Before the dawn of fully digital high definition or HD entertainment in movies, television, and gaming, people were still using analog technologies like RCA or component cables. The component cable became all the rage in the early to mid-2000s as the highest quality media connection standard until HD took over. It’s so full quality it can even reproduce Full HD 1080i (interlaced versus the progressive scan of 1080p) resolution media although it’s mostly used for 480p resolutions more common in DVDs at the time.
Regardless, here’s what you need to know about the component cable and the component (YPbPr) media connection standard that served as the peak of component video A/V (audio-visual) technology.
What is a Component Cable?
A component cable is the type of cable used for the component video standard, also known as YPbPr. It provides the highest quality picture possible for A/V devices among all the analog standards that include composite video, S-video, and RCA cables. The component cable comes with three RCA-type connectors colored red, green, and blue (RGB).
It’s often paired with a left (white) and right (right) connector stereo audio cable. This makes it different from composite video RCA cables that have yellow (video), red (right audio), and white (left audio) connectors.
Component Port and Cable Explained
Here’s the definition of terms related to the component A/V standard.
- What does a Component Connector and Component Cable Look Like? As mentioned above, the component video connector of the component video cable comes with 3 RCA plugs colored red, blue, and green. They correspond to the ports also colored red, blue, and green.
It doesn’t actually matter if you connect the red cable to the green port. As long as you connect the cable to the other green port, you’re good to go. The color-coding doesn’t actually matter but to avoid confusion, just connect the right color cable to the right port.
- What is YPbPr Cable? Is YPbPr the same as Component cable? As far as the layman is concerned, the YPbPr cable is the same as the component cable. It’s just another name for the component video standard cable and connector. However, there are actually many types of component video, most of which are some form of RGB.
Digital component video cables, for example, use the YCbCr color space instead. There’s also RGB component video technology used for SCART and VGA. Luma YPbPr component tech is just like the yellow video cable of composite video split into three more cables—one cable is for luma or brightness (Y) and the other cables (Pb and Pr) cover color information.
- What color is audio on Component cables? Component video cables are often paired up with two stereo audio cables. As discussed earlier, the red and white plugs of component cables refer to the right and left audio of stereo audio.
The same red and white plugs can be seen in composite video cables, with the yellow cable serving as the video cable. This is because component video can’t do audio. It’s not like HDMI that’s capable of delivering video and audio on one cable and plug alone.
- What color is the video cable on Component? The video portion of the component cable is split into three plugs. One is red, one is blue, and one is green. It covers the YPbPr color space for video electronics.
One of the cables and ports carry Y or the luma portion of the video. Intensity is also covered. This controls luminance or brightness. The other two cables and ports cover Pb or the difference between blue and luma and Pr or the difference between red and luma.
- Component Video Resolution: Component analog video cover resolutions like 480i for NTSC and 576i for PAL for luma YPbPr. RGB component analog video can go from 640 x 480 up to 1280 x 1024 and larger for IBM VGA. VGA specifically offers screen resolutions 640 x 480, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1152 x 864, 1280 x 1024, and so forth (i.e., HD or near HD).
Digital component video that makes use of single lines/connector pins for digital signals allow higher resolutions such as 480p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. The digital version of the component video didn’t take off due to the release of the High Definition Media Interface (HDMI).
- What Does a Component Connection Do? A component video connection delivers analog or digital video signals (the digital component video format that can even reach up to 1080i full HD resolutions) for A/V connection use. It connects A/V media sources to displays together.
Copyright restrictions requiring High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) approvals might limit HD images from going through this connection type. It doesn’t send audio signals but it does depend on separate stereo audio ports and cables. It can be split into 3 component channels, particularly Y, Pb, and Pr.
- What is the component video used for? Component video is the highest quality analog standard prior to the HD era of TV, movies, and video entertainment. It can be upgraded to digital component video as well to allow for 1080i or 1080p HD transmission (with copyright limits requiring HDMI handshakes and HDCP).
It allows the transmission of topnotch analog video signals between appliances or devices, like a cable box, DVD player, VCR, or game console to a TV set or monitor. The analog version of component video known as component analog video (CAV) is the most well-known type of component video.
- What is the Best Component Cable? In our estimation, the best component video is AmazonBasics RCA Component Video Cable with Audio – 6 Feet. It got the highest ratings and it’s the most dependable one we could find online. It offers quality at an affordable price, as cliché as that might sound.
