With the advent of exceptional display units, there is an increasing necessity for better video interfaces and display controllers.
Due to this growing requirement for display quality, the older and relatively low signal-quality VGA interface is now on the verge of extinction. It has now been almost completely replaced by the superior HDMI interface.
Nevertheless, there are still devices and display unit that consists of the VGA. And it still has its significance in a few areas. So, how exactly does the VGA vary from the HDMI interface? And which one should you choose? Let’s find out.
VGA, or the Video Graphics Array, is one of the oldest display connections developed by IBM, which came to use in the late 80s IBM computer. It transmits the video signal in analog form. This display controller has been the common type of interface to transmit video signals to the monitor, and almost every display device incorporates one.
The VGA connector consists of a bulky design with 15 pins divided into three rows. It works by transmitting the Red, Blue, and Green video signals along with Vertical and Horizontal sync information. In the later upgrades, it also consisted of VESA signals to identify the type of display units as well.
VGA has received several upgrades from different manufacturers with improvements in maximum resolution support for monitors and signal quality. These are named VGA, SVGA, XGA, SXGA, UXGA, QXGA, etc.
- Slightly less input lag
- Useful to get a display from older computers
- Low bandwidth, image quality, and resolution
- Inconvenient due to bulky design
- No audio transmission
- Signal interference or cross-talk
HDMI, or High-Definition Multimedia Interface, was the first display controller to transfer both digital visual and audio signals using a single cable. Released in 2002, the HDMI interface has now become a norm in almost all monitors, gaming consoles, and other display units.
The commonly used Type-A HDMI, among the five types, consists of 19 pins. These pins are responsible for transmitting the audio, video, and pixel clock data after being inserted into an HDMI port. It works as per the principle of Transition Minimized Differential Signaling, or TMDS, which divides the video signal into pixels and uses links to transmit the RGB color and the divided pixels as a pixel clock.
HDMI has also received several upgrades after HDMI 1.0, with 2.1 being the recent one, with superb bandwidth and support for the highest refresh rate and resolution.
- High bandwidth, resolution, and refresh rate
- Better video quality and zero or less interference
- Both audio and video transmission
- Convenient and easy insertion
- Available in almost all modern systems
- Longer cable length
- Cannot be used directly to get display from older systems
- Comparatively more input lag
- Relatively expensive
VGA Vs. HDMI – Specific Features
The major difference between the VGA and HDMI interfaces is in their image quality, with HDMI being the better one.
Similarly, HDMI is hot-pluggable, meaning you can insert or remove it while the system’s running, and you won’t experience any disturbance in the signal. However, the image quality will degrade, or the display may not even show up if you try hot-plugging the VGA connector.
Besides these, let’s discuss what features and functionality separate these two interfaces.
Bandwidth, Resolution, and Refresh Rate
VGA connection can transfer the video signal data at the rate of 14 to 116 MegaHertz. This bandwidth varies for different versions, with VGA having the lowest transfer rate and UXGA the highest.
As per the bandwidth, the standard VGA version supports a display resolution of up to 640 x 480. While the QXGA version can provide a maximum resolution of 2048 x 1536. Similarly, the standard VGA interface can attain a refresh rate of up to only 60 Hz.
Nevertheless, for the upgraded VGA versions, one can obtain a slightly higher refresh rate of up to 85 Hz for a lower-resolution display.
|VGA Versions||Bandwidth||Resolution and Refresh Rate|
|VGA||14 MHz||640 x 480 @ 60, 75, 85 Hz|
|SVGA||27 MHz||800 x 600 @ 56, 60, 72, 75, 85 Hz|
|XGA||48 MHz||1024 x 768 @ 60, 70, 75, 85 Hz|
|SXGA||60 MHz||1280 x 1024 @ 70, 75, 85 Hz|
|SXGA +||79 MHz||1400 x 1050 @ 70, 75, 85 Hz|
|UXGA||87 MHz||1600 x 1200 @ 60 Hz|
|QXGA||116 MHz||2048 x 1536 @ 60 Hz|
Looking at the HDMI interface, the commonly available HDMI 2.0 can transfer the signal at up to 18 Gbps, while HDMI 2.1 have a transmission rate of whooping 48 Gbps. It even surpasses the faster DisplayPort 1.4.
Not only this, you can achieve a maximum resolution of 8K and a refresh rate of 240 Hz for 1080p resolution. Let’s have a quick look at the bandwidth, resolution, and refresh rate for the two interfaces.
|HDMI Versions||Bandwidth||Resolution and Refresh Rate|
|1.0 – 1.2a||4.95 Gbps||1080p @ 60 Hz|
|1.3 – 1.4b||10.2 Gbps||4K @ 30 Hz or1080p @ 144 Hz|
|2.0 – 2.0b||18 Gbps||4K @ 60 Hz or1080p @ 240 Hz|
|2.1||48 Gbps||8K @ 30 Hz or4K @ 144 Hz|
Input lag is the time elapsed between the reception of a signal and its appearance on the screen. In the case of the HDMI interface, the digital signals are post-processed in terms of color and other effects for better image quality. But the analog signals from VGA are shown as they are received. This post-processing can cause a slight input lag in HDMI.
