Over the years, the monitor cable types used to connect displays to desktop and laptop PCs have evolved substantially. There have been bandwidth increases, latency reductions, and new features. Modern connections can transfer digital video and audio, whereas older cables can only transmit low-resolution analog video. Some can also handle electricity, while others allow for advanced daisy-chaining of several displays on a single wire.
Here’s a detailed guide to Monitor cable kinds and what they can accomplish, whether you’re trying to buy a new display with a specific connector or want to identify ones on an older screen.
Monitor Cable Types
Monitor cables come in various shapes and sizes, including HDMI, USB, and VGA. Each of these monitor cords has a specific job and is equally necessary for completing the workstation setup.
DP (DisplayPort) is a high-definition digital display protocol that links computers to monitors and PCs to home theaters. Dell, AMD, Samsung, Intel, NVIDIA, HP, Lenovo, Philips, AOC, and other industry titans have all endorsed DisplayPort, which is also free to use. The DP cable is a more powerful variant of the HDMI cable in audio and video transmission.
This cable interface will replace the traditional VGA, DVI, and FPD-Link (LVDS) connections. The cable is backward compatible with HDMI and DVI cables when using active or passive adapters.
DisplayPort is the first display communication interface to use packetized data transport technology in Ethernet, USB, and PCI Express. It can be utilised for both internal and external display connections.
The DisplayPort protocol is built on short data packets called micro texts, which allow timer signals to be incorporated in the data stream, unlike previous standards that required fixed transmission of timer signals inside each differential pair of outputs. The advantage is that a better resolution may get achieved with fewer pins. The usage of datagrams also enables DisplayPort scalability, which implies that extra capacity can be added over time without requiring significant changes to the physical connection interface.
Both audio and video can be transferred using a DP cable, and each can be sent independently of the other. The audio signal path can contain up to eight 24-bit 192 kHz uncompressed PCM audio channels, and the video signal path can have 6 to 16 bits per color channel. Device management and device control data, such as VESAEDID, MCCS, and DPMS standards, are carried on a bi-directional, half-duplex auxiliary channel for the top link. Furthermore, the communication connector may send and receive bi-directional USB signals.
DVI and HDMI signals are incompatible with DisplayPort signals. Dual-mode DisplayPorts, on the other hand, are meant to carry single-link DVI or HDMI 1.2/1.4 protocols across this communication channel, which must be implemented by selecting the desired signal and converting the electrical signal from LVDS to TMDS using an extra passive connector.
DisplayPorts don’t support Dual-mode VGA and dual-link DVI with passive connectors. An active connector is required for these communication ports to convert the correct output protocol and signal. The DisplayPort connector can power the VGA connector; however, the dual-link DVI connector may require an additional power supply.
On the primary link of the DisplayPort connector, there might be one, two, or four differential data pairs (lanes). Raw code speeds of 1.62, 2.7, or 5.4 Gbit/s per lane can be supported with a self-timer running at 162, 270, or 540 MHz. The data is encoded as 8b/10b, which means that each of the message’s eight bits is converted into a 10-bit symbol. As a result, after decoding, the effective data transfer rate per channel is 1.296, 2.16, and 4.32 Gbit/s, respectively (or 80 percent of the total).
HDMI cables can send both high-definition graphics picture signals and audio signals, which are typically connected to a television at home and are interference-resistant. It’s also worth noting that modern car systems use HDMI as their interface, such as navigation.
HDMI is intended to replace earlier analog signal-to-video transmission interfaces like SCART and RCA terminals. It works with all forms of TV and computer video formats, including SDTV, HDTV, and multi-channel digital audio.
Both HDMI and UDI share DVI’s leading technology, “Transmission Minimized Differential Signal” (TMDS), which is still an extension of DVI with the audio transmission capability removed. A pixel contains 24 bits of information. The signal is very similar to VGA in terms of time.
The picture is supplied line by line, with a set blanking period added after each line and frame (akin to an analog scan line), with no “Micro-Packet Architecture” of the data, and only the two frames before the frame change updated. At the moment of the update, every frame is retransmitted. The specification was created with a maximum pixel transfer rate of 165Mpx/sec, enough to deliver 1080p quality at 60 frames per second or UXGA resolution (1600×1200). The HDMI 1.3 specification was later increased to 340Mpx/sec to meet potential future needs.
HDMI also enables uncompressed 8-channel digital audio transmission (sample rate 192kHz, data length 24bits/sample), compressed audio streams like Dolby Digital or DTS, and 8-channel 1bit DSD signals used by SACD. Furthermore, the HDMI 1.3 protocol supports uncompressed ultra-high-data audio streams like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD.
A Type B HDMI connector has been defined to replace the standard Type-A HDMI connector, which has 19 pins.
The Type A HDMI connector has 19 pins, and a Type B connector has been established to accommodate higher resolution, although no manufacturer is currently adopting Type B. The Type B connector features 29 pins, allowing it to communicate more video channels to meet future high-definition demands, such as WQSXGA (3200×2048).
