HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, and DVI
If you don’t know which cable to use for your new high-end gaming monitor, then this is the guide for you.
We live in a world of multimedia. And every six months or so, we are introduced to more and more devices that support audiovisual output in a progressively efficient way. With these many technologies and devices comes that many connections and with these, comes the concept of topologies and data transfer.
Whether you are a pro gamer, or you own an LCD monitor for entertainment purposes, the quality and efficiency of your setup depend on how much you know about the inner functioning of it. And if there is one thing that matters in ALL formats of audiovisual setups, it’s ‘transmission’ – transmission from the source to a display unit (and back) and transmission from the display to the user. And if you want this transmission process to be quick and high quality, you need to be updated with the latest methods of connection and what kind of firepower they offer.
In this article, we will be covering the most common types of connections – HDMI, DVI, VGA, Thunderbolt, and Displayport, so you can understand which cable does what and how to use them for maximum efficiency.
If you are connecting to a TV display and your primary goal is to watch media in HD, HDMI is the best way to go. If you are a hardcore gamer, or you find yourself on a PC all day, DisplayPort will be a good thing to use as it has become immensely supported nowadays because of its popularity. They have also included various things in Displayport that makes a PC experience as ‘snappy’ and quality oriented as it can be. Both VGI and DVI on the other hand, remain good monitor connections till this day, but if a comparison has to be done, then DVI wins by giving us more image quality potential. VGI is something that has almost been completely replaced by other options. So at the end of the day, Displayport and HDMI cover everything from speed and data protection to image quality and consistency and remain the best of this list.
What is HDMI and what can it do?
Developed in 2002 as a way to transfer both audio and video streams from a source to a displaying technology (a TV, a projector, etc.), today almost all TVs and computer monitors support an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connection, and for good reason. HDMI shoots both digital audio and video down a single cable and in doing that, is a very efficient and hassle-free video connector. If you plan to plug your computer system to a TV, an HDMI cable will be your ideal choice. On top of that, these cables are cheap and sturdy.
High-Definition Multimedia Interface covers a wide array of electronic products today, from laptops and desktops to TVs, mobile devices, HD cable boxes, the Chromecast dongle and much more. Easy to use, efficient, cheap and durable, HDMI is easily the most popular connector among electronic consumers.
HDMI cable Connectors
HDMI has five connector types (A, B, C, D, E), all of which follow a 19-conductor cable and connector format except for Type B which is a 29-pin version. Type A is the standard connector used in gaming consoles (like the Xbox)and other audio/video connection applications. Type B hasn’t been used by any products yet. Type C is specifically designed for use with portable equipment, Type D is for compact devices such as cell phones, and Type E is designed to be used for automotive applications. Out of these, types A and B are defined in HDMI 1.0 specification, C is in the HDMI 1.3, and types D and E are of HDMI 1.4 specification.
Different HDMI Cables
Standard HDMI Cable
Having a capability of transmitting up to 1080i and 720p videos along with surround sound audio, first off we have your standard HDMI cables. These are designed for home theater applications and LED/LCD TVs.
Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet
These cables also transmit up to 1080i and 720p videos along with surround sound audio. They also provide you with a dedicated Ethernet channel. This dedicated channel is used to establish an Internet connection between devices. So we have media streaming and internet facility with these cables.
Automotive HDMI Cable
Automotive HDMI cables are specifically designed to be more durable, robust, and they have a better outer insulation to prevent pinching. Other than that, the features and connectivity are same as that of a standard HDMI cables.
High-Speed HDMI Cable
High-speed cables have a capability of streaming multimedia at 1080p, 4K monitors (UltraHD at 2160p), 3D and deep color. These cables are made to carry more intensive signals. However, the signals can degrade over a long distance. So not all ‘high-speed HDMI cables’ in the market work the same way. When buying a high-speed cable, go for a good brand to avoid quality issues.
High-Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet
These cables have the same specifications as high-speed HDMI, with the addition of an Ethernet channel that allows internet connectivity.
As signals can degrade over distances during transmission, extenders for HDMI are a good idea to invest in when we are talking about a distance that’s longer than 15 meters. Extenders convert HDMI cables to Cat 5/Cat six cables, allowing signal amplification. Runs of up to 250 meters can be made using these.
There are also extenders for HDMI that work over optical fiber lines. These provide us with a longer run of 300 meters.
What is HDMI 2.0 ?
HDMI v1.4 had been the standard for consumer electronics companies for a long time, but it is changing with the HDMI 2.0. It had to be developed keeping in mind the changes in gaming and graphics standards, especially with the developments in the 4K resolution. The HDMI 2.0 succeeds its predecessor (HDMI 1.4 that enabled 3820 X 2160p up to 30fps) by enabling a data transfer rate of up to 18 Gbit/s (2.25 GB/s). HDMI also supports 4K (3820 X 2160p) up to a frame rate of 60FPS. This is compensated by up to 32 channels of uncompressed multichannel digital audio passing through the same cable.
