Is there a difference between VGA and HDMI? Are VGA monitors still compatible with modern equipment? Should you throw away old VGA monitors or can you use them? Which is better?
I was wondering about VGA and HDMI cables, so I did some research, and what I found might surprise you. Many new computers no longer include a VGA output port because the technology is so dated.
What is VGA?
VGA stands for Video Graphics Array and it’s one of the oldest analogue video connectors out there.
It’s that cable with the blue connector and screws on either end found in the back of old computers. There’s a good chance you have a few VGA cables collecting dust somewhere in your home.
VGA vs HDMI
When it comes to VGA vs HDMI, HDMI wins because it’s newer, supports higher resolutions (HDMI 2.1 supports 10K), supports a variety of refresh rates, and it can also carry audio.
While some older TVs will work fine with VGA, it will also be more of a hassle to set up because you’ll need an additional cable for the audio. For that reason, HDMI is the preferred connector for TVs.
VGA is very outdated and doesn’t have much of a place in today’s modern world. But it’s also not entirely useless.
Why is Image Quality on TV Better With VGA?
There are some cases where connecting a VGA cable to a TV will show a clearer image than with an HDMI cable.
In most cases, HDMI will always produce a better picture than VGA. However, there could be several reasons why a display looks better with VGA than with HDMI. It’s a problem that usually happens when connecting a computer to a TV or a monitor.
Switch HDMI Ports
Try a different HDMI port on your TV, the picture might be clearer.
Set HDMI Colour to Full RGB
Set HDMI colour settings to full RGB. If you’re on a computer, the HDMI cable will likely be connected to your graphics card.
Whether you have an NVIDIA or Radeon card, you can open the graphics card software management, look for colour management, and select Full RGB. The picture on your TV should be clearer now.
Disable Chroma Subsampling
The problem is likely because your display is optimized for set-top boxes and cable TV which use chroma subsampling.
Computers don’t usually use that, so the TV has to convert the computer’s signal using chroma subsampling which leads to a loss in image quality.
To solve this issue, label the video input port on your TV to PC. The TV should properly classify the connection as a PC and it will display the true signal without any strange conversions. You might also need to try a DVI to HDMI adapter.
So if your TV looks better with VGA, it’s most likely an issue with your TV and not HDMI.
Does VGA Reduce Quality?
It depends on a number of factors, such as the converter you use, and the maximum resolution of your display.
Generally at 1080P VGA does not reduce image quality and it’s almost identical to 1080P when using an HDMI cable.
Is VGA Good for 1080P?
VGA can support 1080P with almost the exact same image quality as with HDMI. Although, there are some differences. To conduct an unscientific test, we connected an HP laptop to a HP monitor using both HDMI and VGA cables and took close-up pictures of the screen at approximately the same distance using an iPhone 8 camera. Upon zooming in and taking screenshots of the phone, we observed that the contours of the letters are more blurred in the VGA case (right side), while the image with HDMI is clearer and crisper. Though not a conclusive test, these observations suggest that there may indeed be a visible difference between analog VGA and digital DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort signals when it comes to visual quality.
Is VGA Good for 4K?
No. VGA does not support 4K. VGA’s maximum resolution is 2048×1536 which is also called 1440P or Quad Extended Graphics Array (QXGA).
There are some VGA to HDMI converters that claim to support 4K but the signal is being scaled. It’s not true 4K.
VGA vs HDMI Which is Better for Gaming?
When it comes to VGA vs HDMI for gaming HDMI is the clear winner. HDMI supports higher resolutions, higher refresh rate, HDR, and it also carries audio. On the other hand, VGA is acceptable for gaming at 1080P at 60 Hz.
Can You Convert HDMI to VGA?
For example, connect an HDMI computer to a VGA monitor?
Yes. You can convert HDMI to VGA but you will need an active HDMI to VGA converter that includes external power. The resolution and refresh rate will also be very limited.
I believe the maximum possible resolution on VGA is 2048×1536, although you should expect ghosting and other visual issues at this resolution.
Analogue Vs Digital Signals
VGA and HDMI connectors are very different. The connectors are not only physically different but also carry different signals.
VGA uses analogue signals and HDMI uses digital signals. Analogue is a much older technology that CRT displays use.
Without getting too technical, analogue signals use a constant voltage to create signals, resembling a wave. Digital signals are based on 1s and 0s, so the signal graph looks like steps, instead of waves. Almost all modern electronics are based on digital signals.
With HDMI, if there’s an issue with the signal, the display won’t receive any signal at all. HDMI will either work or it won’t, there’s no in-between.
VGA can sometimes still receive a signal, even if it’s weak, but the image quality might suffer. For example, if a pin on a VGA cable is damaged, you might still be able to see an image on a display.
VGA Hasn’t Changed Since 1987
Another interesting point is that HDMI technology is continuously improving to support even more features. The most common HDMI version nowadays is HDMI 1.4.
But there are many different versions, the latest is HDMI 2.1 which supports 4K at 120 Hz and a number of other amazing features.
The VGA technology has only seen a couple of upgrades and variations, but not nearly as much as HDMI.
In other words, HDMI’s hardware specifications have changed many times for the better, while the VGA technology remained the same.
The VGA technology has not changed since it was invented back in 1987!
The Bottom Line
When it comes down to it, I would always choose to use HDMI as my preferred connector. VGA should only be used for troubleshooting or as a last resort.
You can use a 1080P VGA monitor and the image quality will be almost identical to 1080P with HDMI. However, you will start to run into issues when you go beyond 1080P with VGA. HDMI is your best bet.