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Sunday, April 14, 2024

How to Manage Your Mess of Cables, Once and for All

Cable management is for tryhards. That’s what I told myself until a couple of weeks ago, when I again found myself parting the great, tangled seafloor of ethernet cables to vacuum my office.

Whereas wireless connectivity is the norm for movie buffs and even audiophiles these days, gamers have made life difficult for ourselves. We’ve named latency as our enemy. So we’re still snaking our three HDMIs up from our three consoles to our televisions, still winding three ethernet cables from our modems to those three consoles. And, of course, we’re still plugging those three consoles into the wall. After a year staying home and accumulating both gaming gear and office equipment, my floor looks like the bottom of Strega Nona’s pasta pot.

There are fixes, of course. Look up any video intended to guide gamers on their cable management journey and you’ll find a YouTube thumbnail of a bleached-smile normie holding a drill and several finger traps (these are cable clips)—high-stakes and high-effort “home improvement” “projects.” Personally, I am not about to perform surgery on my desk. And if I have six extra hours on my hands, I am not going to spend them belly-up on the floor of my office. I am going to spend them gaming.

It is possible to do cable management the lazy way. Here are some smart but low-effort ways for gamers to keep their floors and walls tidy.

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The Cables You Have

This isn’t to be rude, but you wouldn’t have so many cables to manage in the first place if you’d just purchased the correct length. If you can’t differentiate your floor from your local forest’s, it’s likely because your cables are too long.

If you have the funds, consider new cables. Measure your cables’ pathway around a room and add an extra eight inches—better slightly too long than too short. Purchasing high-quality cables with minimal slack will cut down on the likelihood of having to rewire in the future. And as it can be annoying to switch out cables when they’re hidden behind a wall-mounted cable raceway, swing for a durable, premium high-speed HDMI, which you probably want anyway for your Xbox One X or PlayStation 5. Cable quality matters in the long run.

Cable Management Equipment

What you will need depends on your setup. If your PC lives on top of your desk, for example, you might want to mount a surge protector to the bottom of your desk so only one cable gets plugged into the wall. If your television is wall-mounted, and you hate those dangling HDMI cables running up from your Nintendo Switch, you might want to get some paint to match the cable raceway color to your wall’s.

Your cable management journey is your own. Hiding everything is an impossible goal. Hiding most things is ambitious. We’re going for “passable” and “less embarrassing.” And actually, you don’t even need to “hide” your cables at all; managing cables isn’t synonymous with disappearing them. I’ve used a pastel gradient of washi tape to cover my television’s power cable. Other people buy glowing green ethernet cables to give their gaming setup an old-school sci-fi vibe.

The lowest-effort option for cable management is to purchase a cable box: a bread-sized container with a surge protector that lives under your desk or console table. It will not hide your ethernet or HDMI cables, and power supply cords will still stretch out of it and into their designated hardwares. It will, however, hide overstuffed, unsightly surge protectors.

If your goal is to keep the focus on your setup and not your cable-weeds, all you need is about two hours and three things: Cable sleeves, cable raceways, and velcro cable ties. I was shocked by how elegantly Delamu’s cable raceways blended in with the molding on my floor. The sleeve unifies the tangle of cables extending from behind my computer or television into one totally ignorable tube. And, of course, the velcro cable ties keep everything tidy.

If you’re going a little harder, or incorporating the bottom of your desk into the mix, you might consider getting a very lightweight surge protector that won’t be marred by gravity. You can press the cables onto the bottom of your desk using cable clips and mounting tape. (Don’t worry about a cable sleeve here; nobody looks at the bottom of your desk).

Step by Step

First, you have to unplug all of your cables. It is exactly as annoying as it sounds. It’s also the most important step. Otherwise, you’ll never really untangle everything. Unplug them in groups—ones on the right side of the room versus left side, for example—so they don’t get mixed up.

Once that’s done, plan out your raceway or cable sleeve routes. If you’re Wi-Fi-averse, like me, it could help to start with your ethernet hub. I had three ethernet cables to wrap around most of my home office (to my PC, my Switch, and my television). Once one ethernet cable entered my PC setup, I switched out its raceway spot for an HDMI running from my PC to my TV. Make sure to test out how everything puzzles together before committing it to double-sided tape.

Group up your cables with velcro or plastic ties to keep them nice and neat before hiding them away in a raceway or sleeve. Once everything is planned out, implement your raceways and wrap up everything else in a sleeve. Hide sleeves and remaining cords behind stuff—subwoofers, console tables, trash cans, whatever—for minimum effort, maximum impact. You can stuff them in a cable box if you want.

Cables You Simply Cannot or Should Not Manage

For gamers, cables are a stopgap for our fear that the extra split-second it takes for us to input a game action will make or break our game experience. Wired keyboards, wired mice, wired everything—we don’t want to sacrifice speed, quality, or interactivity. It’s tempting to avoid wireless hardware at all. But these days, it really doesn’t make a difference with some peripherals.

Logitech’s G Pro Series mouse is wireless and has no detectable latency. HyperX’s wireless headset is super comfy and has 20 to 25 hours of battery life. (There are a lot of great gaming mice and headsets.) And if you can spring for it, Xbox’s Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 beats that old Xbox 360 controller attached to your PC.

Other peripherals involve cables you cannot will away: mechanical keyboards, controller chargers, and so on. Your choices are to embrace it (curly mechanical keyboard cables are in right now) or embrace it reluctantly (consider cable clip organizers that sit in neat rows for chargers on your desk or side table).

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