HDMI 2.0 has the capability to support dual streams so that you can watch two HD streams on one monitor at the same time. Additionally, there is also support for a 21:9 aspect ratio in the HDMI 2.0, so no matter how big or high-definition your display has – there will be no issues with the HDMI connection.
The first thing to understand with the development of HDMI 2.0 is that if you have the HDMI 1.4 cables, you need not throw them away. HDMI 2.0 is a hardware change, and the same high-speed cables that you had before will be able to carry the increased bandwidth just fine. The HDMI 2.0 doesn’t only support a higher frame rate, but is also ‘backward-compatible.’
· The HDMI has a ubiquity among a lot of devices around the world
· Multi-channel audio support
· Ethernet support
· Cables are very affordable and durable
· Wide video format support and great color depth coverage
What is DVI ?
Digital Visual Interface, or DVI, supports both analog and digital transmission, and it became the standard format for display connections around 1999. The video signal over a Digital video interface format is basically the same as an HDMI, with the difference being of that in formats. However, HDMI has effectively replaced DVI with advancements and supports for higher bandwidths. DVI was designed to deliver uncompressed digital video, and a DVI cable is the most common cable you will see in LCD screens and desktops. A typical DVI connector would have up to 24 pins and supports HD (up to 1920×1200p) video. With a ‘dual-link DVI connector’ however, you can raise the bar and get it up to 2560×1600p.
Another feature of the DVI is that you can configure it to different modes to support analog, digital or both. These modes are called DVI-D (digital only), DVI-A (analog only), and DVI-I (digital and analog).
What is DVI-D ?
The DVI-D connector can be found on a graphics card, and it sends out a digital signal only. It has pins on it that are for an HDMI-compatible digital video signal.
What is DVI-A ?
This type of connector has pins only for analog signal supporter and hence is one of the less popular DVI connectors.
What is DVI-I ?
The DVI-I adds pins on a connector that is similar to the DVI-D, so that it can be compatible with VGA analog as well, hence covering both digital and analog signals. This one is the most popular and compatible one as it can carry out digital signals to LCDs and flat screens and analog signals to CRT displays, covering everything.
· With inexpensive passive adapters, it can drive VGI, HDMI, and DVI displays
· Supports both Analog and Digital Transmission
· Connector is bulky
· Does not carry audio/data along with video
What is VGA ?
VGA (Video Graphics Array) is an analog connection that is ‘video-only’ used to be the industry’s standard once upon a time. Rarely seen on Television sets anymore, a VGA port can still be found on older PCs and projectors. Also known as PC-RGB and D-sub 15, the VGA was first introduced in the year 1987, with the IBM’s PS/2 line of computer systems, and it had a long run.
With one foot already out of the door, high-resolution display modes are also achievable with the VGA, but it has its limitations. It can produce displays with a combination of 512-800 pixels wide (in 16 colors) and 256-400 pixels wide (in 256 colors).
You can pass the VGA signal through a converter that will convert the analog signals into digital (audio and video). This converted signal can then be passed through an HDMI cable if you wish to connect to a monitor with HDMI capability. However, as the signal quality and picture sharpness with a VGI is nowhere as close as that of an HDMI or other connections, I would advise you to avoid using the VGA altogether. It is a technology that is about to become extinct with all the technological developments today.
· Old analog format
· Conversion of signals into digital is possible
· The output’s quality is low as compared to the other connection types
What is DisplayPort ?
This display interface was developed by VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association), and it can be used to either carry a video source to a display device or to carry audio and other forms of data as well. Right off the bat, DisplayPort deals in high resolutions, and it has a lot of features. This also makes the devices with Displayport connections, expensive.
While there is connectivity on TVs today in the market, DisplayPort isn’t much of an option for consumer-level HDTV use if you are on a budget. However, if you are planning to buy Panasonic’s top-notch, 4K-capable TV (3840 x 2160p), you can do that for the best video streaming experience a man can get. However, Displayport is most commonly used for connecting your PC to a computer monitor.
Designed to replace VGA and DVI, the DisplayPort is ‘backward compatible’ and you hook up VGA, DVI, and HDMI using different kinds of adapters for the Displayport. The latest version of the Displayport is Displayport 1.4, and it offers support for 8K UHD (7680×4320 pixels) at 60 Hz with 10-bit color and HDR. It has all the necessary software updates and hardware tweaks to handle 8K content and implements a “visually lossless” encoding technique (DSC). Displayport passes digital audio signals as well (just like HDMI does).
