DisplayPort vs HDMI vs VGA vs DVI – The Only Explanation You’ll Need

To sum everything up, VGA and DVI ports are very old and have become obsolete. If you need to send a signal to a modern display then you will need to use DisplayPort or HDMI connectors. HDMI is the most common standard that is used around the world. You can get DisplayPort connectors on monitors but not on TVs.

HDMI 1.4 is the most common and you will need to use it if you are interested in gaming at 1080p or 1440p. It can support higher refresh rates at both resolutions but if you are interested in gaming at 4K 60 FPS then you will need to go with HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort. You will also need HDMI 2.0 or better if you are interested in taking advantage of HDR.

HDMI 2.0 does not depend on the cable but on the output and input devices. If both your display and graphics card support the feature then all you need to do is turn the feature on. You do not need to change the cable.

USB Type-C is the best connector for laptops because you can do a lot of things with a single connector. It can not only transfer data, it can also transmit audio, video, internet and power. Thunderbolt 3 compatible USB Type-C ports allow you to connect an external graphics card to your laptop in order to get better performance when gaming.
DisplayPort vs HDMI

We all know that in order to connect your PC or laptop to a display you need some kind of wire but the different types of standards can be a bit confusing even for people that are tech savvy.

If you are interested in getting a new display and are looking into the input connections or just need to learn about the different display input or output types then you have come to the right place as here, we are going to look and talk about HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI and VGA connections.

When You are Going to Connect Your Computer to a TV or Monitor – What is the Best Option?

It all comes down to what you are going to be using doing on your computer. Most people will be alright with HDMI as it supports 4K Hz which is ideal for watching movies and the standard also supports 1080p 144Hz which is great for gaming. If you have a high-end PC and like to play games at 4K 60 FPS then you will have an issue with HDMI 1.4 as it does not support 60 FPS at 4K.

You will need to make sure that the standard that you are using is HDMI 2.0 or you could just get a DisplayPort cable instead. With DisplayPort, you have all the features of HDMI 2.0 and much more. If you are interested in learning more about the different features of different standards then be sure to read on.

The major differences are in the features and not in image quality, which is something that you need to keep in mind. A 1080p image will look the same at 60 Hz no matter which cable you are using and which standard you use.

Is DisplayPort better than HDMI?

What is HDMI ?

HDMI is a modern standard and pretty much any display will have an HDMI port whether it is a TV or gaming monitor. There are multiple kinds of HDMI standards in 2019. HDMI 1.4, for example, supports multi-channel audio unlike other options on this list and can also transfer ethernet data. The standard also supports superior color depth. HDMI also supports a wide variety of video formats including up to 4K at 30 Hz.

There are a couple of drawbacks of using HDMI 1.4. There is no locking mechanism to hold the connector in place, unlike DVI and VGA. It is limited to 4K at 30 FPS, so if you are interested in gaming at 4K 60 FPS then you will have to choose a better connector. It also does not officially support 21:9 aspect ratio ultrawide monitors which have become popular in 2019. It also does not support multiple concurrent video streams.

HDMI 2.0 is a newer standard which gets rid of most of the issues that we have stated here but there is still no locking mechanism to hold the connector in place. It is worth mentioning that this is the most popular standard that is used all over the world. HDMI connectors are available in different sizes. A full-size HDMI connector is called Type A, there is a mini version that is called Type and there is an even smaller micro version called Type D that can be used with smartphones or tablets.

You might think that you need a new cable to switch from HDMI 1.4 to 2.0 but that is not the case. The change is in the output device and the input device rather than the cable. This means that your graphics card and display need to support HDMI 2.0 and that you do not need to change the cable.

hdmi cable
HDMI Cable

What is DisplayPort?

Unlike HDMI DisplayPort does have a locking connector. It can be converted to any other standard that is included on this list, even the outdated VGA standard. DisplayPort 1.2 supports 4K at 60 FPS and multiple video streams. It can transfer audio and network data with video and also supports other data signals. The standard supports stereoscopic 3D and officially supports 21:9 aspect ratio ultrawide monitors as well.

The DisplayPort 1.3 standard makes things even better and supports 8K at 60 Hz, 4K stereoscopic 3D and adaptive sync that removes screen tearing from games. One of the cons is that you can only find these connectors in gaming monitors and not in TVs. DisplayPort 1.4 is a relatively new standard that is being adopted slowly. This standard can support 8K but can also support 4K at 144 Hz.

