VGA vs HDMI

Which is better; VGA or HDMI?  My friend posed this question last night, and before I had a chance to answer, another friend answered that VGA was better.  I considered correcting him, but I was curious to listen to his explanation as to why he thought this.  His main point was that your computer can output high resolutions ie 2048 x 1536 and sometimes even higher, which is larger than the HD 1080 (or, more specifically 1920 x 1080) which is the most common HD resolution these days.  According to him, VGA cables can carry those larger computer resolutions, because they’re made for a computer, but HDMI cables are for HDTV so are limited to 1080 resolutions.  However, HD is digital, while VGA is analog, and digital wins every time.  Converting VGA to HDMI doesn’t technically improve the signal though, but an VGA to HDMI converter is handy to have for watching computer output on an HD television, none-the-less.

As far as signals go, one incorrect assumption made here was that HDMI is made only for HDTV signals and that a HDMI cable can only carry an HDTV resolution image with a maximum output of 1080.  While it’s true that a cable can only carry as much information as is being put into it, an HDMI cable is capable of carrying much larger signals than a VGA cable.  If you send this 2048 x 1536 image through an HDMI cable, it’s going to come out on the other end as a 2048 x 1536 image; it isn’t limited by HDTV standards.  Clear as mud, right?  Basically HDTV and HDMI are two separate things.  Yes, they are both “high definition” but one is a signal type and the other is a mode of signal transportation.  HDMI cables are limited by HDTV’s output, not by its design or construction.  They are capable of carrying huge amounts of data, well beyond anything you’re going to have in your home theater.

What’s the Difference Between VGA and HDMI?

Now let’s delve into the capabilities of these two formats/cable types.  VGA (video graphics array) has a maximum resolution of 800 x 600 pixels.  Now, what most people simply refer to as VGA is actually Super VGA or SVGA.  SVGA covers a whole range of resolutions on up to 2048 x 1536 and beyond.  Fair enough, but what about HDMI.  HDMI, at least the current iteration of it (HDMI Version 1.4), can carry resolutions of up to 4196 x 2160, according to Wikipedia, and is used in digital theaters.  This is beyond anything you’ll be using in your home theater.  For now, at least.

Where the difference really comes in is the fact that VGA is an analog signal, while HDMI is an uncompressed digital image.  The uncompressed digital image is going to be a higher quality every time.  You will get the best quality by using a digital source, through HDMI, DVI or any digital method of transport, and finally to a digital input.  If you have a VGA output source, and want to connect it to a digital input device via HDMI, you’re going to need a VGA to HDMI converter.  The VGA/HDMI converter is required to upgrade the analog signal to digital because the two formats are incompatible.

Which is Better; VGA or HDMI?

If you’re still reading this, then you already know the answer.  If you’ve simply skipped down to this subtitle without reading all the technical jargon, then here’s your answer; HDMI is better than VGA.  Now that you have your answer run out and get your HDMI cables, or VGA to HDMI converter, or whatever else you need.  Leave VGA in the dust where it belongs.

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