The Difference in VGA and DVI Cable

Written by richard asmus
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The Difference in VGA and DVI Cable
Connect your monitor with a VGA or DVI cable, depending on the model. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

A monitor cable connects a computer to a viewing screen. But such a simple sounding process gets confusing with so many different video formats, version changes and connector types. Adding multipurpose connectors to monitors helps connect them, but makes understanding the connection more difficult. Basically, VGA cables carry an analogue signal and DVI digital, but their differences get more complex.

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Video graphics array sends five analogue signals in varying waves to a computer monitor: three for the primary luminance colour levels for red, blue and green, and two more for vertical and horizontal synchronisation. In 1987, the original resolution, or number of dots presented on the screen, was 640 horizontal and 480 vertical. Since then, various changes have increased resolution to as high as 3,840 by 2,400 for larger wide screens. Newer versions use other letter designations ending in GA, but most users refer to them as VGA because they all use the same cable connections.


Digital visual interface sends information in digital codes that represent the colour levels synchronisation, but also sends a vertical analogue signal. It was developed in 1999 to replace VGA, but many users and manufacturers preferred the natural analogue look, so both formats remain available. In 2002, high definition multimedia interface adopted DVI technology for the home entertainment systems and included sound in the cable. In 2009, with the development of version 1.4, many computer and monitor manufacturers began replacing the DVI connector with HDMI ports. Since then, many computer users started using wide screens for computer monitors.

Cable Differences

A VGA cable has 15-pin connectors on the ends and various levels of quality for different video signal resolution levels. The higher the resolution, the more susceptible it is to loss and distortion as it travels along the cable. DVI cables have either 24- or 29-pin connectors, but both fit into the same socket. Digital signals are not nearly as susceptible to loss or distortion in the cable, and higher quality cables serve more for cosmetic purposes. The 29-pin version carries analogue signals for red, blue and green and the horizontal sync for monitors that read both analogue and digital.

Monitor Connections

Early VGA monitors only read analogue signals via a VGA connector, and early DVI monitors only read digital signals via a DVI connector. Later monitors read both signals, some with both VGA and DVI connectors. But because computer and home entertainment system technologies are merging, many wide screens now use HDMI connectors along with VGA ports for use as digital or analogue computer monitors, but without DVI ports. But because HDMI uses DVI video technology, you can use an adaptor cable to connect a DVI computer output to an HDMI input.

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