We tested it against others, and the ones that made the cut in order of quality include Cmple – 3-RCA Male to 3RCA Male RGB Component Video Cable for HDTV, HDMI to RCA Cable, Phoebe168 5 Feet 1.5M HDMI Male to 3RCA Video, Mediabridge Component Video Cables with Audio (6 Feet), and the 5RCA Male Component Video/Audio Cable.
- What Else Can You Tell Me About Component Connections? The YPbPr technology that allows component video to have higher quality in either interlaced or progressive scan forms of CRT and plasma TVs allows it to have a head’s up against composite RCA and S-video connection formats. Additionally, YPbPr is the analog version of the YCbCr color space used by digital component video. YPbPr is the more common of the two-component video formats though.
How to connect Component cables to the TV
Here are the things you need to know about component cable TV connections.
- How do I connect HDMI to Component TV or Projector? If you have a component TV or projector, you can connect an HDMI source media player or devices such as a cable/satellite box, modern game console, or DVD/Blu-Ray player by first powering them down. From there, keep your projector turned off as well.
Also, get an HDMI to component converter cable then connect the HDMI end unto your TV or projector. Afterwards, connect the component plugs and audio plugs to their correct ports. Now you can turn on both your media source and your display device.
- What is the best HDMI to Component Converter? By our estimation, the plug-and-play EASYCEL HDMI to Component Converter is the best HDMI to component converter. It’s specifically a converter for HDMI source media and component display devices. It converts HDMI BD players and cable boxes into component YPbPr, RGB, or 5RCA signals.
It can split the single HDMI signal into analog stereo R/L audio and three RCA. It even has a built-in scaler engine to easily downscale or upscale the HDMI signal into analog component form. It even solves problems with component display when the resolution is greater than the display resolution of your TV or projector.
- What is the best Component to HDMI Converter? We believe the Koopman Component or YPbPr to HDMI Converter is the best component to HDMI converter. It’s the converter of choice for component media sources like VCRs, older generation game consoles and DVD players, PCs, and vintage cable/satellite boxes.
It’s able to unite 5RCA or YPbPr signals into a converted HDMI signal for 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576p, and 480p. It supports 1080p displays at the HDMI 1.4 specification. It specifically can convert into HDMI game consoles such as the Nintendo 64, Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox, and the Sony PlayStation 2, thus allowing you to play games at an HDTV display.
Combining Component with Select Non-Component Connections
Can you combine component cables or port with non-component connections?
- Can you convert Component to VGA? Sure. You can turn a component YPbPr signal intended for YPbPr television sets and projectors into a VGA signal for a computer monitor signal and business projectors made for PCs and laptops. Specifically, you can use the StarTech Component to VGA Video Converter for the job. It’s even capable of connecting component RCA audio (R/L stereo) to separate cables for PC external speakers for good measure.
- Can you convert Component to DisplayPort? Yes, but it’s going to be hard and only a limited amount of devices support component to DP conversion. DP is a newer A/V standard mostly used for PCs. There are two converters available from StarTech for DisplayPort and Mini DisplayPort.
There are also certain monitors that can accept component connections over a VGA input connector using an adapter, such as the Dell U2412 with its OSD menu setting that switches from RGB to YPbPr. It requires a 480p or 576i resolution setting at a minimum though.
- Can you convert Component to DVI? You should find an in-stock converter such as the Generic Component to DVI Converter to allow for the component to DVI conversions. The good news is that there exists a converter for this setup.
The Generic Converter in particular is capable of connecting a set-top box or DVD player with a YPbPr output to a DVI input display for newer projectors or monitors. This way, you won’t have to daisy-chain converters from component to HDMI to DVI. It supports the DDWG standard for DVI monitors as well.
- Can you convert Component to SCART? You have a component signal from a source device carried by a SCART connector using the right converter. You can even use a simple passive adapter as long as you have a device that supports YPbPr over SCART.
Otherwise, a converter is called for. You can use Garo too by getting first a component switcher and connecting it to Garo then connecting it to your SCART switch. Component to SCART conversions is mainly used for playing the PSP Go and Nintendo Wii on a SCART television set.