Displayport also implements great multi-monitor capabilities that make it an excellent choice for content creators, gamers, and graphics designers. Multitasking becomes much easier with using a Displayport.
Different display port Versions
Approved in 2006, the Displayport 1.0 allowed a maximum data rate of 8.64 Gbit/s over a 2-meter cable. Displayport 1.1 had a few new implementations in it that allowed a longer range with less signal degradation, HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) and DPCP (DisplayPort Content Protection).
Developed by Intel, High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection is a technology that prevents copying of digital audio and video data while it’s been transmitted across connections. Types of connections that use it include DVI, HDMI, Displayport, GVIU (Gigabit Video Interface and Unified) and UDI (Display Interface). DisplayPort Content Protection works in a similar way as well, and both of this help prevent data from being copied while in transit.
What is Displayport 1.2 ?
Approved on 22 December 2009, the Displayport 1.2 featured doubling of the effective bandwidth to 17.28 Gbit/s in the HBR2 mode (High Bit Rate 2). This allowed a greater color depth, higher refresh rates, and resolutions. Support for multiple independent video streams also came into play with the Displayport 1.2. The version 1.2a also included VESA’s adaptive sync, but it was optional.
What is Displayport 1.3 ?
Approved in September 2014, the version 1.3 increased the effective bandwidth to a 32.4 Gbit/s. The new HBR3 (High Bit Rate 3) mode that featured a rate of 8.1 Gbit/s per lane. The bandwidth capability of the Displayport 1.3 is 4K Ultra HD capable (3840×2160p) at 120Hz and 5K (5120×2880p) capable in 60Hz. It can also support 8K UHD (7680×4320p) at 30Hz with 24-bit RGB color. Using a multi-stream data transport, it can support two independent 4K streams for two displays. There is also dual-mode support for DVI and HDMI connections along with HDCP 2.2 content protection. All these were huge selling points for this version.
What is Displayport 1.4 ?
The latest in Displayport versions is the Displayport 1.4, which is the buzz of this year. So far, we know that some of the new features include the DSC 1.2 (Display Stream Compression) support, Forward Error Correction, and extension of maximum inline audio channels to 32. This version has the ability to support an 8K UHD (7680×4320 pixels) stream at 60 Hz with 10-bit color and HDR.
What is DSC ?
The increased pixel counts of high-resolution devices gave birth to a need for data compression as the transportation bandwidth got increased significantly. These increases in bandwidth requirements needed to be handled on existing display links.
Developed by VESA, the Display Stream Compression is a way to transmit data in a ‘virtually lossless’ way. This encoding technique has up to a 3:1 compression ratio and can compress and send data in a way that prevents degradation in quality. The compression is done to make sure there is no data loss between the application processor and the display sub-system inside devices that support UHD (ultra high definition). Interfaces such as the MIPI DSI v1.2, VESA embedded DisplayPort™ (eDP) v1.4a and DisplayPort v1.3 support and used DSC.
What is mDP (Mini Displayport) ?
In 2008, Apple announced the Mini Displayport (also known as MiniDP/mDP), which basically is a miniaturized version of the DP interface for their systems. After 2013, LED cinema displays and Apple Macintosh computer systems have this port.
· 4K support and a great bandwidth
· Multiple video stream support
· Stereoscopic 3D support
· Great multi-monitor capabilities
· 21:9 aspect ratio support
· Adaptive sync support
What is Thunderbolt?
Another modern interface that allows peripherals to be connected to the computer is the Thunderbolt. This hardware interface was developed by Intel, and it has three types. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 both use the same connector as an mDP (Mini Displayport). Thunderbolt 3 however, uses a USB Type-C connector.
The main feature of the Thunderbolt is that it can support up to 6 different peripheral devices, daisy-chaining them through one port (with the use of adequate topologies) and that in a single cable, it combines the Displayport with the PCIe (PCI Express). It also provides DC power to the same cable.
Thunderbolt 1 and 2 have the same physical bandwidth. However, the Thunderbolt 2 allows Displayport 1.2 support and a 4K transmission on one monitor. The two separate transmission channels that had a 10 Gbit/s rate can also be mashed into one channel with a rate of 20 Gbit/s here.
The latest in the Thunderbolt series is the Intel-developed Thunderbolt 3 that doubles the bandwidth to a stunning 40 Gbit/s and is capable of driving two 4K displays simultaneously at 60Hz. It also cuts down the power consumption by half and uses a USB Type-C Monitors.
· High bandwidth (up to 40 Gbit/s with the latest version)
· Connectivity of up to 6 peripherals simultaneously
· Low power consumption