S Video versus Component Which Should You Get

S-Video versus Component: Which Should You Get?

Component video and separate video (S-video) are common video inputs for various devices, mainly televisions and personal computers. Which of them is the better choice though? Which has a better connection to use, at that? To cut to the chase, here’s the deal when it comes to s video vs component. Component video is the better of the two signal formats and it shouldn’t be confused with the composite video that’s represented by the RCA jack that’s yellow-colored. The reason for this is because the component is more compatible with various resolutions and progressive scan signals as well as has the better color resolution.

This is because the composite standard was cobbled together to save early black-and-white TV sets from being made obsolete by color broadcasts and televisions. S video was made with color broadcasts in mind. With that in mind, let this article showcase just how superior component video is to S-video, which was originally devised in order to improve upon the video output of composite video and its white, yellow, and red jacks.

Comparison Chart

Categories S Video Component
Color Definition Lower color resolution than component but better than RCA (missing colors and lower resolution) Higher, richer, and more complete color resolution palette than both RCA and S-video but is outdone by HDMI


Picture Quality The standard definition of 480i or 576i but cannot transmit analog HD signals at all Best quality for standard definition DVDs and resolutions like 1080p, 1080i, 720p, and 480p as well as transmitting analog HD video signals


Color Bleed Some color bleed seen versus virtually no color bleed from composite Clear color bleed or reflections from nearby light sources comparable to HDMI


Graphics Clarity Decent clarity of images and movement for videogame 3D polygonal models on game consoles


Crisper images with clearer edges for videogame 3D polygonal models on game consoles
Tips or Connectors S-video pins can be bent accidentally, making it a hassle to replace Makes use of three composite video cables (colored green, blue, and red) instead so you need to make sure the ends match up the labels


What is S-Video?

s-video cable
Image credit: By Adafruit Industries

Separate video, S video, or S-video (known as Y/C to professionals) was first introduced to consumers for use in S-VHS or Super-VHS videotape recorders.  The composite video was the only baseband video signal type supported on consumer electronics until the arrival of the S-video, which was then outdone by the component video and the HDMI format. Just as component video outdid the S-video dramatically in all aspects, so too did S-video outdo composite video by recording all picture info—which includes horizontal and vertical synchronization, brightness, and color—into a single signal.

With composite cables, a single coaxial cable carries the signals for both brightness and color that’s terminated by a multi-colored RCA jack that also looks like the RCA jack of the component video but with different colors. With S-video, twin cables bundled so compact that you think they’re one cable were involved, separating color and brightness in different wires—termed Y and C, hence its professional moniker—although its tip or connector is one with a single pin that you should be careful not to break.

What Is Component Video?

Component cable
Image Credit: By Abel Alberto

Component video (known to professionals as YPbPr) features an aesthetically similar RCA jack format as composite video, but it has three separate cables and signals to outdo the dual signal setup of S-video in every way possible. This video format is all about color difference and spitting out information a step further than S video. Component video uses three cables instead of the two cables of S video and the one coaxial of composite video. The three cables are Y or Luminance with Sync Pulses, Pr or Red minus Luminance, and Pb or Blue minus Luminance. The component also improves upon

The Y/Pb/Pr component video supports higher resolutions and even analog HD signals, such that your equipment’s full capabilities are in use when displaying videos running at resolutions like 1080p, 1080i, 720p, and 480p. It can even handle nonstandard resolutions as long as your display and source can support them. S-video cables are good enough and component video is a broadcast quality analog cable format that is only inferior to HDMI and its ability to showcase digital HD. It separates info in three ways to vastly improve color definition and resolution to the point of HD picture quality if called for.

The Pros and Cons of S-Video

S video was good for its time but it has become outdated as technology improved and resolutions rose. Y/C or S-video has two wires that carry separate signals for Luminance or Y and Chrominance or C, allowing it to improve resolution and color definition compared to the single-signal composite video format. It was through the S-video that color started to be closer to reality compared to composite video (which never handled color well), only for both to be outdone by the component video cable format.

  • Local Standards for Encoding and Their Differences: Carrying color info in one signal means that the color requires a specific encoding, which varies from one local standard to another. You have SECAM, PAL, or NTSC, which can be a nightmare to translate. What’s more, S video suffers from low color and picture resolution. For instance, NTSC s video has 160 pixels edge-to-edge or 120 lines horizontal versus the 30 lines horizontal for VCRs and the 250 lines horizontal for a DVD’s Rec. 601 encoding.
  • No Need for a Low-Pass Filter and Blurring: S-video maintains Luminance and Chrominance as separate signals so that there’s no need to low-pass filter Luminance to get composite video’s superior color palette. However, in this format, S video’s Chrominance signal has limited bandwidth compared to the superior Chrominance signal of component video and the separation of its signals into Pr and Pb along with Y or its Luminance signal.
  • Limited Color Palette: Although it’s about 35% superior to composite video in all aspects especially color separation and an improved palette, it’s still limited by the modulation on a subcarrier frequency of 3.57-4.45 megahertz depending on the standard it uses (SECAM, PAL, or NTSC). It’s good enough for Betamax and VHS, with chrominance severely constrained, but it limits the potential of DVDs and Blu-Rays.

The Pros and Cons of Component Video

Component videos are known for their broadcast-quality video because of their color separation quality so good that the extracted image is identical to the pre-encoded signal. The color part of Y/C (C for Chrominance) is further separated in the composite video into different cables and frequencies. A filter on luminance is used to get new separate signals that are exclusively for Luminance, Red minus Luminance, and Blue minus Luminance.

  • Low-Pass Filter on Luminance: Composite video separates signals by dulling the image with a low-pass filter on the Luminance signal. This is because the signals coexist on different frequencies, thus the requirement of the filter. You can list down the dulling of the image as a con for component, but the end result of richer colors and, paradoxically, clearer images at various resolution is worth this slight sacrifice.
  • Better Color Definition and Palette: You get the best quality for standard definition DVDs and various resolutions with no color multiplexing because it separates the color-difference signals into Cb/Pb and Cr/Pr while still carrying the same Y or Luminance signal found in S video. It’s able to meet the full potential of DVDs up to a point, but as for HD broadcasts and Blu-ray discs, you have to go HDMI to see their next-level picture quality.
  • No Electronic Multiplexing and Female RCA Connectors: Now that three signals have been separated instead of two, component video is able to achieve better color separation, color bleed, picture quality, and so forth compared to S-video and composite video formats that mix signals together with electronic multiplexing. Furthermore, its female RCA connectors used to output component video is quite handy in setting up DVD players, Blu-ray players, consoles, and flatscreen monitors. It can be connected universally to televisions as well.


In Conclusion

A separate video is a signaling standard that’s inferior to component video because it has lower resolution even though it has superior color and image quality than composite video. S-video works for standard definition video for 480i or 576i. It works by separating black-and-white versus coloring signals to achieve better video but it’s outdone by component video and its three-way signal separation that allows for more colors, better color bleed, and videogame graphics clarity.

The component video features separation of the signals in three cables—one for Pr or Red minus Luminance, one for Pb or Blue minus Luminance, and one for Y or Luminance and sync pulses. Color rendering is better with the component, thus allowing you to use the full capabilities of your equipment when your broadcast-quality video is running in 480p, 720p, 1080i, or 1080p. Only HDMI can outdo component video, which remains one of two industry standards for video formats.


  1. S-Video
  2. YPbPr
  3. S-video vs. Component Video Which is Better?

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