured ports. Generally, the yellow plug is for video transmission and the white and red plugs are for audio. Standard video leads are also called composite video leads or RCA cables, a reference to their original developer, RCA, the American electronics company.


S-Video is short for 'super video' and, as the name suggests, S-Video leads are meant as a stand-in for higher-quality leads, i.e., component and HDMI. S-Video leads can be used in lieu of these other leads in cases when either a device does not support HD leads or when those lead plugs are being used by other devices, such as a satellite receiver or a gaming system. S-Video leads are round, with four small pins inside of the circular plug.

Comparing Video Leads

After having reviewed the details of each of the five major types of video leads available, it is helpful to look at all of them together. There is a hierarchy of performance, with HDMI sitting proudly at the top in terms of picture quality. The table below explains these differences and the relationship that each video lead has to the others.

Name of Lead

Main Uses

Similar to...

Notes on Quality

Coaxial Video Lead

Connecting antennas; connecting a television or cable box to a wall outlet

Standard video lead

Provides only basic quality video, generally through analogue signals

Component Video Leads

HDTV video; gaming systems (e.g., PlayStation)

Video Graphics Array cables (VGA cables)

Great for 1080i analogue HDTV connections

HDMI Leads

Televisions, Blu-Ray, PCs, gaming systems, any high definition video hardware

Digital video interface cables (DVI cables)

The only lead to carry 1080p digital video signals; HDMI 1.4 and above can also transmit 3D video

Standard Video Lead

Analogue video

Coaxial leads

Like many video leads, also transmits audio in both analogue and digital forms

S-Video Leads

Midrange video devices; when HDMI and component plugs are in use.

Composite Video Leads

The middle-of-the-road option; better than standard, not nearly as crisp as HDMI

One's ability to display video of a certain quality is entirely dependent on the leads that are used. However, there is some wiggle room between types (component vs. HDMI, for example). Therefore, when setting up a complicated, multi-unit system, users must decide which devices are assigned which leads into the TV. This determination depends on personal preference and frequency of use.

Where to Buy Video Leads

Once buyers are confident in which video leads they want and need, the buying process can commence. There are several stores, both physical and online, that offer most or all of the above types of leads for sale. These include electronics retailers as well as department stores and small shops. In addition, the Internet provides users with a bevy of additional options in terms of products, price, and other benefits not found in stores. One such website, eBay, represents the best sampling of sellers specialising in electronics with the goal of saving buyers both time and money through a one-stop location for all their electronics needs.

Buying Video Leads on eBay

Using eBay to purchase video leads, or really any home audio product, is a great way for buyers to save themselves both time and money. eBay is an easy-to-use site, where buyers can sign up for a new account quickly and even apply for a PayPal account as well. PayPal helps protect personal financial information by making secure payments to the individual sellers on the user's behalf.

Searching eBay for video leads is also simple. Users can begin on any of the site's pages and navigate through the appropriate categories provided or use a simple keyword search in the main search bar. As with any searching process, the more specific a user is, the better tailored his or her results are. Therefore, consider searching for an exact lead type, such as 'HDMI video lead' rather than simply 'video lead'.

Users with more specific needs may also want to consider using an advanced search. This way, they can easily narrow down results according to brand, price, and condition (new vs. used). This saves them additional time in the research phase of purchase, getting them the video lead they need fast and at the right price.


When one has little knowledge and experience surrounding audio systems, the prospect of finding and buying a video lead can be more than a bit daunting. However, with a little background knowledge, the process does not need to be difficult or take too much time. Basically, all buyers need to do is understand the differences between the five major types of video leads and determine which of these leads corresponds with the needs of their particular system.

Briefly, the five video leads that most people need include coaxial, component, HDMI, standard, and S-Video leads. Each performs specific functions in delivering either analogue or digital video with increasing quality. HDMI is considered the top performer of these leads, but not all systems support HDMI and many multi-unit systems do not have enough HDMI ports to use these cables for every device. Therefore, understanding the comparisons between these leads, as well as which ones can substitute for others, is important as well.

Once ready to purchase the appropriate video leads, the buyer has several options. With the major role that electronics play in modern life, many brick and mortar stores carry all of these choices, but so, too, do online retailers, which are often much faster and more convenient venues for comparison shopping. eBay is the ideal place to source many independent sellers all in one convenient place, saving users time and money when shopping around for the perfect video lead.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides