Video Cables Explained: Difference between VGA, DVI & HDMI Ports

dvi hdmi   Video Cables Explained: Difference between VGA, DVI & HDMI PortsWhen you buy a new computer, it’s important to look at what type of output ports it supports. After all, you want to be able to easily hook it up to your computer monitor, or the projector at work or in school.

The reason most projectors, and even a lot of displays have multiple input ports is because there’s no clearcut standard for video connectors. In fact, there are multiple standards of computer video cables. Three of them are still actively competing for a spot on your laptop’s side. These are VGA, DVI and HDMI.

If you spend some time around computers, they may already look familiar. The purpose of this article is to teach you the difference between these three types of cables, both visually and technically.

VGA

VGA, or Video Graphics Array, is the most famous of the bunch. First produced in 1987, VGA has had plenty of time to get its roots down. Despite being slightly outdated, VGA is still featured on a lot of new computers because it’s the biggest thing the computer and display market has in terms of a computer video standard.

vga cable   Video Cables Explained: Difference between VGA, DVI & HDMI Ports

VGA cables carry an analog signal as opposed to a digital signal (ones and zeroes). Using higher frequencies, it’s possible to reach a relatively high range of video resolutions. However, video quality directly responds to cable quality, and doubly so on higher resolutions. Due to this, the quality of a VGA image can variate notable across different makes of cables.

vga port   Video Cables Explained: Difference between VGA, DVI & HDMI Ports

The connector features fifteen pins spread over three horizontal rows and has a typical trapezoid shape, as you can see in the pictures above. Although computer and display fabricants are free in the design, the color blue is often associated with VGA ports and connectors.

DVI

DVI can be considered one of VGA’s successors, but although the connector is appearing more and more on computers and displays — especially on higher-end graphics card and high-resolution computer displays — DVI doesn’t have the mainstream fame that VGA does.

dvi cable   Video Cables Explained: Difference between VGA, DVI & HDMI Ports

To make things more difficult, there are multiple types of DVI connectors. With exception of the least famous DVI-A connector, all of them work with uncompressed digital video. This means that the picture quality is not so heavily dependant on the quality of your cable; you either get a signal or you don’t. The difference is in the lay-out of the pins.

DVI-D is characterised by the single flat blade on one side of the connector, showing no pins above or below the blade. This can be seen in the screenshot above. DVI-D is for the sole transmission of digital video.

DVI-I looks very similar to DVI-D, but does have four pins surrounding the flat blade. These pins carry an analog signal, for compatibility with the VGA standard. This makes DVI-I connectors able to carry a digital and analog signal.

dvi port   Video Cables Explained: Difference between VGA, DVI & HDMI Ports

DVI-D and DVI-I connectors come in two additional flavours. Single-link, as demonstrated in the first picture, misses a section of pins in the middle of the connector. Dual-link connectors feature a single block of pins (three times eight), which allows to reach much higher resolutions.

More in-depth information and diagrams can be found on Wikipedia.

HDMI

If DVI is the successor to VGA, HDMI is a possible successor to DVI. Possibly due to its appearance on high definition televisions, HDMI has known a quick rise to fame. Thanks to this compatibility with newer televisions, and its compact size compared to DVI, the HDMI connector is increasingly showing up in computers and computer displays as well.

hdmi cable   Video Cables Explained: Difference between VGA, DVI & HDMI Ports

HDMI, like DVI, is designed for the digital transmission of uncompressed data. However, besides a video signal, HDMI can also carry up to eight channels of compressed or uncompressed digital audio.

hdmi port   Video Cables Explained: Difference between VGA, DVI & HDMI Ports

There are actually five HDMI connector types. The most famous one, type A, is what you’ll find in most of your appliances today. It’s also the connector we pictured above.

What video connectors do you have on your computer? Let us know in the comments section below the article!

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

46 Comments -

0 votes

illegal3alien

Also worth noting is HDMI is compatible with DVI (minus the audio). You can pick up a $1 adapter on Amazon to convert DVI to HDMI (or vice-versa). There are also devices that allow you to hookup DVI and audio out to a HDMI connection.

Newer video cards support audio out over HDMI so you can hook your computer up to the TV and hear sound by only plugging in an HDMI cable to your video card.

0 votes

Simon Slangen

You’re right, HDMI type A and C are electrically compatible with DVI-D. You need to be careful with what type of DVI, though. Below is a small overview.

Possible:
DVI-D HDMI (modulo audio)
DVI-I –> HDMI (modulo audio)
DVI-A VGA
DVI-I –> VGA

Not possible without a special converter:
DVI-A HDMI
DVI-D VGA

Feel free to correct me if I made a mistake.

0 votes

Simon Slangen

My arrows disappeared. Let’s try that again, shall we?

Possible:
DVI-D (to and from) HDMI (modulo audio)
DVI-I (to) HDMI (modulo audio)
DVI-A (to and from) VGA
DVI-I (to) VGA

Not possible without a special converter:
DVI-A (either direction) HDMI
DVI-D (either direction) VGA

0 votes

Eserpess der

I have DVI-D, Know I feel old school! XD

0 votes

Ashok Sundar

In trending technology, HDMI is playing a vital role, where the picture quality comes in HD.
Nice article with a perfect highlights.

0 votes

Simon Slangen

Thank you, I’m glad you thought it useful. :-)

I’m a big believer in HDMI myself. Like VGA for analog video, it’s perhaps the closest we’ve come to a universal digital video standard.

0 votes

venkatp16

Nice info… Thanks a lot

0 votes

Paul Harris

My laptop (ASUS X52F) has a VGA and an HDMI, but no DVI.

