DVI vs. VGA vs. Displayport vs. HDMI

Which is Best for Your Display Needs? DVI vs. VGA vs. Displayport vs. HDMI

At present, there are 4 major video interfaces controlled by 3 standards groups that have their respective pros and cons. With that said, which one should you choose among the 4? Should you go for HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, or VGA? Which connection makes the most sense when it comes to DVI vs VGA vs Displayport vs HDMI? As a rule of thumb, the best connection is HDMI since it’s the latest standard among modern TVs, with you downgrading to other connections depending on what device you’re using, like a CRT monitor for a 1990s computer or something.

Also, before learning the pros and cons of each video interface, it’s important to remember that except for VGA, all the connections are digital. The quality of these digital connections shouldn’t vary much, only the pixel resolution. Without further ado, here are the differences you should take note of in chart form.

Comparison Chart

Major A/V InterfacesDigital Video Interface (DVI)Video Graphics Array (VGA)Displayport (DP)High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)
Standards GroupDigital Display Work Group (DDWG)Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA)Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA)HDMI Licensing, LLC (Consortium of Consumer Electronics Manufacturers)
Maximum Channels6 (Dual Link)N/A88
Maximum ResolutionQXGA (2048 x 1536)800 x 6001080pHDTV 720p and 1080p
Analog/Digital CombinationDVI-I (24 + 4 PIN) Yes
NoNoNo
Digital/AudioNo (unless it's connected to the HDMI adapter) NoYesYes
Features+ For single phase use only

+Mainly has graphics card connections

+ It's becoming obsolete
+ The only analog videos standard of the bunch

+ For computer use

+ Only carries video signal

+ Has remained in the market for many years
+ Can connect to a monitor or computer

+ Use it as updated or up-to-date

+ Multiple displays can be run with it through one monitor
+ A digital video standard cable

+ Used in media players and TV sets

+ Can carry both audio and video signals

+ Recently came into the market

What Is Digital Video Interface or DVI?

DVI is basically the same as HDMI as far as the video signal is concerned. Maybe HDMI 2.0 is capable of displaying video at maximum 4K settings, but then again the HDMI 1.x series is basically the same as DVI as far as certain outputs are concerned, particularly resolutions ranging from 1920 x 1200 and below, with DVI capable of a max resolution of QXGA 2048 x 1536. In a pinch, you can go the DVI route if you don’t have HDMI and get the literal same video signal for the most common resolutions.

DVI cable
Image credit: By Rakesh Chinnoe
  • Analog/Digital Combination and So Forth: DVI is the only video connection format that can do both analog and digital connections via its DVI-I (24 + 4 PIN). It also has 6 maximum channels (dual-link) versus the 8 channels of DP and HDMI. The cable notably has a high 144 Hz refresh rate, which many PC gamers approve of. It’s a good HDMI alternative that has a comparably high-quality output when push comes to shove.
  • Depends on the Equipment: That maximum resolution potential of DVI—the aforementioned QXGA 2048 x 1536—is dependent on the equipment. Some hardware (such as single-link) and cables are only capable of going the 1920 x 1200 resolution, which in fairness is delivered the same across the board, even when using HDMI and DP. There are others that can do much more (like in the case with dual-link) in order to achieve HD 2560 x 1600 resolution and 60 FPS integrity when push comes to shove.
  • DVI Doesn’t Do Audio Usually: It varies from one piece of DVI equipment to another, but usually, DVI doesn’t do audio with only a few exceptions, making it more comparable to VGA than DP and HDMI in the digital/audio front. Indeed, the only major difference between HDMI and DVI is the audio aspect. In order to get DVI to produce the audio is by connecting it to the HDMI adapter. With DVI, because computer monitors don’t have speakers (they’re separate components), it isn’t an issue.
  • DVI Is Becoming Obsolete: With the release of HDMI and DP that can both do digital/audio, DVI is getting obsolete. Computers are now opting to use HDMI and DP instead of DVI for their high definition, the high-resolution connection needs to various computer monitors even though the audio component is moot with PCs and laptops. Even with today’s graphics cards, the port for DVI still remains available, but it might soon go the way of the floppy disk drive, with it being conquered by the A/V interface version of the USB port (i.e., HDMI).

What Is Video Graphics Array or VGA?

VGA is a format remembered fondly by old-school computer users. It was the standard for quite a long time. It’s no longer as common before as in the 20th Century to early 21st Century. The format has remained in the market for many years for good reason. It’s dependable, it was the universal cable connection, particularly when connecting your old-school PC tower to your CRT television monitor so that it can double as a monitor for it. It most certainly isn’t the standard followed by televisions currently. However, it’s still the analog connection of choice for old equipment and retro gamers.

vga cable
Image credit: By Paul Bulmer
  • The Analog Grandfather of A/V Interfaces: Video graphics array is the grandfather of them all as far as audio/visual interfaces are concerned. It only provides a video signal, so you need a separate audio cable for sound. It’s an analog signal cable that’s seen on TVs very rarely but is more commonly seen in use for old projectors when you’re performing slideshow presentations at the office or projecting a movie over the big screen. It has remained on the market for so long that most modern electronics come with a VGA port.
  • Avoid for Use in Modern Televisions: If you can help it and you have other A/V cables available, don’t use VGA. It’s mainly used to connect a desktop to a computer monitor, particularly those back in the 1980s and 1990s when personal computers really started taking off. Even though even now it’s capable of fairly decent frame rates and high resolutions, it still uses an analog signal. Digital signals will always beat analog signals every time. You won’t get a pixel-perfect image on today’s LCD monitors when using it, so use DVI or HDMI instead.
  • The Only Option for Legacy Systems: Nowadays, DP and HDMI are more widely used while VGA is still hanging there and DVI is on its way out to becoming the HD-DVD to HDMI’s Blu-Ray format. However, VGA remains the only option you have when dealing with legacy systems such as old computers, old TVs, old electronics, and old projectors. Older laptops also contain VGA ports for good measure. Modern computer monitors, flatscreen TVs, and the like go the DisplayPort and HDMI routes.