Hitachi, Panasonic, Quasar, Philips, Sony, Thomson RCA, Toshiba, Silicon Image, and Digital Content Protection, LLC, which supplies copy-protection technologies connected to the HDMI interface, are among the sponsors of the HDMI association. HDMI is also backed by major film studios such as 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Disney, and major consumer electronics companies such as Samsung Electronics and several cable TV operators.
DVI is a high-definition interface that does not transport audio. This implies that DVI cables only send picture and graphics signals, not audio. DVI uses TMDS (Transition Minimized Differential Signaling) technology to transfer digital signals. TMDS encodes 8bit data (each base color signal in R, G, and B) into 10bit data (containing line field synchronization information, clock information, data DE, error correction, and so on) with the least amount of conversion.
A differential signal is used to convey data once DC balancing has been completed. Compared to LVDS and TTL, it has a stronger EMC performance and can transmit high-quality digital signals over great distances using low-cost special cables. DVI (Digital Video Interface) is an open international interface standard widely used in computers, DVD players, high-definition televisions (HDTV), high-definition projectors, and other devices.
DVI cables come in three different varieties and five different standards, with a terminal interface size of 39.5mm x 15.13mm. DVI-Analog (DVI-A) cables, DVI-Digital (DVI-D) cables, and DVI-Integrated (DVI-I) cables are the three major categories. DVI-A (12+5), single connection DVI-D (18+1), dual connection DVI-D (24+1), single connection DVI-I (18+5), and dual connection DVI-I (24+5) are the five sizes available.
When delivering digital signals, DVI cables are separated into Single Link and Dual Link. Single Link DVI cable has a transmission rate of half that of Dual Link, 165MHz/s, and can only handle a maximum resolution and refresh rate of 1920×1200, 60Hz. The twin connection DVI cable supports resolutions of up to 2560×1600 at 60Hz and 1920×1080 at 120Hz. To create 3D effects, LCD monitors must have a refresh rate of 120Hz; hence 3D programs that use DVI must need DVI cables with dual-connector DVI interfaces. In general, if the resolution is less than 1920×1200, the image quality of both single and dual connection outputs is the same.
DVI-I supports both digital and analog conversion interface types. Therefore, if the monitor only has one DVI interface, it will be linked with DVI-I; if it has both DVI and VGA interfaces, it will be coupled with DVI-D.
VGA (Video Graphics Array) is a video transmission standard established by IBM in 1987, along with the PS/2 system that offers high resolution, quick display rates, rich colors, and other benefits. VGA cables have become widely employed in the field of color monitors. Although a VGA cable allows for hot-swapping, it does not allow audio transmission.
The VGA cable interface is the standard interface for CRT and LCD liquid crystal display devices, and it has a wide range of uses.
VGA (video graphics array) as a standard display interface has become widely utilized in video and computers as the electrical industry and video image processing technologies have progressed. In image processing, if the standard data transmission method is used to display a high-resolution image on a monitor in real-time, the crystal frequency must typically exceed 40MHz, which is difficult for a traditional electronic circuit. If a specialized image processing chip is employed, the chip’s design difficulty and high development cost become a bottleneck.
The VGA cable interface is a D-type interface with 15 pin holes separated into three rows, each with five pins. The 3 RGB color component signals and the two scan synchronization signals HSYNC and VSYNC pins and the two NC (Not Connect) signals, three display data buses, and five GND signals are the most critical. The VGA interface is the most common graphics card interface, and it is included with almost all graphics cards. Some cards with a DVI (Digital Visual Interface) port but no VGA interface can be converted to VGA with a simple adapter, commonly included with cards without a VGA interface.
An analog VGA cable connects most computers to external display devices. The digital/analog converter in the graphics card converts the display image information generated digitally inside the computer into R, G, and B primary color signals and line and field synchronization signals, which are then delivered to the display device via the cable.
The signal is routed straight to the associated processing circuit for analog display devices, such as analog CRT displays, to drive and operate the picture tube to generate images. The display device must be fitted with an A/D (analog/digital) converter to transform the analog signal into a digital signal for LCD, DLP, and other digital display devices. The VGA cable connects CRT monitors to LCDs and other display devices, although the picture loss in the conversion process can cause a slight drop in the display effect when connected to LCDs and other display devices.
Thunderbolt-3/USB-C ports are now standard on most Macintosh computers and many Windows PCs. These all-in-one connections are frequently the sole means to connect the computer to power, external screens, or any other accessory.
Because this type of connector is only recently becoming available on new displays, you’ll almost always need to utilize an adaptor or a special cable to connect to one. Adaptors for most configurations are available from both Apple and third-party vendors. Just make sure the adapter’s specifications match the resolution of your display.
Component cables are the most common type of audio cable. It was widely utilized in early computer systems and is still used in some television connections today. It’s made up of three pins. Audio connectors are supported via the red and white pins. On the other hand, the yellow pin separates video into three components: brightness and two-color data. YPbPr component video is another name for it.
Composite cables are used solely for video transmission. It is a single yellow cable that is used for AV transmission. It transmits video to the monitors.
It’s a male connector with only one port. The most significant disadvantage of composite cable is that it can only carry standard-definition video via analog signals.
