The Nitty-Gritty of the D-Sub vs. HDMI Debate

D-Sub vs HDMI

The comparison between HDMI and D-Sub are most relevant when it comes to monitoring connections. Many modern monitors come with D-sub (VGA) and HDMI inputs. Your graphics card, meanwhile, can have HDMI, DP, DVI-D, or DVI-I outputs. Should you err on the side of your graphics card and simply link up with the HDMI input for that HD action? Or should you go D-sub instead? HDMI is the obvious choice, but what can you get out of D-sub since it’s also an option? 

So which is better? D-sub vs HDMI. You’d think HDMI is naturally better since it’s more modern or recent as well as more advanced, but let’s put it to the test through this article.

You may also like: A Guide on D-Sub vs. VGA

Comparison Chart

Here’s a comparison chart of how D-sub (VGA) squares up against HDMI. When used in the context of a monitor port or interface, the D-Sub port is basically a VGA port using the specific D-subminiature connector.

 

Display TypeHDMIVGA (D-Sub)
Stands ForHigh-Definition Multimedia InterfaceVideo Graphics Array
DefinitionA ubiquitous digital video and audio signal display standard from 2002. Mainly used in HDTVs.

 

It comes with 19 or 29 pins on its connector. It’s hot-pluggable (you can plug it in without restarting).

An old graphics standard with an RGB analog video (only) signal from 1987 for the IBM PS/2. Mainly used in computer monitors.

 

It has 15 pins on its D-shaped D-sub connector that is received by a similarly shaped port with 15 pinholes.

Cable Signal TypeDigitalAnalog
CompatibilityUsing converters, it’s compatible with VGA and DVI standards.There are converters available for VGA to HDMI and VGA to DVI.
Audio SignalHDMI supports Dolby Digital, DST, LPCM, DSD, DTS, MPCM, DVD-Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio, Super Audio CD, DTS-HD High-Resolution Audio, Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby Digital Plus.

 

A separate audio cable is required because VGA D-sub can’t stream audio.

 

HDMI vs. D-Sub: Not Really a Contest?

It’s not even a contest. HDMI is in every way superior to a D-Sub VGA connection. HDMI from 2002 is superior to the age-old D-Sub VGA from 1987 because it can do Full HD 1080p and higher depending on what type of HDMI standard you’re using. VGA can do 1080p too any higher like 4K is pushing it.

  • What HDMI Brings to the Table: Unlike D-sub, HDMI supports both audio and video on one cable. This isn’t as much of an advantage on a desktop PC monitor that has separate audio cables for your speakers anyway, but it’s great for HDTVs. If your monitor has onboard speakers, you can use them with HDMI without needing to wire them up from a sound card. Your laptop’s audio and the video feed can safely be transferred to a nearby HDTV to with a single HDMI cable as well (similar to DisplayPort while DVI or Digital Video Interface is video only like VGA D-sub).
  • What D-Sub VGA Brings to the Table: D-Sub is VGA, an old analog signal standard. You can’t use analog VGA on a digital-only monitor, but there are currently digital VGA included in modern monitors. This is slowly getting phased out in favor of HDMI, but for some reason, VGA persists even to this day. Both HDMI and D-Sub VGA offer digital signals to give you the best video quality, but depending on the standard, HDMI offers more video quality and higher resolutions than even the older VGA can provide.
  • Learn More about the 15-Pin D-Sub Connector: Having a Letter-D-shaped D-sub signal connector and input on a television, computer monitor, or projector means you’re using VGA or Video Graphics Array type of connection for PCs. They’re typically used to connect PCs and laptops to a display, be it a computer monitor, CRT TV, LCD HDTV, or projector. The 15-pin D-subminiature connector itself belongs to a family of sockets and plugs used on early PCs and still crops up in modern PCs from time to time to allow alternate connection on vintage or modern monitors.
  • The VGA Advantage in Gaming: There are certain things that a VGA connection is better at compared to an HDMI connection, and one of those is gaming. VGA exhibits less input lag compared to HDMI because the input doesn’t undergo post-processing. Post-processing is akin to a Photoshop or Instagram filter that applies various effects on the picture to achieve a certain look, which ranges from color correction to the soap opera effect. You can decrease input lag from an HDMI connection by disabling post-processing or applying “Game Mode” on your TV.
  • Can VGA Do 1080p Like HDMI? The short answer is yes but not as well as HDMI (and HDMI beyond HDMI 1.3 supports 4K resolutions, which VGA cannot). The signal is pretty decent at 1920 x 1080 pixels but the image quality tends to drop from thereon end due to the limits of an analog connection. However, if you have a good enough transceiver and cable on either end of your connection (source and display), you can use VGA for up to 2048 x 1536 pixel resolutions. Not bad for a 33-year-old display standard.
  • What’s Better—HDMI or VGA? VGA is an older standard from decades ago that only carries a video signal. HDMI is an advanced and current A/V standard that carries both video and audio in one cable, so you can use it on TVs and monitors with speakers or as a hi-fi audio cable connection. It’s also capable of encrypting data with HDCP to safeguard copyrighted content from piracy. The video quality attainable from a VGA cable stops at Full HD 1080p and it’s not exactly a perfect Full HD either compared to what an HDMI connection delivers.

Videos

  1. Techquickie, “HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, and DVI as Fast As Possible“, YouTube.com, June 29, 2014
  2. GamingScan, “HDMI vs DisplayPort vs DVI vs VGA – Simple Explanation“, YouTube.com, April, 28, 2018

 

In Summary

HDMI can stream both video and audio in a single cable while VGA cables with a D-sub connector can only support video (there are separate audio cables involved). D-sub VGA remains an option in even modern monitors and laptops because it’s a legacy standard that remains perfectly serviceable even in 2020, especially in terms of PC monitors. Even to this day, there remain separate ports for PC monitors and sound rather than combining them like in HDTVs. But don’t be under the illusion that D-sub can in any way keep up with the current display standard of HDMI quality-wise. 

References:

  1. Thread: HDMI/D-sub on the monitor, best way to connect?“, Hexus Forums, November 28, 2012
  2. D-Sub vs HDMI for gaming?“, Tom’s Hardware (Forums), August 29, 2018
  3. Is D Sub better than HDMI?“, FindAnyAnswer.com, January 28, 2020
  4. HDMI vs. VGA“, Diffen.com, Retrieved November 26, 2020
Author: James Core

I write dozens of helpful informational articles based on topics that I have identified again and again throughout my research and work experience. I am here to help you find the right CABLE AND CONVERTER for your needs.

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