VGA: A Guide for Non-Techies

The content of this post will teach you everything you need to know about VGA cables so read on!

What is VGA?

VGA is the acronym for Video Graphics Array. It’s a video standard that was developed in the 80s and has been around for a long time, it’s still alive today because it’s easy to use, versatile and inexpensive.

A VGA cable is a device that connects a computer to any monitor or TV. This connector transfers video signals through an electrically conductive material like metal, and the key component is usually gold-plated connectors. VGA connectors come in two types, male and female. It comes with high-quality materials and complies with strict manufacturing standards. On the gold-plated connector, there are three rows of 15 pins.

What’s the VGA connector look like?

Here are some pictures of a VGA connector. They are easy to spot because of the pins:

Male plug
Female receptacle

Since there are two kinds of VGA connectors, it’s important to identify the connector type you need before ordering a cable. This is how they differ: male and female plugs or cables have different types because these refer to the gender of their pins. Male ones have pins on each side, while female ones only have one row of 15 pins, so try not to confuse them! The other thing that sets both apart is size- male plugs are bigger than females. Lastly, it can be easy for many people who don’t know what they’re looking at to mistake an HDMI wire as being a VGA cable when in reality, they’re not compatible with each other at all.

What Does a VGA Connection Do?

A VGA connection transfers video signals in the form of an analogue signal. This means that a video is displayed on your computer as it was transmitted, without any changes. This happens by sending everything you want to see through copper wires, which are usually made from metal (this can be anything like silver or gold) and connecting them at both ends with these three rows of pins mentioned earlier.

One good thing about using VGA cables for all our digital devices- computers and TVs alike- is that they’re quite inexpensive, so anyone can afford one! They only cost around $5 while HDMI ones sell for prices closer to $10, so if price matters more than performance, then consider getting a cheaper option instead.

There’s no need to worry about VGA cables not being compatible with the latest tech because they’re still used in many devices today. Plus, there are ways for you to connect a newer device like an HDMI cable and get it working on your computer monitor or TV without any problems, so don’t sweat it! (more on this later…)

Are VGA Cables Becoming Obsolete?

With the introduction of HDMI, VGA cables are becoming obsolete, and rightfully so. The problem with this is that HDMI connectors can only be used on newer devices like TVs or monitors while most computers still use the older connector type for its video output- which means you need a VGA cable to connect your computer monitor or TV if they don’t have an HDMI port!

Should You Use VGA or HDMI when both are available?

VGA connections, when available, are usually fine for most devices if you´re doing day to day computer work, and don’t need fancy graphics or to do anything too demanding.

HDMI cables are better for when you need a higher-quality signal and want your computer monitor or TV screen to be as crisp, clear and high resolution as possible without any interference. But if HDMI isn’t available on the device that needs it then VGA is an option that should work just fine in most cases.

The problem with this connector type is that they don’t usually come with the newest tech built into them. Manufacturers often stop making new items compatible with these connectors (i.e., monitors), making things tricky now and again, but we’ll get more into those details later! For non-techies like me who prefer easy solutions over complicated ones, consider getting some HDMI-to-VGA converters so you can enjoy your new TV or monitor with the VGA cable that came with it.

Can I Convert VGA to HDMI?

The answer to this question is yes, you can convert VGA cables into HDMI ones. The process requires an adapter with a female connector on one side and the male counterpart on the other, so it’s important not to mix them up! You’ll also need some additional equipment like a cable with connectors at both ends- male or female, depending on which end needs conversion- and then follow these steps:

First off, connect your new device (TV) with the converter by either inserting its plug into the TV’s port or attaching it head first onto any open ports. Then find out if there are any extra adapters needed for converting from Vga/HDMI because in some cases, they might be necessary as well.

VGA Technical Details

So here comes the nerdy part. The next bunch of acronyms and numbers represent the standard specifications for VGA cables.

Standard graphics modes are:

640×480 in 16 colours

640×350 in 16 colours

320×200 in 16 colours

320×200 in 256 colours (Mode 13h)

The VGA specifications are as follows:

256 KB Video RAM (The very first cards could be ordered with 64 KB or 128 KB of RAM at the cost of losing some video modes.)

16-color and 256-colour modes

262,144-value colour palette (six bits each for red, green, and blue)

Selectable 25.175 MHz or 28.322 MHz master clock

Maximum of 800 horizontal pixels

Maximum of 600 lines

Refresh rates at up to 70 Hz

Vertical blank interrupt (Not all clone cards support this.)

Planar mode: up to 16 colours (4-bit planes)

Packed-pixel mode: 256 colours (Mode 13h)

Hardware smooth scrolling support

No hardware sprites

No Blitter, but supports very fast data transfers via ‘VGA latch’ registers.

Some “Raster Ops” support

Barrel shifter

Split-screen support

0.7 V peak-to-peak

75-ohm double-terminated impedance (18.7 mA – 13 mW)

Ugh.. this was hard… Of course, these values might not mean much to you if you are not a tech geek, but they’re here for those of you who are looking for a more specifics answer.

VGA vs Mini-VGA

With thinner laptops came the need to make the connectors smaller and less wide since there was less room for them. Mini-VGA ports are often found on netbooks, tablets and other devices with a slim profile – but if you’re not sure which type of port your laptop has, then check its packaging or manuals.

The main difference between these two is that VGA cables have a wider connector tip (which can be up to 12 mm in diameter) while mini-VGA ones are more like an HDMI cable’s size (- just over an inch).

There are also mini-VGA to VGA adapters that will allow a standard VGA display device to connect to a computer that has a mini-VGA port.

Can VGA Carry Audio?

No, VGA cables can’t carry audio. You need a separate cable to connect your speakers or headphones and the device you want to project sound from (e.g.: laptop).

Just like other PC ports, you need a cable to connect your speaker system with a VGA connector into the port of either your PC or laptop. It would be best if you also had a separate audio port and sound card for the display to carry sound, but then again, most HDMI TVs come with their built-in speakers these days since they’re usually HDTVs.

VGA is a computer format where there’s almost a separate device for every function, including monitors, keyboards, mice (the computer mouse), and audio speakers.

VGA Max Resolution: Is VGA Capable Of 1080p And HD?

VGA has a resolution limitation regarding both the signal source (video card, integrated chip, etc.) and the quality of the VGA cable. The maximum resolution for VGA is 2048×1536, but manufacturers may vary. For modern graphics cards, the maximum resolution for VGA is 2048×1536, but it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

I have written a blog post that goes into detail about this: check it here.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading this blog post. We hope you found it helpful and informative. If there’s anything else about VGA that you want to know or have any questions on what a VGA

photo credit: Evan-Amos, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, Duncan Lithgow, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

About S. Santos

👋 I'm a technology columnist and tech blogger, with a love for video games, gadgets, home entertainment and personal technology. I've been writing about the industry now for over 10 years - first as an editor of various magazines before branching out to work on my own blog. I like to keep up with the ever-evolving world of gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology. If not fiddling with AV cables at home or in front of the computer, I can be found playing tennis or padel. This blog is my space to explore new topics related to these hobbies; as well as share some thoughts about life in general (sometimes you need a break from electronics!). 😎

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