- Can you connect Component to RCA? RCA and component connections use the same technology. The main difference is that instead of just one yellow plug for video there’s now three plugs colored red, blue, and green (RGB).
You can use the RGB component plugs to connect composite RCA connections together. The reverse isn’t true with RCA cables connecting composite video ports though. The white and red plugs are for audio and won’t have enough quality to transfer YPbPr.
- Can you connect Component to RGB? Electrically speaking, RGB and YPbPr luma components are the same, allowing you to do sync-on-green but the picture ends up mostly blue and green with no red. They’re compatible but not quite too compatible, so you still require an adapter or converter to make them work.
The component uses sync-on-luma, which is like sync-on-green but the picture comes out all wrong. You can split luma three-ways and plug it into the RGB inputs but the extra load from splitting will result in a terrible picture. You still need a YPbPr to RGB adapter when all is said and done.
- Can you convert Coaxial Cable to Component? You can convert coaxial cable signals to component using a coaxial cable to component converter. This converter mostly sees applications involving converting your old coaxial cable into an HD-ready format. You can either connect the coaxial to a component converter or to an HDMI converter to allow for HD source connections.
- Can you connect Component to Composite? Or rather, since they work the same way, you can use component cables to connect composite RCA source media to composite displays. You can’t do so vice-versa. Composite cables are too weak to handle component video feeds.
You can’t use RCA composite cables for yellow, red, and white to connect the RGB-colored video ports of component devices since the red and white cables are for audio. You can use red and white cables for audio and discard the yellow plug, though.
- Can you connect Wii to TV with Component Cables? In fact, luma-based YPbPr component cables are what most people use in order to play the Nintendo Wii on an HDTV with either component ports or through a component to HDMI converter. Just link the A/V port to the HDTV with component cables and a converter if needed.
How does component compare to other A/V standards?
- Component vs. HDMI: There are several differences between HDMI and component video connection standards, chief among them the fact that HDMI is a digital format and (luma-based YPbPr) component video is an analog standard. Also, while the component is split into 5 plugs and ports, HDMI combines video and audio into one cable and plug.
That’s 3 plugs for video and 2 plugs for audio versus 1 plug for everything. There’s also digital (YCbCr) component video with a digital color space that can reach 1080i and 1080p resolutions but it’s still inferior to the much more scalable HDMI format, which has reached 4K to 10K and perhaps beyond in terms of resolution.
- Component vs. VGA: Compared to Component, VGA offers a sharper picture. You can’t upscale DVDs or go to 1080p via analog component, but with digital component, you can go HD. Higher resolutions on analog mostly apply to PC displays using VGA and RGB though, with TVs strictly relegated to 480i and 576i via luma component video.
VGA cables might have colors look washed out in the past but as it keeps up with the HD era of entertainment, they now produce vibrant colors while component is mostly an outdated standard.
- Component vs. Composite: Composite RCA cables feature one yellow plug for video and two plugs—red and white—for R/L stereo. In contrast, component RCA plugs feature 3 video plugs (red, blue, and green) and the red and white stereo audio plugs.
Component divides the video feed into three components—one plug is for brightness or luma and the two remaining ones are for chroma or color info. You can use component cables to connect composite devices but you can’t use composite cables to connect component devices.
- Component vs. S-Video: Both component video and S-video outputs serve as examples of separating video information from luma and chroma for the broadcast format of standard-definition (SD) television, whether it’s PAL or NTSC. Luma and chroma separation is also used by PEG and MPEG compression.
With S-video, the video signals are separated into two while with the YPbPr component video the signals are instead separated into three. Both involve controlling the brightness, but with YPbPr, the color information processing is more sophisticated because they’re separated by two plugs.
- Component vs. Coaxial: Component video (not to be confused with component used for audio) cables and coaxial cables can either be used for the luma-based YPbPr component video A/V standard of TVs.
Coaxial cables or three single RCA can also be used aside from component cables to hook up a component video connection as long as they’re all the same type and length. That’s mostly their main point of comparison, other than coaxial being superior to the R/L audio cables of a component video cable bundle for sound transmission.
- Component vs. RCA: As covered above, component RCA cables and composite RCA cables differ in terms of how they separate signals. You have 5 plugs with component and 3 plugs with RCA. Component video is the higher quality A/V connection standard of the two.