What Is DisplayPort or DP?

DisplayPort or DP is a computer connection format and updates to VGA format by the Video Electronics Standards Association or VESA that serves as their answer to HDMI and DVI. Like HDMI and DVI with an HDMI adaptor, it can carry audio. It’s not as common as HDMI because there’s only one type of TV that carries DP. This is why it’s mostly for computer use. It’s a high-definition A/V format that can achieve maximum video resolution of 1080p. While HDMI conquered the television and media player front, DP has made headway in the computer display front.

displayport cable

  • Hardware Needed for Highest Resolution Capabilities: In order to achieve DP’s highest resolution capabilities of 3840 x 2160 at 60 FPS, you need to have installed the Multi-Stream Transport feature and at least the DisplayPort 1.2 included. If you wish to connect your computer with a monitor using DP cables, there’s no reason not to use them because they are ports available to them for many computers (versus only one TV supporting them)
  • Priced and Valued The Same as HDMI: HDMI and DP cables are roughly priced the same. Furthermore, the DisplayPort format is a good choice if you wish to connect your PC or laptop to another monitor. By using this cable, you can achieve high-quality results. Notably, you can achieve a 144 Hz refresh rate (same as DVI) at 1080p or HD resolution through DisplayPort 1.2 hardware. When you upgrade to DisplayPort 1.3 to 1.4, you can even get better results out of your DP cable.
  • Simultaneous Multiple Monitors Usage: Another notable thing about DP is that it allows you to use multiple monitors at the same time. It’s particularly beneficial for graphic designers, video editors, and hardcore gamers alike. You can use different hubs or displays for the sake of supporting daily chaining. By upgrading to DP 1.3, you can view two different displays featuring 4K at 60 Hz each from one DP cable
  • HD 4K and 8K Settings:  The newest graphics cards of AMD and NVIDIA feature an upgraded DP 1.4 that gives the format the ability to handle 8K at a 60 Hz refresh rate and 4K at 120 Hz refresh rate. However, this upgrade cable presents you with the main challenge of finding a suitable monitor that’s compatible with these new graphics cards. It’s like having nitrogen fuel car in a nation lacking of nitrogen gas fuel. Most monitors and TVs are compatible with HDMI 2.0 anyway.

What Is High Definition Multimedia Interface or HDMI?

All modern 21st Century televisions and computer monitors come with HDMI connections. They’re easy to use, the cables themselves are cheap to buy, and the connection carries audio instead of you need to have a separate connection for it. The audio component is the best thing about HDMI. It’s one of many reasons why it should be your first choice when plugging your computer or your television since it saves you a lot of hassle and extra cables or connections.

hdmi port cable
Image Credit: By Odo Cervantes
  • Limitations of HDMI 1.x: HDMI is ubiquitous and universal for sure. However, it’s not always the perfect choice for your television or computer needs. For instance, many TVs might feature HDMI 1.4 connections more often than not, which means your TV could max out at 30 frames per second and a 3820 x 2160 resolution. You’re also limited to 30 fps with a new 4K monitor. If you want to go higher, you need an upgrade.
  • The Dawn of HDMI 2.0: In light of HDMI limitations in terms of allowable frame rate per given resolution, there now exists an HDMI variant known as HDMI 2.0 that allows you to do 4K over HDMI at 60 frames per second. When dealing with such high resolution, high frame rate content such as 3D HD games or the latest Blu-Ray releases with maximum possible resolution and frame rate, you might need a new TV and hardware to allow for such high spec graphics.
  • HDMI versus Other Digital Connections: Aside from VGA, HDMI displays of 1920 x 1080 over 60FPS will look the same when displayed on DisplayPort and DVI as long as every other variable or setting is equal. The cables won’t make a discernible difference in terms of the quality of the picture if they’re all digital connections at certain resolutions and settings. You might have issues dealing with 4K settings but that just means you need to upgrade to HDMI 2.0 or something.
  • All HDMI Cables Are The Same: Like with how USB from different brands have the same output so too do HDMI cables. Therefore, for most cases, HDMI of any brand is fine. For high resolution and frame rate applications, the other options might be better or an HDMI upgrade might be called for. All setting configurations lower than 4K are displayed the same way with DVI and DisplayPort.

In Conclusion

As of the 2010s, HDMI is the most common connector among televisions, particularly the flatscreen variety. However, you have the options of going old-school VGA, DVI, DP, and HDMI if you wish to connect your computer to your TV. You can also connect your new computer monitor to your desktop PC with these 4 A/V connection cable options.

Everyone has their own respective benefits and detriments, so perhaps the best cable for your display usually is the one it came with (which is probably HDMI anyway). However, in a pinch, you can substitute one over the other depending on your needs. Just be aware that only DP and HDMI are digital/audio connections.

References:

  1. HDMI vs. DisplayPort vs. DVI vs. VGA: Which connection to choose?
  2. DisplayPort vs HDMI vs DVI vs VGA
  3. HDMI vs DisplayPort vs DVI vs VGA: Quick Comparison

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