Which Xbox 360 Cable Do I Need?

Which cables you’ll need to depend on two things: what inputs your television and speakers have, and what outputs your Xbox 360 has.

Let’s look at the back of your 360 first, and see which version it is. If you already know, skip ahead to the next section.

Launch Version (2005)

This is the back of the launch version of the Xbox 360. It comes with the least connectivity options, and you’ll note that there are no HDMI ports anywhere in sight, just a lone A/V output.

Refresh Version (2005)

This is the back of the refreshed version. It’s the same shape as the launch version, but inside the box a few changes were made to stop overheating and, most importantly, an HDMI output was added below the A/V output.

Slim Version (2010)

This is the back of the latest Slim or S version of the Xbox 360. The case is smaller and the outputs have been changed around, but A/V and HDMI ports are still present.

Here’s a table showing the connectivity options. Yes means the port is on the 360 itself, Via A/V means it is available with the A/V cable, and No means the port isn’t available.

Now that you know which type of Xbox you have, we can move onto what cables you’ll need to hook up the system. Let’s go through each connection, starting with the highest quality connections first.

Video Cables

These cables get the picture from your Xbox 360 to your TV. Here are the options available, from best picture quality to worst.

HDMI: This digital connection is the best available, and should always be used if it’s available. As well as 1080p video, the HDMI connection can also transfer audio.

Compatible with 360 Refresh Version & Slim Version:

VGA: This type of cable is usually used for computer monitors, but can also be used for the 360. It’s an analog signal, about equal in quality to Component, and is usually used when you want to hook up your Xbox 360 to a computer monitor.

Compatible with all 360s:

Component (Green, Blue, Orangered): This analog cable should be used preferentially if an HDMI connection isn’t available. It’s much better quality than Composite.

Component cables for the 360 also contain component plugs, making for six plugs in total: Three for the component video, one for composite video, and two for audio. You’ll only plug in either the component plugs or the composite plug, depending on what your television supports.

Compatible with all 360s:

Composite (Yellow/Red/White): This is the worst analog video connection, and is only capable of SD performance. It should be used only if every other method is not available. All component cables sold include composite connections, so you’ll just buy a component cable.

Compatible with all 360s:

Audio Cables

These cables get sound from your Xbox 360 to your television or speaker system. If you’re not using a speaker system, then you can just use the HDMI or component cables you’ve used for the video connection. If you’re looking to connect up surround sound speakers, you’ll need a dedicated cable.

Optical S/PDIF: This digital cable can be used for high quality surround sound, e.g. 5.1 or 7.1. This is the best quality connection, and is often the most convenient way of providing 5.1 to home entertainment speaker systems.

If you’d like to use HDMI and Optical S/PDIF together on a Refresh Version 360, you might find that you can’t plug in the HDMI and A/V ports simultaneously. You can get an A/V Audio Adapter with Optical and Composite Audio out to solve this problem.

Compatible with all 360s:

HDMI: As stated earlier, HDMI can carry your audio as well as video on its digital connection. HDMI is capable of surround sound, but if it is plugged directly into a TV then you are likely to only get 2 channel stereo sound.

Compatible with 360 Refresh Version & Slim Version:

Composite / Stereo Phono Cables: This analog connection is capable of stereo sound, which is generally enough if you’re playing sound through your TV. If you’ve got more than two speakers, you’ll want to use HDMI or Optical S/PDIF instead. These connections are found on component cables.

Compatible with all 360s:

Network Cables and Adapters

These devices allow you to connect to Xbox Live and your local network.

Ethernet LAN: This cable is used to connect your Xbox 360 to your router, allowing you to go on Xbox Live or connect over LAN to another Xbox 360.

Compatible with all 360s:

Wireless Adapters: If you’re using a Launch or Refresh version 360 instead of the Slim version, you’ll find you don’t have built-in wireless. Luckily, you can get a USB adapter that will give you wireless connectivity.

Compatible with 360 Launch and Refresh Version:

Power Cables

These cables provide power to the Xbox 360, and are different depending on which Xbox you have. If you have a Launch or Refresh Version power supply, you can plug it into a Slim Version 360 by using a converter.

Compatible with 360 Launch and Refresh Version:

Compatible with Slim Version:

Controller Charging Cables

These USB cables plug into the front or back of your Xbox 360 and recharge your wireless controller.

Compatible with all 360s: