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Differences between VGA, DVI and HDMI ports

As technology advances, there are also cables needed for our equipment. While many manufacturers are moving to wireless solutions, you’ll probably always need some kind of cable.

This is especially true for video devices. Televisions, monitors, and peripherals need a wide variety of cables and connections to work properly. So, what are the differences between them all, and what do you need?

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of video cables and when to use them.

VGA cables

VGA monitor cable

VGA is a Video Graphics Array. The connection was developed by IBM in 1987, when it was one of the oldest video connections still in use. It was widely used in graphics cards, televisions, computer monitors and laptops.

VGA supports resolutions up to 640 × 480 in 16 colors, although you can increase the colors to 256 by lowering the resolution to 320 × 200. This is called the 13h mode and is commonly used when you start your computer in safe mode. Mode 13h was often used for video games in the late 1980s.

VGA is capable of transmitting RBGHV video signals that include red, blue, green, horizontal, and vertical synchronization. A blue iconic adapter is supplied with a screw on both sides to ensure a connection. The socket consists of 15 pins arranged in three to five rows.

Since then, digital connections such as HDMI and DVI have surpassed it, but are still popular due to the recovery and inclusion of retro games in cheaper displays and monitors.

RCA cables

RCA cable
Photo credit: William Krapp /Flickr

The RCA cable is one of the most visually recognizable video cables. The red, white and yellow plugs are synonymous with audio / visual equipment manufactured in the 1990s and early 2000s. It was also the primary connection for many game consoles, including the Nintendo Wii. Most TVs no longer support RCA inputs, but there are still many Ways to Connect a Nintendo Wii to Your TV






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The name does not refer to the technology itself, but to the company that popularizes it, Radio Corporation of America. The red and white connectors provide audio, while the yellow provides single-channel composite video.

When used together, these three cables transmit stereo sound with video up to 480i or 576i resolution. Like VGA, the popular RCA cable has been replaced by digital DVI and HDMI connections.

DVI cables

DVI Video Cable

The digital visual interface, or DVI, was launched in 1999 by a digital display team as the successor to the VGA cable. DVI connections can send uncompressed digital video in one of three different modes:

  • DVI-I (integrated) combine digital and analog on the same connector.
  • DVI-D (digital) only supports digital signals.
  • DVI-A (analog) only supports analog.

DVI-I and DVI-D can be in single or double link varieties. One link can support 1920 × 1200 at 60 Hz, while adding another digital transmitter for dual link, the resolution can be increased to 2560 × 1600 at 60 Hz.

To prevent forced obsolescence of VGA devices, DVI was developed to support analog connections using DVI-A mode. This meant that DVI connections and devices could be backward compatible with VGA connections.

HDMI cables

HDMI Cable
Image Credit: Lord_Ghost /depositphotos

The most popular digital video connection is the high-definition input, also known as HDMI. This patented interface was created by a group of electronics companies, including Sony, Sanyo and Toshiba. HDMI connections transfer uncompressed video and audio to computer monitors, televisions, and DVD or Blu-ray players.

There have been several iterations in the HDMI standard to account for technological advances. The latest is HDMI 2.1, launched in 2017. In addition to other technical changes, this update improved support for 4K and 8K resolution and increased HDMI bandwidth by up to 48 Gbit / s.

The important thing is that the HDMI cables are backward compatible, so you can use a cable that includes the latest features from older devices. The opposite is true, meaning you can use an older cable on devices made to the HDMI 2.1 standard. This is useful because the HDMI forum previously stated that no HDMI cable or device can show to which standard they are made, making it impossible to configure the installation.

HDMI uses the same video format standards as DVI, so the two are compatible with an adapter. Since signal conversion is not necessary, the quality is also not degraded. Although DVI does not support audio, unlike HDMI.

There are three commonly used HDMI connectors. Type A is a full-size HDMI connection for use in televisions and home theater equipment. The mini-HDMI type (type C) is often used in laptops, while the micro-HDMI type (type D) is mostly used in mobile devices.

DisplayPort connectivity

DisplayPort cable
Photo credit: Davis Mosans /Flickr

DisplayPort is a digital display interface developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). DisplayPort can transfer digital video and audio, making it functionally similar to HDMI. As of DisplayPort 2.0, these connections support resolutions of up to 8 kb, HDR (High Dynamic Range) with higher resolutions, and better support for multi-monitor configurations.

However, HDMI and DisplayPort are designed for different markets. Although HDMI is primarily for home entertainment, DisplayPort is designed to connect computer devices to monitors.

Because of their similar functions, it is possible to connect DisplayPort and HDMI devices using a dual-format DisplayPort adapter. DisplayPort works with packet data, most commonly over Ethernet and USB connections. Thus, which makes it ideal for use in information technology instead of home entertainment.

Thunderbolt Interfaces

Thunderbolt 3 cable
Photo Credit: Tony Webster /Flickr

Thunderbolt is an interface commonly found on Apple computers, iMacs, and MacBooks. Intel, with the support of Apple, developed the standard as a way to connect peripherals to a computer.

The connection debuted with the release of the 2011 version of the MacBook Pro and is still common on enterprise hardware. If you own an Apple computer, you might want to check it out the best Thunderbolt accessories for your Mac






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. Like other video connections, Thunderbolt cables integrate other technologies into one device.

The interface combines PCI Express and DisplayPort, while providing DC power, allowing up to six device connections with a single cable. To complicate matters, Thunderbolt and Type-C-USB overlap. Thunderbolt specifications have been integrated into USB standards over the years.

With the introduction of Thunderbolt 3, all Thunderbolt cables have the same connector as Type C USB cables. This means you can use a cheaper USB-C cable with Thunderbolt ports and devices. However, performance is limited because USB-C cables do not support the same data transfer rates or power.

The right video cable for your needs

As new technology hits the market, manufacturers will compete to make their version a global standard. That is why there are so many types of video cable connections that are still in use.

However, standardization is possible. In the mid-2000s, each cell phone had its own charger. Today, it is almost guaranteed that your smartphone will charge via the micro-USB or USB-C connector.

The same is true for video standards, where HDMI has become the most common connection. If you need a new cable, consider one of the following the best HDMI cables for smart TVs and monitors






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