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What’s the Difference Between VGA, HDMI and DVI?

The Difference Between VGA, HDMI and DVIThe Difference Between VGA, HDMI and DVIThe Difference Between VGA, HDMI and DVI
Illustration: Gordon McAlpin

It’s almost certain that the connection between your monitor and your PC is one of three types of cables: VGA, HDMI and DVI. So what’s the difference?

VGA is the oldest standard of the three, having been introduced in 1987. VGA handles video only and not sound, contains no security or digital rights management, and is an analog signal, meaning the quality of the cable, the quality of the pins, and the distance from the PC to the monitor can all have an effect on video quality. If your connector has little thumbscrews next to the cable, and looks like the left graphic, it’s VGA.

HDMI, which first appeared in 2003, is often found on modern televisions, but is also on most newer PC monitors, and is swiftly becoming required hardware on most laptops. HDMI is a digital standard, meaning the connection is either on (1) or off (0). The quality of the cable, the distance from the machine to the monitor and the type of metal in the connector are all virtually irrelevant (so don’t pay a whole lot for your HDMI cable!) HDMI can also handle security, meaning that certain types of signals, such as pay TV, can be blocked from traveling along an HDMI cable. HDMI handles sound as well as video, so a monitor with a headphone jack and an HDMI cable can output sound from your laptop. HDMI looks like the middle graphic.

DVI was invented in 1999 and is similar to both VGA and HDMI. It can be configured for digital, analog, or both; it can handle digital rights management; and it can be converted to both HDMI and VGA through a converter cable or dongle (small converter device). More than likely, your video card has an HDMI and a DVI connector, or one or the other, and will often ship with the required dongle. It does not support sound like HDMI does, and looks like the right picture above.

Now you know the differences between each of these types of cables, and the pluses and minuses of each. Consider yourself educated on video connectors!

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