As technology has progressed, so, too, have the cables we need for our devices. Even though many manufacturers are moving to wireless solutions, you’ll likely always need some form of cable. Video Streaming, video editing, projectors, video wall processors, televisions, monitors, and peripherals need a wide variety of cables and connections to work correctly. So, what are the differences between them all, and which ones do you need?
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular video cable types and when you may want to use each one.
Different display devices support different types of video connectors. You can check the back of a display device to identify its supported video connectors. The video connectors have ports. You can connect a cable to one of these ports, followed by connecting the other end of the cable to a computer. Below are four of the most common video connectors.
Digital Visual Interface (DVI) is a common video connector for display devices. It supports the transmission of high-resolution video data. There are DVI video connectors, for instance, that offer up to 720 x 1080 resolution, and there are DVI-D video connectors that offer up to 2560 x 1600 resolution.
The Digital Visual Interface, or DVI, was launched in 1999 by the Digital Display Working Group as the successor to the VGA cable. DVI connections can transmit uncompressed digital video in one of three different modes:
- DVI-I (Integrated) combines digital and analog in the same connector
- DVI-D (Digital) supports digital signals only
- DVI-A (Analog) supports analog only.
DVI-I and DVI-D can come in single or dual-link varieties. Single-link can support 1920×1200 at 60Hz while adding a second digital transmitter for dual-link means the resolution can be increased to 2560×1600 at 60Hz.
To prevent forced obsolescence of VGA devices, DVI was developed to support analog connections using the DVI-A mode. This meant that DVI connections and devices could be backward-compatible with VGA connections.
You may encounter computer monitors and other display devices with a Video Graphics Array (VGA) connector. VGA connectors have been around since the 1980s. They use an analog method of data transmission. In the past, most computer monitors and display devices featured a VGA video connector. With that said, they’ve since been replaced by newer and more advanced video connectors like DVI.
VGA stands for Video Graphics Array. The connection was developed by IBM in 1987, making it one of the oldest video connections still in use today. It was widely used for video cards, TV sets, computer monitors, and laptops.
VGA can support 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 known as Mode 13h and is commonly used when booting your computer into Safe Mode. Mode 13h was often used for video games in the late 1980s.
VGA is capable of transmitting RBGHV video signals, which includes, Red, Blue, Green, Horizontal Sync, and Vertical Sync. The iconic blue adaptor comes with a screw on either side to secure the connection. The socket consists of 15 pins, arranged in three rows of five.
It has since been surpassed by digital connections like HDMI and DVI but is still popular thanks to the resurgence of retro gaming and its inclusion on cheaper monitors and displays.
There’s also the DisplayPort video connector. DisplayPort is a relatively new type of video connector. Like DVI, it supports the transmission of high-resolution video data. You can use a DisplayPort video connector for a high-resolution display device.
DisplayPort is a digital display interface developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). DisplayPort can carry digital video and audio, making it functionally similar to HDMI. As of DisplayPort 2.0, these connections support resolutions up to 8K, High Dynamic Range (HDR) at higher resolutions, and better support for multi-display configurations.
However, HDMI and DisplayPort were designed for different markets. While HDMI is primarily for home entertainment, DisplayPort was designed for connecting computing devices to monitors.
Due to their similar functionality, it’s possible to connect DisplayPort and HDMI devices together using a Dual-Mode DisplayPort adapter. DisplayPort operates using packet data transmission, most commonly used in Ethernet and USB connections. Thus, making it ideal for use in computing rather than home entertainment.
We can’t talk about common video connectors without mentioning High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI). For new computer monitors and display devices, HDMI is arguably the most common. More newly manufactured computer monitors and display devices feature an HDMI video connector than all other types of video connectors. HDMI goes beyond video transmission by offering audio transmission as well. In other words, you can use a single HDMI cable rather than an audio cable and a video cable.
The most popular digital video connection is the High Definition Media Input, also known as HDMI. This proprietary interface was created by a group of electronics firms, including Sony, Sanyo, and Toshiba. HDMI connections transfer uncompressed video and audio to computer monitors, TVs, and DVD or Blu-ray players.
There have been many iterations of the HDMI standard to accommodate advances in technology. The most recent is HDMI 2.1, which was launched in 2017. Among other technical changes, this update improved support for 4K and 8K resolutions and increased the bandwidth of HDMI up to 48 Gbit/s.
Importantly, HDMI cables are backward compatible, so that you can use a cable with the latest features on older devices. The reverse is also true, meaning you can use an older cable on devices made to the HDMI 2.1 standard. This is useful, as the HDMI Forum previously ruled that no HDMI cables or devices can display which standard they were manufactured to, making it impossible to determine your setup’s configuration.
HDMI uses the same video format standards as DVI, so the two are compatible through the use of an adaptor. As no signal conversion is necessary, there is no loss of quality either. Although, unlike HDMI, DVI does not support audio.
There are three commonly used HDMI connectors. Type A is the full-sized HDMI connection for use on TVs and home theater equipment. Mini-HDMI (Type C) is frequently used on laptops and tablets, while Micro-HDMI (Type D) is mostly used on mobile devices.
Not all display devices feature the same type of video connector. Some of them have a DVI or VGA video connector, whereas others have a DisplayPort or HDMI video connector. With that said, many display devices now feature multiple types of video connectors. If you’re going to buy a display device that doesn’t have a built-in computer — such as a computer monitor — you should check to see what type or types of video connectors it features.