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Black Box Explains...Loose-tube vs. tight-buffered fiber optic cable.

There are two styles of fiber optic cable construction: loose tube and tight buffered. Both contain some type of strengthening member, such as aramid yarn, stainless steel wire strands, or... more/see it noweven gel-filled sleeves. But each is designed for very different environments.

Loose tube cables, the older of the two cable types, are specifically designed for harsh outdoor environments. They protect the fiber core, cladding, and coating by enclosing everything within semi-rigid protective sleeves or tubes. In loose-tube cables that hold more than one optical fiber, each individually sleeved core is bundled loosely within an all-encompassing outer jacket.

Many loose-tube cables also have a water-resistant gel that surrounds the fibers. This gel helps protect them from moisture, so the cables are great for harsh, high-humidity environments where water or condensation can be a problem. The gel-filled tubes can expand and contract with temperature changes, too.

But gel-filled loose-tube cables are not the best choice when cable needs to be submerged or where it’s routed around multiple bends. Excess cable strain can force fibers to emerge from the gel.

Tight-buffered cables, in contrast, are optimized for indoor applications. Because they’re sturdier than loose-tube cables, they’re best suited for moderate-length LAN/WAN connections, long indoor runs, and even direct burial. Tight-buffered cables are also recommended for underwater applications.

Instead of a gel layer or sleeve to protect the fiber core, tight-buffered cables use a two-layer coating. One is plastic; the other is waterproof acrylate. The acrylate coating keeps moisture away from the cable, like the gel-filled sleeves do for loose-tube cables. But this acrylate layer is bound tightly to the plastic fiber layer, so the core is never exposed (as it can be with gel-filled cables) when the cable is bent or compressed underwater.

Tight-buffered cables are also easier to install because there’s no messy gel to clean up and they don’t require a fan-out kit for splicing or termination. You can crimp connectors directly to each fiber.

Want the best of both worlds? Try a hybrid, breakout-style fiber optic cable, which combines tight-buffered cables within a loose-tube housing. collapse

Black Box Explains... Crosstalk.

One of the most important cable measurements is Near-End Crosstalk (NEXT). It’s signal interference from one pair that adversely affects another pair on the same end.

Not only can crosstalk... more/see it nowoccur between adjacent wire pairs (“pair-to-pair NEXT“), but all other pairs in a UTP cable can also contribute their own levels of both near-end and far-end crosstalk, multiplying the adverse effects of this interference onto a transmitting or receiving wire pair.

Because such compounded levels of interference can prove crippling in high-speed networks, some cable manufacturers have begun listing Power Sum NEXT (PS-NEXT), FEXT, ELFEXT, and PS-ELFEXT ratings for their CAT5e and CAT6 cables. Here are explanations of the different types of measurements:

NEXT measures an unwanted signal transmitted from one pair to another on the near end.

PS-NEXT (Power Sum crosstalk) is a more rigorous crosstalk measurement that includes the total sum of all interference that can possibly occur between one pair and all the adjacent pairs in the same cable sheath. It measures the unwanted signals from multiple pairs at the near end onto another pair at the near end.

FEXT (Far-End crosstalk) measures an unwanted signal from a pair transmitting on the near end onto a pair at the far end. This measurement takes full-duplex operation into account where signals are generated simultaneously on both ends.

ELFEXT (Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk) measures the FEXT in relation to the received signal level measured on that same pair. It basically measures interference without the effects of attenuation—the equal level.

PS-ELFEXT (Power Sum Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk), an increasingly common measurement, measures the total sum of all intereference from pairs on the far end to a pair on the near end without the effects of attenuation. collapse

Black Box Explains...SCSI-1, SCSI-2, SCSI-3, and SCSI-5.

There are standards…and there are standards applied in real-world applications. This Black Box Explains illustrates how SCSI is interpreted by many SCSI manufacturers. Think of these as common SCSI connector... more/see it nowtypes, not as firm SCSI specifications. Notice, for instance, there’s a SCSI-5, which isn’t listed among the other approved and proposed specifications. However, for advanced SCSI multiport applications, SCSI-5 is often the connector of choice.

