Which is better? Component video(YPbPr) or HDMI? Long story short, HDMI is the better standard. It does HD even better than component video’s analog standard (YPbPr). It even does better HD than digital component video (YCbCr). However, even as 2020 is about to end and HDMI is the current standard in HD transmissions, there is a persistent following for component video that remains to this day. Therefore, let’s give this debate a closer look. Many die-hard component video fans, even though they’re the minority now, insist that as far as Full HD 1080p is concerned, YPbPr can arguably keep up with its digital HDMI counterpart.
They’re actually referring to the all-digital YCbCr, although the 480i or 576i limits of component video works well enough for the DVD and PlayStation 2 age of home entertainment. With that said, what does HDMI have that YPbPr doesn’t?
The Great Debate
Here are a few things to take note of regarding the differences between HDMI and YPbPr so that we can get to the heart of things. Regardless, let’s uncover the truth behind YPbPr vs. HDMI. Let’s just jump into it.
- What Is HDMI? High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is the current standard used for the digital transmission of video and audio from a media source with an HDMI output so that it can be displayed on an HD television, computer monitor, or projector screen. It’s the high definition as opposed to the standard definition because it offers bigger screen sizes and more detail because there are more pixels used in the image, thus resulting in better image quality all-in-all. It also has many specifications yet even if you go to the top specification, its past specifications can still be read due to backwards compatibility.
- HDMI Versions: The latest version of HDMI, HDMI 2.1, is capable of 40 Gbps bandwidth and requires an Ultra High-Speed cable to access its fullest speed. Meanwhile, the previous HDMI specification of HDMI 2.0 has 18 Gbps and HDMI 1.4 or one of the most commonly used versions of HDMI has 10.2 Gbps bandwidth. HDMI 2.1 also has the feature of playing up to 8K video at 120 Hz versus HDMI 2.0 and its playback of 4K video at 60 Hz. Soon enough, 10K video may become commonplace at the most dizzying of frame rates as well.
- What Is Component Video (YPbPr)? Analog component video, also known as YPbPr or YPBPR (as opposed to digital component video or YCbCr) is the last analog video standard and thusly is arguably the highest quality one of them all, from composite to S-video. The composite video cables don’t carry audio and are instead separated into three jacks, colored red, blue, and green (RGB). There are L and R (left and right) audio cables for stereo sound (instead of mono sound). Additionally, YPbPr is a color space used in video electronics that cover Y (luminosity) and Pb (the difference between blue and luma) and Pr (the difference between red and luma).
- In Comparison to Composite: Like composite RCA cables, component video cables come in three cables but all three are for video when it comes to the component standard. It’s not one video cable with two audio cables for stereo-like in a composite. A complete set of component cables have about five jacks, two for audio, and three for video. Both component and composite standards don’t carry video and audio on the same cable. They have to separate them into individual cables that go into individual ports. YPbPr is the analog version of the digital YCbCr.
- Component Video Can Do HD? Technically Yes and No: Yes, the component video standard can do HD video but not YPbPr. You have to get the digital version of the component known as YCbCr in order to get high-definition resolutions reaching 1080p/i, with “p” referring to “progressive scan” and “i” referring to “interlaced”. How the cathode-ray tube TV broadcasts a picture with scanlines and whatnot can be done progressively or with the scanlines interlaced with each other to deliver a compressed version of the broadcast in standard-definition (SD) or high-definition (HD) quality. The green cable carries Y, the blue cable carries Pb/Cb, and the red cable carries Pr/Cr.
- What’s The Difference Between HDMI and Component Formats? Let’s count the ways. HDMI is digital while component video YPbPr is analog. HDMI is HD while YPbPr is SD. HDMI is a purely digital signal that’s comparable to the 1970s standard of SCART because it’s capable of delivering both audio and video signals together in one cable as opposed to 3 or 5. An SD resolution image is about the size of a postage stamp or smaller compared to the megapixel behemoths and images of a Full HD 1080p HDMI signal, much less so with a 4K signal or even a 10K one. However, the component outdoes HDMI in that it can carry both standard analog and HD video signals in the form of YCbCr. It also has separate cables for audio and video.
- What’s The Difference Between HDMI and Component Cables? HDMI cables come in multiple versions. There’s the standard HDMI cable for the earliest HDMI specifications, the high-speed HDMI cable, the premium high-speed HDMI cable, and the ultra-high-speed HDMI cable for 4K and beyond or HDMI 2.1 and beyond. You can also avail of standard and high-speed HDMI cables for automotive applications like car video displays or HDMI cables with Ethernet. Meanwhile, you only really have a component video cable with RGB video cables and white and red audio cables bundled together and connected to their respective ports.
- Most People Don’t Notice The Difference: Unless you’re talking HD at the highest frame rate or 4K on a huge screen, most regular consumers won’t notice the difference between 480i or 576i compared to 720p or 1080p. Maybe if you’re a tech-savvy consumer or a gamer you can tell the nuances of quality shifts. It’s even harder to tell the difference between YCbCr 1080i and HDMI 1080p since people aren’t even versed with scanlines or CRT scanning. All they know is that one is used more for flatscreen TVs and the other is more commonly used with standard CRT TVs. When you get to 4K quality though, the quality jump is stark and even YCbCr can’t reach that resolution.
- Component Ports and Cables Are Stubbornly Sticking Around: Like RCA composite cables, you’re likely to still come across TV sets with component ports and component cables with 5 different-colored connectors. Why? It’s legacy media. Component cables were around during the time of the Sony PlayStation 2 (the best-selling home console of all time) and the Nintendo Wii (the second best-selling console of all time), so naturally retro gamers who are into the thepre-HD eras of gaming will gravitate towards these consoles that used A/V analog and composite video connections to CRT TVs. You can even play them on HDMI HDTVs via a converter.
- There Are Those Who Think HD Has Detriments? To Some, Yes: There are people who are weirded out by videos that run of 60 Fps that aren’t live sports videos where capturing the motion of the players without any edits was a must. Seeing videos that used to run in 24 Fps get turned into 60 Fps using motion smoothing or motion interpolation has led to what’s known as the “Soap Opera” Effect since soap operas use the same live feed HD cameras like those found in sports games due to their fast turn-around of daily episodes. Not everyone is hitching a ride at the 4K bandwagon yet.
- Higher Frame Rates and Resolutions: HDMI is capable of higher frame rates and resolutions. In laymen terms, it means the movement you see on screen is close to a real-life movement, where what you see isn’t limited to 24 frames per second. You can see this difference when watching a 60 Fps or more videogame or movie like The Hobbit by Peter Jackson. Buttery smooth animation or real-time moves from sports teams in the NBA or the NFL. Most HDTVs carry HDMI 1.3 or 1.4 though, while most DVD and BD players play 1080p or upscaled 720p. As long as it’s not 4K, the component video doesn’t look as bad, especially with its 1080i capabilities.
The Bottom Line
HDMI is better, but why is it better? Is it because it’s digital while YPbPr is analog? Or maybe because HDMI is a current standard still being updated with newer and better specifications? It’s all of that and more.
YPbPr, at best, is a DVD-quality 480i kind of standard that can be upgraded to YCbCr that can reach 1080i instead. It works well with the Nintendo Wii and its A/V connection, in case you want to be able to play the Wii on an HDTV (you need a component to HDTV converter for this to work). It works great with certain DVDs or even early Blu-Ray Disc players as well as vintage VCRs. However, it’s an obsolete standard while HDMI is still being updated from 4K to 8K all the way to 10K and beyond. It’s kind of a wash that HDMI is superior to YPbPr, but there are certain applications wherein only component video formats can shine, like vintage connections.
- “HDMI VS COMPONENT“, TV Blanket, May 19, 2017
- “HDMI vs. YPbPr“, GT Planet, Retrieved September 12, 2020
- “Component Video“, Wikipedia, Retrieved September 12, 2020
- “HDMI versus Component Video: Which is Better?” Blue Jeans Cable, Retrieved September 12, 2020