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USB and PSU sleeving review.

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Unfortunately I didn't have all the different sleevings available on the market or in all the appropriate sizes on hand when I wrote this up, but I decided to work with what I had to try and bring some additional attention to different sleevings out there. If you have any questions or issues with the write up, be sure to let me know, I'm more than willing to hear you out.

To begin, this review will be broken down into the following sections:


  • Overview of sleeving
  • Weave
  • Bending radius
  • Bleed through and color shift
  • Durability
  • Ease of sleeving
  • Feel
  • Pros and Cons
  • Summary Opinion




Overview of sleeving

In the market today, there are two major types of sleeving, nylon cloth based sleeving and plastic sleeving. The most popular form of nylon sleeving is paracord. Paracord is popular because it's cheap, it can be found almost anywhere, it's fairly easy to work with, and there are a ton of colors and patterns available. Recently, Mod/Smart released their MaxCord Paracord which is supposed to be a denser, more durable paracord, and Lutro0 has his own branded paracord that he guarantees, but the cheap paracord you buy off of eBay is generally the favorite source for it outside of shops like SupplyCaptain. I wish I could comment on MaxCord, but I couldn't find any place to get small amounts and Mod/Smart wouldn't send me a sample.

The second popular type of sleeving is plastic based sleeving. Everybody knows MDPC. It was one of the first to bring a material that was more resilient than paracord, had a high quality look and feel, and stood out from the crowd. Not to mention that Nils is a pretty cool guy who is beloved by many communities. Over time, others have come on the scene with Bitspower's Super Tight Weave, Mod/Smart's Kobra HD, Lutro0's plastic sleeving, ModDIY, and various PET sleeving shipping from China/Hong Kong that are likely the same as the ModDIY stuff.


Weave


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From top to bottom you see Chinese eBay PET (should be the same as ModDIY), MDPC, Bitspower, generic PET/Techflex, and paracord.

Right off the bat you can spot some differences. Bitspower has by far the tighest weave out of any of the plastic sleevings followed by the Chinese/ModDIY, then MDPC, then distantly followed by the generic PET. Kobra HD isn't in the picture since I only had it in larger sizes, not PSU cable sizes, but the weave is a little tighter than that of MDPC and a little looser than the Chinese/ModDIY stuff. You can see the difference in later pictures showing bleed through and color shift.


Bending Radius


When you start bending the cable, other differences begin to arise as well. The following is the same order as the initial picture.

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The paracord can, by far bend the tightest radius easily. The paracord can also be trained fairly easily since you're not fighting the plastic memory and its desire to be straight or have a slight curved bend in it. Since it's cloth, the paracord pretty much does whatever you want it to.

Now onto the plastic sleevings. The sleeving that bends the best without any issues is probably the Chinese/ModDIY solid color sleeving (the patterned is a different story) and the Kobra HD. Both have pretty good bending radii without facing issues with flaring or bunching.

As you can see, the Bitspower has the hardest time with bends and turns. While it's not incapable of bending, it has the widest radius and will fight you a little more. This is one of the tradeoffs with a denser weave. You get better coverage, but a worse bending radius.

The worst of the bunch, however, is the PET followed distantly by MDPC. Keep in mind that bends and turns this extreme are not common, but it does give you an idea. No matter how tight you get the PET to the cable, it has a tendency to flatten out and flare when it faces a tight turn. If you buy small for a large cable, it won't be as severe, but it will happen. MDPC does a similar thing, but to a much lesser extent. Since MDPC is one of the thinner sleevings and probably has the greatest ability to expand or compress outside of PET, you can get some bunching or minor flaring in bends if you don't get the sleeving cut to just the right length. If you get the sleeving tighter and cut to the right length, you shouldn't really notice it or see it as a problem, but it is potentially an issue if it's a little loose on the wire or cable.


Bleed through and color shift

For this section, I will be posting the worst offender of color shift/bleed as the main picture with expandable images of other colors below that. The sleeving is placed over both black and white USB cable for comparison. By bleed through I mean the amount of exposed cable peeking through the sleeving. By color shift I mean how much the cable color changes the look of the sleeving that's over it.

The order is as follows: Kobra HD, Chinese solid color/ModDIY multicolor, Bitspower, MDPC, PET, paracord.

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Looking at these, two things are pretty apparent. First, if you don't want any color shift at all, go with paracord. Every single plastic sleeving is affected by the underlying cable to some extent. Secondly, the lighter the color of sleeving, the more likely it is to be affected by a color shift.

Some of the plastics handle color shifts better than others though. Bitspower is by far the brand least affected by the underlying color of the cable. While the orange does have a noticeable shift, just about every other color has a minor to non-existent shift in color from the underlying cable.

The worst of the plastics is obviously the PET which can be clearly seen through.

The other three remaining plastic sleevings are all pretty close, but I'd have to say it goes dark Kobra HD colors>MDPC>Chinese/ModDIY>light Kobra HD colors. The patterned ModDIY sleeving holds up pretty well, but it's largely because it's dark colors. The dark colors of Kobra HD appear to be closer in color than MDPC largely because the gaps are smaller than MDPC. And while the light colors of Kobra HD (yellow, orange, red) all have a ton of color shift, white is actually pretty good since it's translucent instead of transparent. You can also get an interesting effect from the carbon fiber color based on the color cable it's over since some of the strands are translucent and others are somewhat transparent.

If you're working with cables smaller than USB, there is much less bleed through unless you get a sleeving that's too small for the cable you're working with.


Durability

If you want sleeving that will hold up well, you want one of the plastic based sleeving. While paracord has its pros, it's by far the most susceptible to problems like fraying, pulled threads, and so on. So paracord may be good for its cost, it is not without issues.


Ease of Sleeving

The easiest sleevings to work with are your plastic sleevings. Since they expand, they all easily slip over cables. Paracord is susceptible to several issues when sleeving. First, it's not a uniform thickness, sometimes you get thicker paracord, sometimes thinner. If the diameter is too narrow, you can run into issues with it fitting over your USB cable. Since some USB cables are thicker than others, you have two vectors for potential issues.

In general, the plastic sleevings are easier, but they are not without their faults. Given the density of the weave, Bitspower is the least forgiving when it comes to thickness of your cables. You want to get sleeving as close as possible to the thickness of the cable so as not to face any issues. PET/Techflex is prone to strands getting flipped in and messing up the sleeving on the ends or the sleeving itself just getting all kinds of frayed and messed up even if you fuse the ends with a flame or heat. Kobra HD, MDPC, and the Chinese/ModDIY sleeving are prone to fraying if you forget to fuse the ends.

Even so, plastic sleeving is generally going to be the easiest to work with with larger cables. With PSU cables, each have their own issues. Paracord can sometimes catch and fray, pull a thread, or refuse to move forward and plastic sleeving may have the end pop through if the weave is too loose or may be tough to slip onto the cable if the crimp catches. Bitspower also has the potential issue of bulging a socket on the plug if you get sleeving that's a little too big and don't thin it first or short the sleeving a little so that only cable and heatshrink fit into the socket.



Feel

Feel is by far the most subjective of the metrics and I hate including it here, but it's important to some people.

If you want a soft and/or smooth feeling cable, you have to go with paracord or PET/Techflex. Since the weave is so loose on PET, it gets an almost slick feeling. It feels cheap to me, but if you don't want any of the roughness plastic can impart, it has the least rough feel of the plastic sleeving.

Following that, MDPC has the best feel due to the thinner strands it has, then the solid color chinese stuff, followed by Kobra HD. Kobra HD starts to get a roughness to it, but it's not bad. The patterned ModDIY and Bitspower both have a plasticy roughness to them. The Bitspower due to the density of the weave, the ModDIY due to the quality of the plastic.

Pros and Cons

Bitspower

Pros:
  • Least amount of bleed through/color shift of any of the plastic sleevings
  • Easy to work with
  • Durable
  • Good bending radius without flaring
  • Densest weave
  • Available in many sizes

Cons:
  • Cost
  • Worst bending radius of the plastic sleevings
  • Rougher feel than others
  • Sleeving and cable need to be more closely matched in diameter than the other sleevings



Kobra HD

Pros:
  • Small color shift on the dark colors
  • Easy to work with
  • Decent feel
  • Great bending radius without flaring
  • Durable
  • Available in many sizes
Cons:
  • Cost
  • Light colors have a lot of bleed through/color shift

MDPC

Pros:
  • Cost isn't too high
  • Great bending radius
  • Easy to work with
  • Durable
  • Good feel
  • Decent resistance to bleedthrough and color shift
Neutral:
  • Available in only two sizes, but expands enough that it can cover most cables well
Cons:
  • Can flare a little in tight bends if it's a little loose
  • Tougher than some of the others to get the perfect length
  • Lighter colors have more bleedthrough
  • If you're working with thinner cables like PSU cables and don't get the length absolutely perfect, it will bunch and mess up the look of the sleeving job

Chinese/ModDIY

Pros:
  • Price
  • Durable
  • Solid colors have a decent feel
  • Easy to work with
  • Good bending radius without flaring
Cons:
  • Materials used are inconsistent, so feel and ease of use varies
  • Patterned colors feel rough and of a lower quality plastic
  • Lots of color shift on lighter colors

PET

Pros:
  • Cost
  • Feels slick
  • Durable
  • Good bending radius
Cons:
  • Practically transparent
  • Least durable of the plastic sleevings
  • Flares when bent
  • Loose weave
    [*i]Hardest of the plastic sleevings to work with
  • Feels and looks cheap

Paracord

Pros:
  • Cheap
  • Tons of variety in colors
  • No bleed through or color shift at all
  • Soft, good feel
  • Great turning radius with no flaring
  • Cables train easier with it
Cons:
  • Least durable of the sleeving options, susceptible to pulled threads and fraying
  • Inconsistencies in the diameter mean you may not be able to use one color or pattern to sleeve a cable while another color or pattern would work just fine.


Summary Opinion

In the end, whatever sleeving you use is a personal choice, but there are certain sleevings I would recommend over others. For myself, Bitspower will always be the best sleeving to use. While it is a little costly, I find that it just yields the most consistently pleasing results for USB cables. For PSU cables, I'm still not sure I have a favorite since I haven't done enough yet.

Following that, I'd go with Kobra HD or MDPC with a slight edge for the Kobra HD, IMO. The Chinese/ModDIY stuff can be good, but it's so inconsistent and can take a long time to get to you, so it doesn't really make sense to use it, not when you don't know if it will be good sleeving or junk sleeving.

Paracord is fantastic for someone who wants a lot of color options and wants a more bendable cable and it can be easy to work with. The inconsistencies in size of the sleeving, even the same color, just from different vendors, can be problematic, rendering moot any savings. The durability issues also pops up, but it's a trade off. I know some people love paracord because it is more bendable, there is no bleed through from the cable inside, there are more color and pattern options, and because it's cheap.

On the issue of PET/Techflex, I would recommend avoiding it. It's not worth the cost. It looks cheap and you save all of $2-3 a cable, maybe less when you factor in shipping and coupons, over much nicer sleeving. I know some people have no issue with it or like it, but it's a turn off to me.
Edited by nubbinator - 2/28/14 at 6:41am
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post #2 of 6
Have you any tips on sleeving USB cables i.e. how is it done?
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post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Elf View Post

Have you any tips on sleeving USB cables i.e. how is it done?

You'll have to make your own. Here's a guide I wrote on that.
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post #4 of 6
That's one fine guide, sir wink.gif
I've been looking to make my own USB cables as well, but here in Belgium I'm only able to order these sort of shells. They have a small lip at the end of the connector which is too small for any sleeving to pass through with the cable.
Strange thing is that this is only the case with USB A type connectors. For Micro USB shells for example, I am able to order the good ones

Would you like to share where you order yoru USB A type shells? wink.gif
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post #5 of 6
Very cool stuff smile.gif I'll have to link this when recommending sleeving too now!
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post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Liradon View Post

That's one fine guide, sir wink.gif
I've been looking to make my own USB cables as well, but here in Belgium I'm only able to order these sort of shells. They have a small lip at the end of the connector which is too small for any sleeving to pass through with the cable.
Strange thing is that this is only the case with USB A type connectors. For Micro USB shells for example, I am able to order the good ones

Would you like to share where you order yoru USB A type shells? wink.gif

I got my USB A parts off of Taobao. Since I bought a bunch of them, it was actually cheaper than buying them from eBay or another site (like Mouser or Digikey). If you only need a couple, you can try and find some on eBay or see if there are any sites like Mouser or Digikey that can affordably ship to your country.
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