HDMI STB vs DVI vs MHL vs ARC

So you bought a new TV and you noticed there are multiple ports on the back with no specific labels. How can you identify the ports? And which one will deliver the best picture and sound quality?

You might be familiar with the most popular ports, HDMI, RCA, and VGA. But there are other ports you need to know about too, such as DVI and Display Port. If you’re wondering which port is best, continue reading this article.

Key takeaways:

  • HDMI ports are easy to use and compatible with any HDMI cable. (Read more…)
  • HDMI ARC carries audio to home theaters and lets you control TV audio. (Read more…)
  • HDMI STB is a labeled port for gaming consoles, but other devices can also use it. (Read more…)
  • HDMI offers better support than DVI for high-res video and audio. (Read more…)

What Type of HDMI Port do I Have?

You might have read that your TV has HDMI 2.0 but you can’t figure out which HDMI port is the right one. The good news is if your TV was labelled as HDMI 2.0 compliant, then every HDMI port will be HDMI 2.0. Most modern TVs support HDMI 2.0, so you can easily watch 4K and higher resolutions with no problem.

For other devices, it can be tricky to figure out what HDMI version they use. For computers, it’s best to research the specific model and go from there. For example, if your monitor is plugged into your graphics card, then you’ll want to check the exact model of your graphics card to see what HDMI versions it supports. Likewise, if you’re using the HDMI port directly from the motherboard, then you need to check your motherboard model.

Not to worry, most relatively modern electronics support at least HDMI 1.4 which offers more than enough features for the casual consumer. You can even watch 4K resolution. It’s only when you need more advanced features, such as 4K at 60hz, then you need to identify your HDMI version. Hint: You need HDMI 2.0 for 4K at 60hz. But not many displays support those specifications at the moment, so you should be fine.

In some rare cases, the TV will only have one HDMI 2.0 port, which should be appropriately labelled. That is the port you’ll want to use to take advantage of the HDMI 2.0 features. Otherwise, any port will do the trick.

Let’s briefly run through a quick description of each port.

HDMI

HDMI is the most popular port to date, and there are many different versions, the most recent being HDMI 2.1a. The port will be flat on the top side, with a slight curve on the bottom, resembling a smiley face. The cables slide right into the ports and are not fastened by screws or other attachments. Chances are your TV has multiple HDMI ports.

What you need to know about HDMI ports is that they’re all backward compatible. What this means is you can plug any HDMI cable into any HDMI port and it should still work. They’re probably the most convenient ports out there. Think of the labels as more like suggestions.

HDMI ARC

HDMI ARC is a type of HDMI port primarily used to carry audio to home theatres or soundbars. It also allows for other features, such as the ability to control your TV’s audio from a device-specific remote control. It’s mainly used for audio purposes.

HDMI STB

You might have seen this on a label above a specific HDMI port. HDMI STB is a label for an HDMI port that’s in a specific location for gaming consoles. It does not mean your console is limited to that port only – but it’s the best area for a gaming console, according to your TV manufacturer.

HDMI MHL

MHL stands for Mobile High-Definition, it’s a version of HDMI designed for smartphones and other mobile devices, mainly for Androids. The port has specifically created to be used with MHL compatible phones. To use it, you will need to buy an HDMI adapter. Most modern Androids can connect to a TV via an HDMI adapter, so you don’t need to worry too much about this port.

DVI

DVI ports provide backwards compatibility with devices that can send digital video over one cable but need another cable for audio. Using the DVI port allows your TV to accept the audio input from one (or more) of the analogue audio inputs on the back of the TV and combine it with the video from the HDMI port marked DVI. This feature may be useful for hooking up an old desktop computer to your TV. However, like all the other ports, you can use the DVI port as a regular HDMI port too

Which HDMI Port Should I Use?

A common misconception is there’s one ideal HDMI port for certain activities. As mentioned earlier, while some HDMI ports have specific labels, you’re free to use any port you desire. The labels are more like helpful suggestions, not a requirement.

I recommend using an HDMI port that is the easiest to access. You don’t need to use any specific port, they should all work the same. It does not matter which port you use. Another pointer to keep in mind is you’ll be switching to and from various HDMI sources, so it’s best to keep your devices on the most convenient ports. For example, the cable box on HDMI 1, a gaming console on HDMI 2, and so on.

DVI vs HDMI

As digital video technology evolved, the need arose for a means of transmitting digital streaming video from a video card. This led to the development and introduction of the DVI standard, which was the first of its kind. Initially, DVI was not designed to transmit sound in digital format, and it was assumed that sound would be transmitted separately.

Over time, DVI became obsolete as newer standards were developed, including HDMI. The main difference between HDMI and DVI is that HDMI offers superior support for higher resolution video up to 8K and Dolby-encoded audio.

When it comes to comparing HDMI and DVI, it’s like comparing an old typewriter to a modern computer keyboard. Both may serve the purpose of typing, but the functionality and capabilities of the modern keyboard are far superior. Similarly, while DVI was once a cutting-edge technology, it has now become obsolete in comparison to HDMI, which offers better support for high-resolution video and audio.

HDMI vs HDMI STB

If you have both HDMI and HDMI STB ports on your TV or home theater system, you may be wondering which one to use. The answer will depend on the specific devices you are connecting and their intended use.

The HDMI port is a standard digital video and audio port that can be used to connect a wide range of devices, including gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, and streaming devices. If you are connecting any of these types of devices, the HDMI port is likely the best choice.

On the other hand, if you have a set-top box from your cable or satellite TV provider, the HDMI STB port may be the better choice. This port is designed specifically for use with set-top boxes and is usually located in a prominent location on the TV or home theater system. The main advantage of using the HDMI STB port is that it allows for easy access to the input select button, which is typically used to switch between channels and control other features of the set-top box.

The Bottom Line

The truth is HDMI is a rather complicated technology with lots of specifications, features, and other metrics to consider. But most modern electronics will keep up to date with the latest technologies, so you don’t need to worry too much about it. The truth is you probably won’t ever be limited by the HDMI technology, even the older cables are capable of delivering an incredible amount of data. The real limit comes from your hardware. When in doubt, always refer to your display’s manual.

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About S. Santos

👋 I'm a technology columnist and blogger with over 10 years of experience, currently serving as Blue Cine Tech's AV Editor. Specialising in gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology, my work has been featured in top technology blogs. I'm dedicated to breaking down the complexities of the latest tech trends, from explaining the intricacies of Dolby Vision to optimising your streaming experience. This blog serves as a platform for my ongoing exploration of the ever-evolving tech landscape. If you see me at industry events like CES or IFA, feel free to say hello.

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