0 votes

Simon Slangen

They’ve covered most of their bases with it. HDMI is electrically compatible with DVI, so you can buy very small, very cheap convertors for it.

0 votes

ferdinan Sitohang

very helpful article, since lots of people have different understanding about those type of cables.

0 votes

rama moorthy

My Computer having VGA type of video connectors ..!

0 votes

Saumyakant Sahoo

yeah….thats some good info…..well my laptop has a VGA and a HDMI

0 votes

vineedcool

i use vga :P,,cozz its on cheaper side!!!

0 votes

susendeep dutta

My monitor has DVI and VGA port and VGA port is used to display the monitor.

0 votes

Dionyshs El

Someone had to do it eventually. Nice article indeed.

0 votes

Simon Slangen

Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. :-)

0 votes

Tommy

Hi.
What you recommend connect my computer to projector (DVI or VGA). It has both. I plan to connect my desk top to watch movie and surf the net with it. My compter does has HDMI but projector is not. Thanks in advance.

0 votes

Simon Slangen

If you can, I’d suggest using DVI.

0 votes

Wolfgang Grajonka

Um. That’s not really what “interlaced” means.

0 votes

Simon Slangen

You’re right, and what a stupid typo it was!
(integrated ? interlaced)

Thanks for pointing that out. It should be fixed soon.

0 votes

Tug Ricks

Whoa, I always wondered what those were all about. Thanks!
My Lenovo laptop sports VGA and HDMI connections, but no DVI.

0 votes

Usman Mubashir

only VGA, and my PC is roughly 5 yo.

0 votes

druv vb

My “old” Geforce from 2008) features twin DVI but my monitor has only analog input, thus using an adapter, coupled with humidity killed the card 2 days ago.
(I was absent for 1 month, and this happened!!)

Looking for a new GPU now.
Maybe I’ll be going for a Radeon that has almost all connections DVI + HDMI and maybe a composite!

0 votes

Vampie C.

You even have HDMI with network support, although I have no clue what it means, or can do.

0 votes

Ahmed Khalil

HDMI is the future now, rarely we can get modern labtop with out HDMI , and it is used in all LED,LCD TV.

0 votes

MerVzter Balacuit

i want to try some kind of connector other than vga but because in my country its little bit expensive i dont know when will be happen |:(

0 votes

Naoman Saeed

VGA+HDMI

0 votes

Naoman Saeed

VGA and HDMI

0 votes

Denis Paley

Nice article which helps clear up the mystery about the different connections for video. I find this to be especially helpful in covering the differences between the various DVI connecters which can be confusing. One thing to remember is that you don’t need to spend horrendous amounts of money on the digital cables as the inexpensive ones will carry the digital signal as well as the expensive ones.

0 votes

Kasey Bell

I was wondering that ie… Gold plated hdmi $45 as good as the $15? And is there much quality loss with adding adapters

0 votes

GrrGrrr

Thanks, useful article

0 votes

Jeremy Collake

I love this idea of educating the masses on these simple things. Us geeks have known for years, and it doesn’t take much to look up the differences. However, it is important for Joe Consumer to understand, as the manufacturers *sure don’t* explain the differences when buying – especially low-end – monitors and such. It *is* too bad you didn’t add DisplayPort though, as *that* may be the future of how we dock our mobile devices to multi-monitor setups with keyboard and mouse all with one cable. Let me add one more thing: Avoid Analog at all costs. You want Digital. Digital Digital Digital. No DVI-A (or analog over DVI-I). .. and, again, DisplayPort – watch for it! Want to future proof your next monitor purchase? Buy one with a DisplayPort (DP) input.

0 votes

Freedom Schultheiss

When you mentioned the DisplayPort, is this the same port that is referred to as a “Mini DisplayPort” on my MacBook Pro?

0 votes

Danny Chamorro

Nice and useful article. I just have one question, why not include DisplayPort?

0 votes

Fer

Hi!

Really interesting. Whay about the Display Port? I’ve seen this kind of port in many today’s boards.

0 votes

Jeremy Collake

As MakeUseOf pointed out to *me* on G+, the latest DisplayPort is actually called Thunderbolt now. Fortunately, its rights are owned by INTEL, not Apple. Needless to say, this matters ;). This interface has all the bandwidth to do *everything* we need. “Thunderbolt is interoperable with DisplayPort 1.2 compatible devices. When connected to a DisplayPort compatible device the Thunderbolt port can provide a native DisplayPort signal with 4 lanes of output data at no more than 5.4 Gbit/s per lane. When connected to a Thunderbolt device the per-lane data rate becomes 10 Gbit/s and the 4 lanes are configured as 2 channels with each bidirectional 10 Gbit/s channel comprising one lane of input and one lane of output.[2]“. -wikipedia

0 votes

Fer

Thank you Jeremy :)

0 votes

nikhil agarwal

I only have a VGA port on my laptop. Didn’t know much about these different ports when I bought laptop.

0 votes

Lambvolution

i’m still using VGA :)

0 votes

Leland Whitlock

Even though VGA is starting to go away with all the adapters and what not it is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. It is just very reliable in most cases. HDMI looks like a weak connector. And DVI though it works well seems to be dying quickly. Unlike VGA it seems to have no staying power…

0 votes

Kasey Bell

Adding to this article would be a great way of storing all the different types of wires! Omg to many wires

0 votes

Udit Minocha

Purchased my Dell at the end of 2007 and I only have VGA.

0 votes

Akash Kotak

nice info

0 votes

Aung Thu Htet

I am searching for about this and now thank for your post. It is precious for me.

0 votes

Alex Perkins

Thank you, always wondered about the DVI having different pins sometimes.

0 votes

sunny farrygia

can i connect my dvd from vga port to my tv with verious ports