Supports transfer rates up to 5 MBps and seven SCSI devices on an 8-bit bus. The most common connector is the Centronics® 50 or a DB50. A Micro Ribbon 50 is also used for internal connections. SCSI-1 equipment, such as controllers, can also have Burndy 60 or 68 connectors.

SCSI-2 introduced optional 16- and 32-bit buses called “Wide SCSI.“ Transfer rate is normally 10 MBps but SCSI-2 can go up to 40 MBps with Wide and Fast SCSI. SCSI-2 usually features a Micro D 50-pin connector with thumbclips. It’s also known as Mini 50 or Micro DB50. A Micro Ribbon 60 connector may also be used for internal connections.

Found in many high-end systems, SCSI-3 commonly uses a Micro D 68-pin connector with thumbscrews. It’s also known as Mini 68. The most common bus width is 16 bits with transfer rates of 20 MBps.

SCSI-5 is also called a Very High-Density Connector Interface (VHDCI) or 0.8-mm connector. It’s similar to the SCSI-3 MD68 connector in that it has 68 pins, but it has a much smaller footprint. SCSI-5 is designed for SCSI-5, next-generation SCSI connections. Manufacturers are integrating this 0.8-mm design into controller cards. It’s also the connector of choice for advanced SCSI multiport applications. Up to four channels can be accommodated in one card slot. Connections are easier where space is limited. collapse

Black Box Explains...Coax connectors.

The BNC (Bayonet-Neill-Concelman) connector is the most commonly used coax connector. This large ”bayonet“ connector features a slotted outer conductor and an inner plastic dielectric, and it offers easy connection... more/see it nowand disconnection. After insertion, the plug is turned, tightening the pins in the socket. It is widely used in video and Radio Frequency (RF) applications up to 2.4 GHz. It is also common in 10BASE2 Ethernet networks, on cable interconnections, network cards, and test equipment.

The TNC connector is a threaded version of the BNC connector. It works in frequencies up to 12 GHz. It‘s commonly used in cellular telephone RF/antenna applications.

The N connector is a larger, threaded connector that was designed in the 1940s for military systems operating at less than 5 GHz. In the 1960s, improvements raised performance to 12 GHz. The connector features an internal gasket and is hand tightened. It is common on 2.4-GHz antennas.

The UHF connector looks like a coarse-threaded, big center-conductor version of the N connector. It was developed in the 1930s. It is suitable for use up to 200–300 MHz and generally offers nonconstant impedance.

The F connector is most often used in cable and satellite TV and antenna applications; and it performs well at high frequencies. The connector has a 3/8–32 coupling thread. Some F connectors are also available in a screw-on style.

The SMA (Subminiature A) connector is one of the most common RF/microwave connectors. This small, threaded connector is used on small cables that won’t be connected and disconnected often. It’s designed for use to 12.4 GHz, but works well at 18, and sometimes even up to 24 GHz. This connector is often used in avionics, radar, and microwave communications.

The SMC (Subminiature C) connector is a small, screw-on version of the SMA. It uses a 10–32 threaded interface and can be used in frequencies up to 10 GHz. This connector is used primarily in microwave environments.

The SMB (Subminiature B) connector is a small version of the SMC connector. It was developed in the 1960s and features a snap-on coupling for fast connections. It features a self-centering outer spring and overlapping dielectric. It is rated from 2–4 GHZ, but can possibly work up to 10 GHz.

The MCX (Micro Coax) connector is a coax RF connector developed in the 1980s. It has a snap-on interface and uses the same inner contact and insulator as the SMB connector but is 30% smaller. It can be used in broadband applications up to 6 GHz. collapse

Black Box Explains...Fiber connectors.

• The ST® connector, which uses a bayonet locking system, is the most common connector.

• The SC connector features a molded body and a push- pull locking system.

• The FDDI... more/see it nowconnector comes with a 2.5-mm free-floating ferrule and a fixed shroud to minimize light loss.

• The MT-RJ connector, a small-form RJ-style connector, features a molded body and uses cleave-and-leave splicing.

• The LC connector, a small-form factor connector, features a ceramic ferrule and looks like a mini SC connector.

• The VF-45™connector is another small-form factor connector. It uses a unique “V-groove“ design.

