S-video, S video, or separate video (as well as Y/C) is a signaling standard or protocol for standard definition (SD) video—as opposed to high definition (HD) video. It separates coloring and black-&-white signals to achieve superior SD image quality versus composite video. However, it has lower color resolution than component video and pixel resolution than HDMI video. It’s the premier format of the analog era of magnetic tapes and VCR players as well as Nintendo Entertainment System or Sega Genesis game consoles.
Meanwhile, High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) produces HD video like Digital Video Interface (DVI) and DisplayPort (DP). However, HDMI is more ubiquitous than either, plus DVI doesn’t even stream audio. It’s HD or completely uncompressed video data plus uncompressed or compressed digital audio data on any device that’s HDMI-compliant. It replaces analog video standards for AV connections, which includes S video.
Here’s the deal with s video vs HDMI. Almost everything about them is different, like night and day. Sure they both carry video, but S Video is SD video while HDMI is HD video.
The Differences Are Like Night and Day
- A More In-Depth Look at HDMI: Even though both S video and HDMI carry video, S video doesn’t carry audio. HDMI can carry both audio and video in high definition (the sound can still come out as compressed depending on what’s being transmitted). The format uses EIA/CEA-861 standards, which transports VESA EDID implementations, auxiliary data, and uncompressed or compressed LPCM audio on top of defining waveforms and video formats. HDMI-carried CEA-861 signals are compatible in an electric sense with the same CEA-861 signals provided by the DVI format.
- A More In-Depth Look at S Video: S video is a baseband video system that’s analog. When compared to digital signals, analog has more attenuation, more compression required, smaller resolution possible, and less clarity of picture overall. The old phono composite baseband connector is inferior to S video with the way it delivered chromo and luminance on different pins of its connector. This makes the format an excellent choice as an AV output to VHS or VCR player sources. DVDs required component video instead of S video for better color element division.
- Technology Marches On Always: The thing about technology is that it keeps marching on. S video was an improvement of the composite baseband connector and then component came along to allow TVs to broadcast DVD video at full 480p resolution at a higher quality analog display unit. Therefore, when not using component video tech and cables, S video connections tended to suffer from washed-out colors, noise, and ghosts due to its limitations when broadcasting DVD-quality video. Then came 720 and 1080 resolutions that analog standards definitely have issues handling. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole at times.
- From Component Video to High Definition Resolution: Analog standards from S video and below have all sorts of issues trying to display a 720p or 720i to 1080p or 1080i video. Component video could still handle them with acceptable quality, but S video and composite were goners against the HD era of media playing and video gaming. The digital standard of DVI, HDMI, and DP was the way forward in order to show uncompressed video fidelity without a slowdown in frame rate or issues with color grading. Converters allow you to play Blu-Ray discs on a standard definition TV, but with degraded visual and audio quality.
- The Rise of HDMI: DVI came about in 1999 but didn’t exactly set the world on fire because something was missing with it in terms of connecting with the consumer market. What’s more, content providers and appliance makers weren’t quick to adapt DVI connections for HD format videos back in the early Turn of the Millennium. HDMI had more going for it when it debuted in 2002 (2003 really, when consumers really paid attention to it), from backup care of VESA to being a big digital pipe that allows multiplexing video and audio bitstreams as long as both streams can support the clocking rate of the format.
- More Potential in HDMI: HDMI came at the right place and time. It had more going for it than DVI since it supports both audio and video streams in one cable with the simplicity of plugging in a USB device. It also catered to content providers with its anti-piracy feature in the form of High-Bandwidth Digital Copy Protection (HDCP) that uses encryption to protect copyright content and requires electronic handshakes between approved HDMI electronics to allow proper HD transmission of data. There’s also the High Definition Multimedia Interface—Consumer Electronics Control that allows one remote to control all HDMI-connected devices.
- Both Consumers and Content Providers Wanted HDMI: HDMI succeeded where DVI failed in taking the reigns from RCA and S video because of timing and because both consumers and content providers were supportive of HDMI. The format protected HD content from digital piracy better than DVI did, allowing for HDMI to be adopted to almost every HDTV out there. This also left the belated DisplayPort in the dust, playing the role of Pepsi to HDMI’s Coca-Cola in 2006. Keeping pirates from copying a perfect bitstream sealed the deal for manufacturers, and consumers simply loved HDMI’s ease of use and ubiquitous availability.
- The Continued Phasing Out of Analogy Systems: Component and S video inputs remain common in video devices from the 1980s to early 2000s, such that even the Nintendo Wii depends on RCA composite or component video cables to connect to a standard TV or an HDTV with the help of an adapter. So which is the better connection to use? Simply put, use the connection that makes sense. For legacy systems with legacy inputs, it doesn’t make sense to use HDMI cables or HDTVs even with converters because there will be loss in quality regardless.
HDMI simply does digital uncompressed video better at huge resolution leaps that when shown in modern computers make SD video look like postage stamps blown up in size in comparison to the detail and quality of a 1080p to 4K to even 8K video. S video is an older analog format that was good for its time but is now obsolete in light of newer formats. At best, it’s a legacy format you can get the right converter for in order to connect S video VCRs to HDTVs or Blu-Ray players to old-timey TVs with an S video port for its AV connection.