VGA vs DVI vs Displayport vs HDMI Cables compared

When you’re looking at cables, it’s hard to know what’s still in use and what’s obsolete (or soon to be obsolete, at least). And depending on what type of cable that you choose to use, they’re going to have specific capabilities.

Two of the most common cables used in the past are the VGA and DVI cable. And the two most prominent cables today are the HDMI cable and the Displayport. So, it’s only fair that we compare them all to one another.

VGA vs DVI vs Displayport vs HDMI

The difference between these cables is that HDMI and Displayport are still commoly used today – VGA and DVI aren’t, as they cannot carry an audio signal. HDMI and Displayport cables are capable of carrying both.

And even then, there are still some reasons why you may opt for one of these types of cables over the other. It may depend on what ports your computer monitor has.We’re going to have a look at all of them in closer detail, so you know how they’re different and which one you should be using.

VGA

Capabilities: Audio & Video | Maximum Refresh Rate: 70Hz | Invented: 1987 | Signal Type: Analog

The oldest of the lot, the VGA cable has been around for more than three decades. The term VGA stands for Video Graphics Array. Out of the three types of cable, they’re the only one that works by using analog signals. When it receives a signal from your device, it will convert it to analog, and then back again to digital at the other end.

I should probably add that the maximum refresh rate is the stated one when you were going to purchase a cable. Because they transmit an analog signal, hypothetically it could be more than this.

The VGA is not considered to completely dead, but it’s not far off. Most modern monitors being made nowadays won’t come with a VGA port, instead choosing to use the more stable HDMI cable instead.
You can still find monitors with VGA ports, primarily to work with older computers. Some people don’t want to make the switch over, which is why you can still find VGA cables and devices on the market. Plus, it doesn’t cost much to put a VGA port on a monitor.
They’re very easy to identify. They use a 15 pin design, with screws to attach the cable to whichever device you’re using around your home. They only carry video signal, not audio.

DVI

Capabilities: Audio | Maximum Refresh Rate: 144Hz | Invented: 1987 | Signal Type: Digital and/or Analog

DVI cables are pretty hard to explain, because there’s so many different variations of them. This 24-pin cable looks quite similar to a VGA, but it’s considered to be the better choice of the two.

DVI-A: This is the analog signal only version of the DVI, and is not commonly used (although it’s still a better choice than a VGA cable). You’ll lose quality when converting signal to analog and back again.

DVI-D: For transmitting a digital signal, a DVI-D cable is going to be the right choice. You can get this DVI cable in both single link and the better option of a dual link too.

DVI-I: This cable can transmit both a digital and an analog signal if necessary. It’s the most versatile of the three different cables.

This is another type of cable that although it’s quite as old as VGA connecting cables, it’s still much less used in comparison to HDMI. You will still find this cable used with computers.
The primary reason for the decline in use of DVI cables is that they can’t transmit audio. There are many different types of DVI cable, and they all greatly vary in terms of their abilities.
If you want to watch things in 4k, then you’ll need to have a dual link DVI cable to do this. However, this will still be at a pretty low refresh rate, so it’s thought to be better to use a Displayport or HDMI cable instead.

Displayport

Capabilities: Audio & Video | Maximum Refresh Rate: 144Hz | Invented: 2006 | Signal Type: Digital

The newest of the three different types of cables, a Displayport connection can be one of the best out there. It works by sending a digital signal, and it’s very commonly used by both gamers and those looking for a multi-monitor setup.

These cables have the ability to carry both audio and video. Displayport 2.0 will bring 4k resolution with 144Hz refresh rate, which should be pretty perfect.

Displayport connector cables are the best option if you’re looking for something to use with your gaming monitor. They give you the maximum resolution possible in relation to 144Hz refresh rate.
Displayport doesn’t support ARC, or an Audio Return Channel, which means that it can’t send audio back along the cable to the source. HDMI has this capability.
Generally, Displayport is one of the better options if you need to link one device to several monitors at the same time. it allows a good resolution transmitted to four monitors and even more than that pretty easily.

HDMI

Capabilities: Audio & Video | Maximum Refresh Rate: 120Hz | Invented: 2003 | Signal Type: Digital

Of the four different connector cables, HDMI is the most commonly used in the modern day and likely going to be the best choice for you in most cases. As you’ve probably noticed, most of our devices have multiple HDMI ports on them for us to use – TVs, laptops, monitors and more.

The HDMI cable has been around for almost two decades, and it’s only got better and better in terms of it’s ability. There are a few reasons why the HDMI cable has become the most popular, and has essentially left other types of cables obsolete.

The main reason that HDMI cables have become the most commonly used type of cable is that they can carry both audio and video signal within one cable. Both DVI and VGA cables aren’t capable of doing this.
A HDMI cable can transmit audio and video, but importantly it can also carry an ethernet connection as well. None of the other cables can do this.
The digital signal that’s carried about the length of a HDMI cable can stay strong even at longer distances. Other cables struggle when the length is more than a few metres.

Conclusion

Overall, it’s really the choice between a HDMI cable and a Displayport connection that is the most difficult one to make. Both VGA and DVI are pretty outdated, and unless you want to use a different cable to carry audio, it’s worth opting for one of the other two.

In most cases, a HDMI connection is probably going to be a good choice. The only exception to this is if you want 144fps or to connect multiple monitors, in which case, a Displayport could be a better option.

About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve. I've worked for the past 8 years in a major furniture retailer in the UK, so I know my way around a desk or two. On the weekends, I spend time with my kids or I'm probably outside in the garden doing something or other!

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