ACTIVE & PASSIVE EXPLAINED

WHAT IS A PASSIVE CABLE?

When a product is described as passive it means the product simply uses wires alone to send a signal from one device to another. For example, the majority of ordinary cables are passive because they are just two connectors joined with various types of wiring.

WHAT IS AN ACTIVE CABLE?

An active product is one that contains a form of electronics inside it. For example, most converters are active because they contain what’s known as a chipset that is actively looking at the signal it receives and then converting it to another format. An HDMI to VGA Converter would be an example of an active product.


WHAT IS A CHIPSET?

A chipset is just another term to describe an electronic circuit, sometimes known as a controller. In the AV world a chipset is usually used to control the signals sent between devices.


WHY ARE SOME CABLES ACTIVE?

While the vast majority of cables are passive, some do feature one or more chipsets and are designated as “Active Cables”. These chipsets boost the signal passing through the cable to help transmit data over longer distances. Sometimes active cables will also use fibre optic technology to send the signal over both copper wire and light to reach incredible distances in the hundreds of metres!

Active cables which convert a signal typically only work in one direction, whereas passive cables are bi-directional.

ARE ALL CONVERTERS ACTIVE?

As you’re probably beginning to see there’s no easy answer. While the majority of converters are active, such as anything that converts between an Analogue and a Digital signal, there are some exceptions. For example, HDMI and DVI can be converted without active electronics because they use the same type of signal. 


WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DISPLAYPORT ACTIVE & PASSIVE CONVERTERS?

DisplayPort is another exception and they break the naming conventions entirely. Both Passive and Active DisplayPort converters feature some sort of chipset inside them. Confusing we know… but let us explain.

DisplayPort Passive Converters have a chipset with only one job which is to tell the source device’s graphics card to do the conversion, this only works when converting DisplayPort to HDMI and DisplayPort to DVI with cables and adapters. Your source device/graphics card must support DP++ or DisplayPort Dual Mode for these converters to work.

DisplayPort Active Converters don’t rely on the graphics card, they do the conversion themselves. This means they can work with any DisplayPort source device and can convert between any standards, meaning DisplayPort to VGA or DisplayPort to HDMI, etc. If you are unsure if your graphics card supports DP++ or DisplayPort Dual Mode a DisplayPort Active Converter means it will work regardless, saving you any incompatibility headaches!