HDMI vs. VGA: Full Comparison
How you connect your displays to your output devices matters more than you think. Using the correct type of connection can help you get a clearer, higher-definition picture than you would with a different kind of connection. VGA and HDMI are different types of connections that offer different benefits. Still, they aren’t the most recent or powerful options on the market anymore. So here are the differences between VGA and HDMI so you can make the right decision on your graphics output.
HDMI vs. VGA: Side-By-Side Comparison
|Varies, but the protocol can support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
|None. Requires a separate audio cable.
|19 or 29
|High-Definition Media Interface
|Video Graphics Array
|DVI, DisplayPort, VGA
HDMI vs. VGA: What’s the Difference?
HDMI and VGA are standards used to carry video (and audio) signals from an output device such as a DVD or Blu-Ray player to a display like a TV or a computer monitor. The chief difference between the two standards is that VGA is an analog standard while HDMI is a digital standard. However, there are some other notable differences as well. So, let’s take a look at all the differences between HDMI and VGA.
The first significant difference between these two standards is the signal type. VGA uses an analog signal, which is an older signal standard, while HDMI uses a digital signal. Analog signals are an older technology that isn’t as reliable and flexible as the newer digital technology.
Analog signals are a type of continuous signal represented by sin waves. Conversely, digital signals are represented by square waves and are a type of discrete time signal generated by digital modulation.
An easily accessible example of an analog “signal” is the sound of human voices in the air. Voices travel through the air as analog signals that other people can hear. On the other hand, CDs, DVDs, and computers produce digital signals.
Both analog and digital devices transfer data to play video and sound. Analog cables can transfer video or audio, but not both. So if you’re using an analog cable, you’ll need a separate cable for your output device to play audio.
Digital signals can transfer both video and sound simultaneously, eliminating the need for an additional cable. This makes digital signals ideal for people with many wires and cables running through their homes by combining two older cables into one newer cable.
Another difference between these two signals is the signal quality. Analog signals are much weaker and of poorer quality than digital signals. In addition, after about four feet of distance, analog signals are subject to excessive interference and quality degradation.
HDMI cables are less subject to interference from other cables (crosstalk), and their signals can travel further without breaking down or degrading. However, HDMI cables are known to be subject to interference from electromagnetic fields.
Input lag can refer to either the delay between an output device outputting a signal, then being displayed by a display or the delay between pressing a button and having the button actuate. Typically the latter definition refers to video games, but it can apply to any device with buttons.
VGA signals have less input lag than HDMI signals because HDMI signals apply a post-processing effect to the video. Post-processing effects range from sharpening the image to applying color correction. They can be likened to the filters we often see people using on Instagram and TikTok to make their videos look more defined.
Many TVs and monitors have “game mode,” which allows the user to turn off the post-processing effects while they game. Game mode will lower your image quality slightly but improve your input delay, which can be crucial for gamers.
However, another factor that affects input lag is the use of adapters. Adapters allow you to use hardware that isn’t natively compatible with your device, which can be handy. However, you run into a unique problem when using these with VGA devices.
VGA-to-HDMI adapters need to convert the signal being output by the output device into one that is readable by the adapter. Additionally, most modern displays use digital signals. So, when adapting a signal with a VGA-to-HDMI converter, you’ll ask the device to convert the signal from digital to analog, then back to digital, which can harm your output’s image definition.
Possible Output Resolutions
Since HDMI is a newer technology, HDMI cables can transfer and display images at a higher resolution than VGA cables. There are several different “types” of VGA cables that refer to cables that can output a higher resolution video; VGA cables typically have a maximum output resolution of 640×480, SVGA cables have a maximum output resolution of 800×600, and so on.
HDMI cables have maximum resolutions, but they’re far more versatile than VGA cables. For example, standard HDMI cables can transmit audio and video up to 720×1080 or 1080×1920 pixels in resolution at a refresh rate of 30Hz. In addition, Premium High-Speed HDMI cables can support video up to 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range at a refresh rate of 60Hz.
- Pair two devices with a nylon-braided HDMI cable
- Compatible with PCs, TVs, displays, DVD players, and consoles
- Deliver 4K video at 60 Hz
- Backwards compatible with early versions
- Connect and share internet via Built-in ethernet
Another major difference between VGA and HDMI cables is the price. Since VGA cables aren’t commonly used anymore, you can typically pick one up online for a few bucks. It’s more likely that buying a VGA cable is less expensive than purchasing a VGA-to-HDMI adapter.
HDMI cables are priced based on the type of HDMI and cable and the length of the cable. A longer cable requires more materials to produce. So, they’re typically more expensive. The price is also influenced by which HDMI standard the cable uses. For example, Premium High-Speed HDMI cables cost more than Standard ones.
- Contains 10 foot VGA to VGA cable
- Comes with a screw-in VGA cable
- Support high-resolution LCD and LED monitors
- Clear, quality transmission
HDMI vs. VGA: 5 Must-Know Facts
- VGA technology was first released in 1987.
- VGA was designed and introduced by IBM before it was picked up by other computer manufacturers and became the standard.
- HDMI cables can compress up to 8 audio channels when outputting sound.
- VGA cables often lose signal when twisted.
- HDMI cables often provide additional insulation to avoid interference from neighboring devices’ electromagnetic fields.
HDMI vs. VGA: Which Is Better?
There is almost no contest between HDMI and VGA. You should almost always go with an HDMI input if you have the choice. VGA inputs and outputs have been dated for nearly twenty years now (when Digital Video Interface or DVI inputs became commonplace). The only thing that VGA does better than HDMI is dealing with input lag, and it’s not because VGA does anything specifically to address input lag — it just naturally has lower input lag than HDMI. Conversely, HDMI supports newer, higher resolutions, HDR, and many other newer technologies in the video processing industry.
In short, VGA is practically obsolete at this point already. So don’t bog yourself down with dated hardware. As a general rule, there are very few people who will actually benefit from a VGA cable. Even those who would benefit from a VGA cable’s lower input lag would be better served by purchasing a TV or monitor with a game mode to deactivate their HDMI cable’s post-processing effects. The only time you should buy a VGA cable is if you’re going to use a VGA device that you already own. Do not buy new VGA devices, as they will become obsolete soon. One might even say they’re outdated while still inside the box.
If you have a choice between VGA and HDMI, we highly recommend going with HDMI. HDMI inputs will work better, last longer, and provide superior image quality. So, it’s basically always better to choose HDMI.
HDMI and VGA are two standards used in video display technology, but they’re not the only or best choices out there! When buying a new video device, you’ll want to do as much research as possible to ensure you buy the best one for your needs. There are several other display technologies not covered here that you might see while shopping for devices. If your device doesn’t use HDMI or VGA, it might use another display technology like DVI or DisplayPort. So, ensure that you’re buying the right equipment for your devices.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Negro Elkha/Shutterstock.com.