Why Cable Type Matters for A Monitor
When selecting the optimal monitor cable type for your display, several aspects are to consider. Whether it’s a games console, a desktop PC, a laptop, or something else entirely, your source device will be limited by the physical port options on your display and your source device. There are also bandwidth constraints to consider, affecting the highest resolution and refresh rate your monitor can support and additional features such as HDMI’s ARC and eARC.
Although all of the monitor cable types previously described can transport video to compatible monitors, they all have dramatically varied capabilities, so it’s critical to choose the proper one for what you want to watch or play and what you’re watching or playing on.
The Best Monitor Cable for Gaming and Productivity
Best Gaming Monitor Cable Type
The best display cable for gaming is compatible with your monitor and your gaming system (whether it’s a console, laptop, or desktop PC) and provides the most bandwidth. This is particularly true if you aim for high frame rates (100+ frames per second) and super-high resolutions, such as 4K.
Use an HDMI 2.1 cable linked to an HDMI 2.1 gaming display or TV with current game consoles such as the Xbox Series S/X and PlayStation 5. This provides you with all of the bandwidth you require and the ability to employ eARC for less cabling in surround sound speaker systems. HDMI 2.1 is still an excellent choice for desktop and laptop gamers, as it provides all of the bandwidth required for 4K gaming at up to 144Hz (or even 240hz using Display Stream Compression).
However, because HDMI 2.1 is only supported by the latest-generation graphics cards, you’re more likely to be better off utilizing a DisplayPort cable, which has enough bandwidth to handle up to 4K resolution at up to 120Hz and is available on a far wider range of graphics cards.
If you’re trying to game on an older PC and have the option of choosing between VGA and DVI, go with the latter because it can transfer a digital signal and supports higher resolutions.
Best Productivity Monitor Cable Type
Because work demands aren’t relatively as high as gaming, you may get away with a wider range of monitor cable kinds. However, this does not negate the value of using higher-end contemporary connections with greater refresh rates and resolutions. When working at 1440p or 4K, a modern generation HDMI or DisplayPort connection might offer more screen area higher-quality graphics and video.
USB-C and Thunderbolt cables, on the other hand, may be the ideal alternative for cleaner desk space with fewer overall wires and lots of bandwidth. You’ll have fewer monitor alternatives, but these cables can help you save space on your desk, especially when connecting a recent laptop to an external display with limited video output options.
Modern vs Old Monitor Cable Types
Older monitor cable types, such as VGA, only carry analog signals and require conversion before and after transmission. They’re also constrained in terms of resolution and refresh rates. That also applies to older digital cable types like DVI and Component, limited to a maximum resolution of 1080p (1,920 x 1,080). Most are only capable of sending the video signal, necessitating the need for an extra connection to handle audio.
Modern connectors, such as HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort, can further give audio and video via a single connection. When employing Display Stream Compression, they can additionally handle high frame rates at 4K or lower frame rates at up to 16K resolution. They can also cope with new visual standards such as HDR and audio enhancements such as Dolby Atmos.
Although USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 and 4 don’t have quite the same bandwidth as the latest HDMI and DisplayPort standards. They are incredibly versatile, capable of handling audio, video, and high-speed data transmission and transmitting power to connected portable devices in some cases – all through a single cable. Note that these cables can simultaneously transmit any data, a function that makes them far more capable than older monitor cable types currently in use on some legacy devices.
How to use HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, USB-C, and VGA at the same time
Multiple outputs are found on most motherboards and dedicated graphics cards. To output to many displays, you can utilize these options. If your monitors have HDMI and DVI outputs, connect one with HDMI and the other with DVI. You may also daisy-chain DisplayPort and USB-C monitors if you’re using DisplayPort and your graphics card or device supports Multi-Stream Transport.
With certain Intel processors, you may be able to merge the graphics outputs of your motherboard with your specialized graphics card. This employs a “hybrid multi-monitor” mode; however, the chipset and perhaps the motherboard selected will determine how well it works. Also, you can upgrade the BIOS for it to work. In this hybrid model, Intel specifies the following chipsets as compatible: Intel Embedded Graphics Drivers for systems running the Intel Q45/G41/G45 and GM45/GL40/GS45 chipsets, or later, officially offer hybrid multi-monitor capability.
Last but Not Least
Most monitors have a variety of inputs, and your PC or laptop will also have a variety of outputs, making it challenging to pick which is the ideal connection to utilize.
You can use whatever cable you have on hand in most cases – as long as it works. However, suppose you have more specific requirements, like carrying audio, displaying a higher resolution, or outputting a higher refresh rate for gaming. In that case, you’ll need to be pickier with your cable selection.
To assist you in making your decision, we’ve defined the various sorts of connections and provided many usage scenarios. For 144Hz and other higher refresh rate displays, we’ve also listed the optimum connection and cable to use.
With so many different types of monitor cables, you’ll always be able to find one that meets your requirements. Other cables are used in addition to HDMI and USB cables, which are presently increasingly common.
You should be cautious when using monitor wires. Damage to the pins is prohibited, and you must handle the wires with caution to avoid tangling and further damage. Aside from that, for the greatest possible experience, always attempt to buy cables from well-known manufacturers. If you have any other questions please contact us.
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