Additionally, RCA (composite) separates audio and video with 2 plugs for audio and 1 plug for video while component offers more sophisticated, higher-quality SD video with its 3 plugs for luma (brightness) and chroma (color info) as well as 2 plugs for R/L stereo.
- Component vs. RGB (YPbPr vs RGB): The RGB video signal and the YPbPr video signal offer practically the same technology of color separation with one major difference. In YPbPr, the Y doesn’t stand for red or green but for luma or luminance.
The other plugs cover red and blue color separation as well as green. This is why when you hook up a YPbPr source media to an RGB display, you only get blue and green picture with no red info since the other port is sending luma signals instead. You need a converter to get a proper picture.
- Component vs. SCART: SCART is a standard from France mostly used in Europe that uses a 21-pin connector. It’s comparable to RGB component video or VGA in that it separates information in red, green, and blue.
It’s naturally outdone by the more sophisticated video feed method of component that uses luma info as well as other component video variants like interlaced component video or component video that can do progressive scan. However, it’s superior to S-video and composite A/V standards.
- YPbPr vs. HDMI: YPbPr in particular is inferior to HDMI in every which way. YPbPr is an analog standard while HDMI is a digital one. HDMI can reach to Full HD 1080p while YPbPr is limited to 480i or 576i.
If you wish to get 1080p/i from component video, you need to switch to digital component video with the YCbCr color space instead. The component video ports used by most TVs can only reach 480i because their displays aren’t truly HDTVs nor even use progressive scan (they’re instead interlaced).
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions regarding component video technology is covered by this section.
Is Component as good as HDMI?
Kind of. Digital YCbCr component video is almost as good as basic 1080p HDMI standards. Digital component video can’t go any higher than 1080i/p though. HDMI is still improving and releasing new specifications. YPbPr can also achieve almost HD resolutions but it’s still analog and doesn’t deliver bitstreams but continuously varying voltages.
Can you use red white yellow cables (RCA) for component video?
You can use component cables for RCA connections though. The red and white cables for RCA are for audio, the same way component has red and white stereo audio cables too.
Can component cables do 1080p?
Analog YPbPr component video can theoretically reach 1080p or at least 1280 x 1024 resolutions and higher. Digital YCbCr component video can allow for 720p and 1080i/p resolutions even though VGA’s attempts at HD offer more clarity.
Why is my TV black and white with component cables?
Something might be wrong with your cables. Normally, a black and white picture is caused when you use incorrect cables. If you use a composite cable on a component connection you can end up with a black and white picture due to the incompatibility of the cables. Use the correct cables or get non-compromised component cables.
Can I use component video cable for audio?
They’re not supposed to carry audio. Use the R/L red and white stereo audio cables for audio purposes. The component video standard is strictly a video connection standard, unlike HDMI that can cover both audio and video in one cable.
Can you split component video?
You need a distribution amp in order to properly split a component video signal. Using products and services like Y-adapter can also split the signal but at the cost of poor picture quality, specifically with the luma or brightness greatly reduced. Do some online research on how to properly use a distribution amp for more details.
Can you convert component to HDMI upscaler?
You can. It’s possible to use component to HDMI converters to convert the signal from an older or vintage source media like a VCR to display on your HDMI TV. There are certain adapters and converters available on Amazon and the like that convert component video to HDMI, upscaling 480p/i to 720p, or even outright Full HD 1080p.
Component video is not always the best choice to use compared to HDMI even though it can reach 1080i HD since resolutions can now reach 2K, 4K, and all the way to 10K. This guide is here to discuss the pros and cons of this connection and when it’s best used when push comes to shove.
However, these cables are so ubiquitous and high-quality they were able to see usage up until the Sony PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii era of game consoles. What this means is that like RCA A/V cables, it’s not unusual for you to end up getting converters on or outright using appliances that have component video ports even in the 2020s and beyond.
- “Using Composite Cables With Component Video“, YouTube, April 17, 2017
- “Component Video Cable and Connection Explained“, Home Cinema Guide, Retrieved August 1, 2020
- “HDMI vs. Component“, TV Blanket, May 19, 2017
- “EASYCEL HDMI to Component Converter“, Amazon.com, Retrieved August 2, 2020
- “Koopman Component or YPbPr to HDMI Converter“, Retrieved August 2, 2020