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A Brief Introduction to Video Cables and Ports: HDMI, DVI and D-Sub

November 30, 2020 No Comments

Featured article by Calvin Paige, Independent Technology Author

As of now, there are so many different types of cables and connectors, that it’s downright confusing to say the least! For example, USB, or Universal Serial Bus, was originally designed to be the simplifying factor – a universal connector/port for all accessories. As the tech grew in power and capabilities, newer versions kept popping up every few years. As of now, there are so many variants of the USB cables and ports that it is nothing short of overwhelming for someone not quite used to the jargon of modern connectivity.

The same applies to audio/video cables as well, although the situation is not as complex, and it can be understood with a bit of close observation. We are going to make things even easier for you by explaining the various video cables and ports that are active today.

D-Sub Cables and Ports

Often known as the Video Graphics Array, or the VGA port/cable, IBM’s D-sub cables/ports were the first connectors that were typically used to connect a monitor to a desktop computer, or a laptop to an external monitor. Even though D-subminiature cables and ports have since been surpassed by everything that came after (DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort), and these ports are generally not present on most modern monitors, the technology is still in use.

The prime reason why VGA is still used has a lot to do with the minimal needs which micro displays such as those found on smartwatches and Raspberry Pi projects have. They offer a cost-effective option to connect small circuit boards to small displays. If you need a DB-9, DB-25, DE-15 or any other variant of the VGA cables for your own project, you will find a huge selection of D-sub cables on the Octopart website.

DVI Cables and Ports

It’s not exactly obsolete of course, but unfortunately, VGA has more utility now than DVI technology, because it’s less power hungry and there are portable, ultra-small variants of D-sub cables and ports. Despite being many times more powerful and capable than VGA, even dual-link DVI is limited to 2560 x 1600 resolution, at just a 60Hz refresh rate. In light of modern displays that come at 4K resolutions with refresh rates as high as 120Hz or more, dual-link DVI is now obsolete for the most part, largely due to the presence of HDMI versions.

HDMI Cables and Ports

When it comes to high-end gaming, streaming and entertainment in general, HDMI cables and interfaces are, by far, the ruling standard. There was a time when the earliest HMDI versions were not able to even match Dial-Link DVI in terms of high resolution/refresh rate support. That, however, changed a long time ago, and HDMI managed to surpass DVI in every possible way, with every software update. It wasn’t until the latest generation of HDMI version 2.1 came out, that even a cable change was necessary! With new HDMI 2.1 cables, it is possible to play up to 10K resolution video content on a supported display! More realistically and relevantly, HDMI 2.1 supports 4K resolutions at 120Hz and 8K resolutions at 60Hz.

Even though DisplayPort was supposed to be the new frontier, it has for the moment, lost popularity. Nevertheless, the latest version (V2.0) can support resolutions as high as 16K @ 60Hz, which is inconceivable for one display, but will appeal to those who want to run three 4K monitors at 90Hz, or two 8K TVs at 120Hz!

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