However, the lag is not that significant. It is in a few milliseconds, and you would not even find any differences. To add to this, when you use a VGA connection in a digital display unit, the analog VGA signals also take a while to get converted into digital signals. Thus, the VGA interface also seems to have input lag.
Also, the input lag mostly depends upon the monitor and display unit rather than the connection type. So, if we look at the imperceptible time of lag, Input lag and latency do not make much of a difference.
Interference and Signal Quality
Talking about signal quality, the VGA interface experiences a lot of signal interference from other system components. This is because the VGA carries the information in the analog signal, and these pick up noise from other cables and electrical parts of the computer.
In the past, most of electronic devices used a VGA interface. So, to lower the interference, the VGA cable is provided with a cylindrical extrusion. Similarly, the I/O Shield at the back of the motherboard also prevents signal interference from internal components and other cables of the PC.
But there is no such signal interference in HDMI from the internal units and computer cables. However, there is still a chance of slight electromagnetic interference in the HDMI cable itself from other electronic units in the area. And the cylindrical beads are used to lower the disturbance.
HDMI interface is able to transfer both audio and video from the same cable and port. It even supports up to 32 channels of audio signals and HD Audio, such as DTS and Dolby.
However, VGA is able to transmit only the video signal. You will need an additional audio cable and port on the system to share the sound. Even after using a VGA to HDMI converter, you will have to get an additional audio cable to get the sound signals.
VGA cables can transmit image and video signals in their original quality within a distance of 25 feet. Beyond that, the signal quality starts to degrade. However, there are VGA cables longer than 150 feet in the market though you won’t get better quality.
But the recommended length of an HDMI cable is up to around 50 feet or 15 meters, up to which you won’t experience any quality degradation. The digital signals in the case of HDMI do not get lost a lot in comparison to the VGA analog signals.
The higher quality signals, refresh rate support from the HDMI and its longer cable length make it the ideal choice for display at a farther distance.
Compatibility and Application
VGA interfaces are mostly compatible and found in older displays and gaming consoles. You may not find an HDMI port in those systems. So, if you possess such hardware, then you may want to use the VGA, and the HDMI cables might be useless. In addition to those systems, the projectors still use the VGA interface.
Similarly, you can find HDMI in modern displays, consoles, TV, and other electronics. Almost all display and audio-needing devices are HDMI-friendly nowadays. Yes, some of these systems still provide one VGA port, but the transition is getting faster due to the excellent signal quality of HDMI. So, VGA cables have become pretty much obsolete at the present time.
So, while HDMI is almost used in every display unit, VGA is mostly employed for a multi-monitor setup, screen projection, etc.
Having said that, there are converter cables available in the market, such as VGA to HDMI and HDMI to VGA. You can use these to use a VGA cable on an HDMI port and vice versa.
Being a bulky design, the VGA connector needs to be locked into the port with two pins on its side. Without the lock, the connector gets loosened easily, hence, distorting the image quality and color. Sometimes, the display will not even come up on the screen. This makes the VGA quite inconvenient as you need to make sure of a tight connection behind both the monitor and the system.
However, the HDMI does not require such pins to tighten it. You can simply insert the connector to the monitor and the motherboard or GPU, and it does not easily come off as well. There is a chance of a loose connection, but it is quite unusual. And you do not have to worry about having the video signal disturbed.
Being the oldest type of display interface, VGA cables are quite cheap and easily available in the market. HDMI cables are quite costlier than VGA. The cost of the new HDMI 2.1 cable, with its fastest bandwidth, is incomparable with the old and slow VGA cable.
But nowadays, you can find a cheaper HDMI cable of an earlier version in the market. And they do a fine job in comparison to the VGA cables.
Are There Any Similarities?
Besides both being a display controller and interface for video signal transfer, there are not many similarities between VGA and HDMI.
|Much less bandwidth.||Higher bandwidth.|
|Supports low resolution and refresh rate.||Supports higher resolution and refresh rate.|
|Can transmit only video signals.||Can transmit both audio and video signals.|
|Relatively less input lag.||Slightly more input lag.|
|High level of signal interference and electromagnetic disturbance.||Only electromagnetic interference and no signal cross-talk.|
|Bulky in design and inconvenient to connect due to the need for tightening pins.||No pins to tighten and can connect conveniently.|
|Shorter cable length.||Longer cable length.|
|Suitable for old computer systems and projectors.||Suitable for modern systems.|