Keep in mind that 4K 144 Hz monitors are not common and that if you are able to find one then you will have to pay a hefty premium for it. Another thing to keep in mind is that you will need an extremely powerful PC in order to run games at 4K 144 FPS. The top of the line graphics card from Nvidia, the RTX 2080 Ti is marketed to run games at 4K 60 FPS and reducing the in-game settings might give you an extra frame but realistically you are not going to hit 144 FPS at 4K.

Unless some miracle graphics card comes out in the upcoming few months or so that can run games at 4k 144 FPS this is not something that we can recommend. It does mean that DisplayPort 1.4 is a future-proof standard and that if you do choose this connector then you will be using it for a long long time.

DisplayPort cable
DisplayPort Cable

What is DVI?

DVI is actually much better than VGA but is becoming obsolete with each passing day. You have two screws on either side just like what you get with VGA but the connector is physically larger and it is often white. DVI connectors are available in a number of types such as DVI-I and DVI-D. With inexpensive adapters, it can drive not only DVI but HDMI and VGA display as well. A single link DVI link is limited to 1920×1200 resolution at 60 Hz but a dual link connection can support 2560×1600 at 60 Hz which is very impressive indeed compared to what VGA offers you.

There are a couple of drawbacks when using DVI. The connector us bulky and it does not support the modern variety of color spaced and it cannot cover audio. DVI interface has not been able to keep up with other standards and that is why companies like AMD, Nvidia or even Intel have stopped supporting it.

DVI plug
DVI Cable

What is VGA?

The VGA connector is the Blue one that has two screws on either side. This is a very old type of connector and can be used if you need to connect your PC to a projector or older display but that is pretty much all that it can be used for in 2019. This is an analog standard so you will notice signal degradation due to cable length, wire gauge and digital conversion. The maximum resolution on paper is 2048×1536 at 85 Hz but the image is not going to be very sharp.

VGA interface has not been able to keep up with other standards and that is why companies like AMD, Nvidia or even Intel have stopped supporting it.

HDMI and VGA cable connector
VGA Cable

The Difference in image quality

You might have noticed that we have talked about the pros and cons of each standard but have not really mentioned that image quality that each has to offer. The reason behind this is that unless you are a designer of some sort and have specific needs, a digital standard is a digital standard and everything will pretty much look the same at a given resolution unless your cable is faulty.

What about HDR?

HDR or High Dynamic Range is becoming widely available as streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are promoting it for a better viewing experience. HDR enables the user to see a greater range of detail across the light spectrum.

HDR implementation in games is fairly limited and some games have poor HDR implementation but that is fine as this is a relatively new technology and developers will be able to implement it properly with the passage of time. In order to take advantage of this feature, you need a display that supports the feature and you also need HDMI 2.0. You will not have the same experience with HDMI 1.4. This is something that you need to keep in mind.

Remember that the new standard does not depend on the HDMI cable but the output device and the display. If your TV or monitor is HDR enabled and your graphics card supports the feature as well then you do not need to change the cable you just need to turn the feature on.

VGA plug

What about USB Type-C?

When Apple released the 2016 MacBook it removed all the ports in favor of the USB Type-C port. While there was some backlash at the time, 2019 the adoption is much better and not only are other laptop manufacturers offering USB Type-C ports but we also see this port on tablets and smartphones.

USB Type-C is the best connector for laptops because of its versatility. It is fully reversible and offers cross-platform compatibility. Not only can it be used to output video, it can also be used to transfer data, transmit audio power and even internet. You can get all kinds of dongles and connect different devices to your laptop with only a single port. That is very impressive indeed. While you do need dongles for older devices, USB Type-C adoption is on the rise and this might as well become the universal standard in the upcoming years.

USB Type-C cables

Another interesting feature that USB Type-C offers is Thunderbolt 3. This feature allows you to connect an external graphics card to your laptop. While an internal graphics card is always going to be better than an external one it does offer significant gains in performance compared to an integrated graphics solution.

You can connect your laptop to an external enclosure and the same port can not only deliver additional graphics power but it can also give you internet and power as well. That is impressive keeping in mind that only a single port is being used for all these functions at the same time. Thunderbolt 3 can also be used to daisy chain multiple monitors. This means that monitors will be connected with one another but you only need to plug in a single cable to your laptop rather than populating an individual port for every display which might not be possible if you use 3 monitors.

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Alex West

Alex is a gaming enthusiast with over 15 years of experience, especially enjoying competitive video games. When he's not gaming or watching e-sports he likes to write about gaming and hardware.

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