Putting aside the undeniable fact that cables shouldn’t actually exist in what is meant to be a wireless world, one of the most frustrating things about cables is their length.
Cable manufacturers revel in how long they can make these digital snakes. Who on earth needs a 10-meter USB cable, or even a 2m HDMI cable?
You can buy a 3m (10ft) Lightning charging cable. What maniac needs that? There’s a 4.5m (15ft) micro USB cable, which is only acceptable in that most of us want to be as far away as possible from that fiddly connector.
There are cables that come with some gadgets that Tarzan could have swung around in the jungle. These exist purely to trip up unsuspecting visitors and abuse domestic aesthetics.
These seemingly endless cables form ugly twisting knots of frustration behind our desks, TVs and games consoles.
And the longer the cable, the worse the performance—ok, it might be a minor reduction of signal strength between a 1m and a 5m cable, but it’s still an unnecessary one.
Power leads are another cable that mostly comes in meters of stupidity. If you need 5m of cable, why not just install another power socket where you need it? Hide the power cables in your walls or behind skirting boards instead.
Here we celebrate short cables and urge everyone to embrace tidier desks, TVs and PCs.
Best short USB-C Cable (USB-C to USB-C)
USB-C cable is so much better than oldies like USB-A or the frightfully fiddly Micro USB. It boasts faster speeds and – thank the lord – is reversible, so you can plug it in either side up – what a joy!
For a fast short USB-C to USB-C cable, StarTech.com has a 50cm (0.5m) USB-C to USB-C cable, which is rated at USB 3.1 and has data transfer rates up to 10Gbps.
If you want the shortest, AmazonBasics has USB-C cables in various lengths—up to nearly 3m—but this USB-C to USB-C cable is just 15cm. It’s only USB 2.0 though, so the bandwidth is a rather puny 480MBps.
See also: Best USB-C Cables.
Best short USB-C Cable (USB-A to USB-C)
If you need a short USB-A to USB-C cable, this one at just 15cm (6in) isn’t going to end up in knots.
It’s USB 2.0, though, which means bandwidth is 480MBps.
We are still looking for a short USB-A to USB-C cable that can handle 5Gbps or 10Gbps, but if it’s for charging—rather than data transfer—this cable is fine.
Best short Lightning Cable (USB-A to Lightning)
Apple ships its products with about a meter of Lightning cable, but the distance from my power socket to the kitchen top is a lot less than that, and I suspect the same is true for just about everybody.
This one has Lightning on one end and the traditional USB-A connector on the other.
It is nice and short at just 20cm, and is sold in a two-pack– because you always need more than one to hand, right?.
See also: Best Lightning Cables.
Best short Lightning Cable (USB-C to Lightning)
Eventually, Apple will replace its Lightning connector with the more universal USB-C it uses on its high-end iPads and laptops.
Until, then, you may require a USB-C to Lightning cable, and a short one at that.
The Pengo USB-C to Lightning cable measures just 20cm. Sweet.
Best short Micro USB Cable (USB-A to Micro USB)
Micro USB is an incredibly common and fist-shakingly frustrating USB connector—in that you have to put it in the right way, and it’s so small (Micro) that it takes a while to work out which way is up and which is down.
It’s super common for older phones, speakers, power banks and other gadgets. As a charging cable, you might need only a short length, and this Micro USB cable is just 6in long.
See also: Best Micro USB Cables.
Best short HDMI Cable
Got a TV? Then you’ve almost certainly using HDMI to connect it to your other devices—which are probably not more than a foot or two from the telly. Measure it, though, as you might, gasp, need a slightly longer cable.
This one is a mere 7 inches long—love it! Even I think that might be too short for most people, so thankfully the company also offers slightly longer versions of this cable, such as 20 inches.
Best short DisplayPort Cable
DisplayPort is much more able than HDMI, with much faster delivery speeds. But it’s mostly a PC thing, rather than HDMI, which is the standard on most TVs.
As it connects your PC to an external display, the chances are you don’t need 2m of cable. This StarTech cable is a mere 1ft long, which is perfect for many PC or docking station to monitor connections.
Best short Thunderbolt Cable
Thunderbolt 3 cables are either Active or Passive. It’s likely that your device was supplied with a low-cost passive cable, and these have cable-length performance limitations.
If you want the maximum bandwidth from your 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 cable, a passive one should be no longer than 0.7m. An active T3 cable can hold that 40Gbps at up to 2m in length, but are a lot more expensive. For 20Gbps T3, the max passive cable length should be 2m.
StarTech makes a 40Gbps T3 cable at the required 0.5m length, and in other lengths too, should you need them.
See also: Best Thunderbolt cables and Best Thunderbolt 4 cables.
Best short Ethernet cable
I can understand the need for very long Ethernet cables, when you need to string a decent wired Internet connection to distant devices. High-speed Cat6 Ethernet has a Usain Bolt sprinting maximum length of 100m.
You might be better off using a Powerline adapter, however.
But there’s little need for a meter of cable when you just need to connect your router to the computer that’s sitting right next to it.
This Cat6 Ethernet cable from Monoprice is a foot long, and all the better for its shortness.
See also: Best Ethernet Cables.
Best short Power Figure 8 (2-pin) cord
Power cables don’t need to be longer than a fully grown python either.
A common power cord type is the Figure 8, named after the 2-pin connector end that looks a bit like the number 8.
Make sure you get the correct plug end for your country, of course. Although having one for each place you visit might mean you don’t need to bring a travel adapter.
For the UK, this 1ftcm Figure 8 power lead is nicely short.
In the US, try the 12in Figure 8 power cord.
Best short Kettle (C13) Power Cord
Often favoured by kettles – hence the nickname – the C13 cable is a common power cord. It’s also sometimes called a TV power cord, for very similar reasons… but is less useful when you need to boil water.
In the UK, there’s a 50cm length which is the shortest one we could find at the time of writing.
In the US, Amazon Basics has a 1ft C13 power cord, and many other lengths to choose from.