• The FC connector is a threaded body connector. Secure it by screwing the connector body to the mating threads. Used in high-vibration environments.

• The MTO/MTP connector is a fiber connector that uses high-fiber-count ribbon cable. It’s used in high-density fiber applications.

• The MU connector resembles the larger SC connector. It uses a simple push-pull latching connection and is well suited for high-density applications.

Black Box Explains...PC, UPC, and APC fiber connectors.

Fiber optic cables have different types of mechanical connections. The type of connection determines the quality of the fiber optic lightwave transmission. The different types we’ll discuss here are the... more/see it nowflat-surface, Physical Contact (PC), Ultra Physical Contact (UPC), and Angled Physical Contact (APC).

The original fiber connector is a flat-surface connection, or a flat connector. When mated, an air gap naturally forms between the two surfaces from small imperfections in the flat surfaces. The back reflection in flat connectors is about -14 dB or roughly 4%.

As technology progresses, connections improve. The most common connection now is the PC connector. Physical Contact connectors are just that—the end faces and fibers of two cables actually touch each other when mated.

In the PC connector, the two fibers meet, as they do with the flat connector, but the end faces are polished to be slightly curved or spherical. This eliminates the air gap and forces the fibers into contact. The back reflection is about -40 dB. This connector is used in most applications.

An improvement to the PC is the UPC connector. The end faces are given an extended polishing for a better surface finish. The back reflection is reduced even more to about -55 dB. These connectors are often used in digital, CATV, and telephony systems.

The latest technology is the APC connector. The end faces are still curved but are angled at an industry-standard eight degrees. This maintains a tight connection, and it reduces back reflection to about -70 dB. These connectors are preferred for CATV and analog systems.

PC and UPC connectors have reliable, low insertion losses. But their back reflection depends on the surface finish of the fiber. The finer the fiber grain structure, the lower the back reflection. And when PC and UPC connectors are continually mated and remated, back reflection degrades at a rate of about 4 to 6 dB every 100 matings for a PC connector. APC connector back reflection does not degrade with repeated matings. collapse

Black Box Explains...Digital Visual Interface (DVI) and other digital display interfaces.

There are three main types of digital video interfaces: P&D, DFP, and DVI. P&D (Plug & Display, also known as EVC), the earliest of these technologies, supports both digital and... more/see it nowanalog RGB connections and is now used primarily on projectors. DFP (Digital Flat-Panel Port) was the first digital-only connector on displays and graphics cards; it’s being phased out.

There are different types of DVI connectors: DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, DFP, and EVC.

DVI-D is a digital-only connector. DVI-I supports both digital and analog RGB connections. Some manufacturers are offering the DVI-I connector type on their products instead of separate analog and digital connectors. DVI-A is used to carry an analog DVI signal to a VGA device, such as a display. DFP, like DVI-D, was an early digital-only connector used on some displays; it’s being phased out. EVC (also known as P&D) is similar to DVI-I only it’s slightly larger in size. It also handles digital and analog connections, and it’s used primarily on projectors.

All these standards are based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). In a typical single-line digital signal, voltage is raised to a high level and decreased to a low level to create transitions that convey data. TMDS uses a pair of signal wires to minimize the number of transitions needed to transfer data. When one wire goes to a high-voltage state, the other goes to a low-voltage state. This balance increases the data-transfer rate and improves accuracy. collapse

Black Box Explains...50-µm vs. 62.5-µm fiber optic cable.

As today’s networks expand, the demand for more bandwidth and greater distances increases. Gigabit Ethernet and the emerging 10 Gigabit Ethernet are becoming the applications of choice for current and... more/see it nowfuture networking needs. Thus, there is a renewed interest in 50-micron fiber optic cable.

First used in 1976, 50-micron cable has not experienced the widespread use in North America that 62.5-micron cable has.

To support campus backbones and horizontal runs over 10-Mbps Ethernet, 62.5-micron fiber, introduced in 1986, was and still is the pre-dominant fiber optic cable because it offers high bandwidth and long distance.

One reason 50-micron cable did not gain widespread use was because of the light source. Both 62.5- and 50-micron fiber cable can use either LED or laser light sources. But in the 1980s and 1990s, LED light sources were common. Because 50-micron cable has a smaller aperture, the lower power of the LED light source caused a reduction in the power budget compared to 62.5-micron cable—thus, the migration to 62.5-micron cable. At that time, laser light sources were not highly developed and were rarely used with 50-micron cable — and, when they were, it was mostly in research and technological applications.

The cables share many characteristics. Although 50-micron fiber cable features a smaller core (the light-carrying portion of the fiber), both 50- and 62.5-micron cable use the same cladding diameter of 125 microns. Because they have the same outer diameter, they’re equally strong and are handled in the same way. In addition, both types of cable are included in the TIA/EIA 568-B.3 standards for structured cabling and connectivity.
As with 62.5-micron cable, you can use 50-micron fiber in all types of applications: Ethernet, FDDI, 155-Mbps ATM, Token Ring, Fast Ethernet, and Gigabit Ethernet. It is recommended for all premise applications: backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections. And it should be considered especially for any new construction and installations. IT managers looking at the possibility of 10 Gigabit Ethernet and future scalability will get what they need with 50-micron cable. collapse

DisplayPort cable.

DisplayPort is a digital video interface that was designed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) in 2006 and has been produced since 2008. It’s incredibly versatile, with the capability... more/see it nowto deliver digital video, audio, bidirectional communications, and accessory power over a single connector.

DisplayPort cables are targeted at the computer world rather than at consumer electronics. DisplayPort is used to connect digital audio/video computers, displays, monitors, projectors, HDTVs, splitters, extenders, and other devices that support resolutions up to 4K and beyond. Unlike HDMI, however, DisplayPort is an open standard with no royalties.

With the proper adapters, DisplayPort cable can carry DVI and HDMI signals, although this doesn’t work the other way around—DVI and HDMI cable can’t carry DisplayPort. Because DisplayPort can provide power to attached devices, DisplayPort to HDMI or DVI adapters don’t need a separate power supply.

DisplayPort supports cable lengths of up to 15 meters with maximum resolutions at cable lengths up to 3 meters. Bidirectional signaling enables DisplayPort to both send and receive data from an attached device.

DisplayPort v1.1: 10.8 Gbps over a 2-meter cable.

DisplayPort v1.2: 21.6 Gbps (4K). DisplayPort v1.2 also enables you to daisychain up to four monitors with only a single output cable. It also offers the future promise of DisplayPort Hubs that would operate much like a USB hub.

DisplayPort v1.3: 2.4 Gbps. (5K)

The standard DisplayPort connector is very compact and features latches that don’t add to the connector’s size. Unlike HDMI, a DisplayPort connector is easily lockable with a pinch-down locking hood, so it can't be easily dislodged. However, a quick squeeze of the connector releases the latch.

The Mini DisplayPort (MiniDP or mDP) is a miniatured version of the DisplayPort interface. It carries both digital and analog computer video and audio signals. Apple® introduced the Mini DisplayPort connector in 2008 and it is now on all new Mac® computers. It is also being used in newer PC notebooks. This small form factor connector fully supports the VESA DisplayPort protocol. It is particularly useful on systems where space is at a premium, such as laptops, or to support multiple connectors on reduced height add-in cards.


Black Box Explains... Baseband, broadband, and carrierband transmissions.

Depending on the environment and how the electrical signal is sent over the cable, coax can be used for three types of transmissions.

Baseband transmissions use the entire communication channel capacity... more/see it nowto transmit a single data signal. Many LANs employ Thin coax for baseband signaling.

Broadband transmissions use different frequencies to carry several analog signals simultaneously. Each signal can for be a different type of information—data, voice, even video. Broadband transmissions over coax employ either one or two cables. With single-cable coax wiring, frequencies are split into individual channels for each station; some channels are allocated for bidirectional communication. Dual-cable coax wiring uses one cable for sending and one cable for receiving data, each with multiple channels. Broadband transmissions are ideal for long distances. Thick coax is often used for broadband transmissions.

Unlike broadband transmissions, carrierband transmissions can only use one information channel. Carrierband is best suited for the horizontal subsystems (subnetworks) in industrial settings. Many LANs use Thin coax for carrierband signaling. collapse

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