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!

  • Anonymous

    thanks for that information,
    Good Bless you.

  • Simeon

    I am very glad thet can to read for HDMI.thanks

  • Simeon

    HDMI cable 10 meters long,will bi good for transoport(audi and video) from my PS to my TV?

  • Hi Simeon,
    Yes … the nice thing about HDMI is that it can be almost any length, and the signal won’t degrade, since it’s a digital cable. You can also purchase inexpensive HDMI cables and get exactly the same quality signal as you would with an overpriced cable.

    Good luck!

  • foam

    where are these ports present are they on laptops or the television

  • Abhishek Koli


    I have an acer s3-391 laptop with an HDMI Port (output). I need to connect it to a projector which has a VGA (input).

    I understand that the Laptop (HDMI port) would send a digital signal output whereas the projector (VGA Port) is compatible to receive analog signal.

    Is there some connector or adapter that can be used to switch the signal from digital to analog?

  • reviversoft

    Hi Abhishek,
    Yes, there are many HDMI out to VGA in convertors out there. Be aware that you may run into digital rights management issues if the HDMI signal carries them. Good luck!

  • reviversoft

    Ports can be found on any device. Which devices are you asking about specifically?

  • Davide De Vellis

    Hi Gerard,

    You can purchase an adpater to convert your VGA output into HDMI to be able to then plug into your TV. The other problem you will likely face is that since your PC is older there will be compatibility issues. VGA is an analog signal where HDMI is digital. You’re graphics card would need to be able to send Digital signal which is unlikely in an older computer. You can buy a converter but then you really need to consider if it’s worth the time and effort.

  • fred p

    Thanks Steve for such a good and short explanation! It’s quite clear.
    I have a tv with both vga and hdmi connections, and only vga on my pc. Exit vga! I can throw it away! (for now, what the need for?)
    Thanks again,

  • Kath

    I tried and failed to persuade my old monitor to accept a VGA to DVI converter, tried three different ones but no go. So cannot use the graphics card in the newer computer, have to use the inbuilt graphics connection at the mo which isn’t much good. New monitor definitely required.

  • Satyannarayana Yedla

    Thank you for info.

  • Ebbe Hansen

    There is a fourth standard, DisplayPort. It would be nice if you added this to your article.

  • HDMI is the most common connector. But if you want to connect a computer to your TV (or you’ve got a new computer monitor), the options tend to be HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, and sometimes old-school VGA.

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