Types of Monitor Cables: Everything You Need to Know


Discover how to identify computer cable connections and which one is the best for your requirements.

Technology keeps on evolving every day. New and better devices, media types, and formats seem to be available every day, too. The ports in your monitor maximize the output of your devices and media.

Monitor ports and video connectors are designed to be the best solution to faster data transfer from your computer to monitor. Smaller, faster, and more dependable monitor ports are replacing the bigger versions of the past to produce more efficient, higher quality, as well as advanced signals and transmissions.

So as not to be left behind, you need to be familiar with the latest in computer technology. You need to replace the CRT monitor of your desktop computer with an LCD monitor. With the shift to an LCD monitor, its cable plays an essential role in connecting your CPU and monitor.

The new developments in desktop computers and monitors have brought about different types of monitor cables including VGA cable, HDMI connector, USB cable, DisplayPort, and many more similar cables.

This guide will help you identify computer cable connections so you can hook up your desktop computer to a monitor in minutes.

Types of Monitor Cables (for Computer PC)

DisplayPort (DP)

The DisplayPort (DP) is a digital interface used to transmit video signals to a computer monitor or other display units. It also supports USB and audio signals. This cable was developed to replace DVI, VGA, and FPD-link.

The DP cable supports both audio and video signal transmissions. It also carries the same digital connection resolution as  HDMI and DVI.

There are not too computer monitors that support the DisplayPort 20-pin interface but you can convert DP signal into HDMI or DVI (common ports in new computer monitors) with the use of an adapter.

A standard DisplayPort cable will work with any desktop computer or laptop with a DisplayPort and monitor with a DisplayPort port. This means even the older versions of PCs, laptops, and monitors will still work with the newest systems that support resolutions up to 5K @60Hz.

HDMI

The High-Definition Multimedia Interface or HDMI monitor cable is the most popular cable for monitors because it is compatible with many devices other than your computer monitors, such as LCD television and home theatres.

New computer monitors and video cards have HDMI interface options. The HDMI monitor cable delivers a similar resolution as DVI cable but it also carries, on the connection, digital audio. The HDMI cable has small 19-pin connectors.

HDMI simultaneously transmits digital audio and video signals from a computer or television to a computer monitor, television, or projectors through the same port and cable. HDMI can simultaneously deliver high-definition video at 1920 x1200p and 8 audio channels.

USB-C

The USB-C replaces electrical connectors to connect hosts and devices. The Universal Serial Bus – C (USB-C) is a single connector. It has a 24-pin USB connector system. Since its development in 2014, this monitor cable has become the gold standard connector connecting power and data.

A USB-C monitor cable connects your USB-C- enabled computer (including a MacBook) to a USB- C- enabled monitor. This full-function cable is certified by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) allowing you to transfer power multimedia content and data at a speed up to 10Gbps.

While the USB-C is compact, it comes with great power and a wide range of highly-advanced features. This all-in-one connector can transmit power, video, and audio with only one cable and from a single port.

USB-C delivers video signals in 4K up to 60 Hz with multi-channel digital audio and High Dynamic Range (HDR).

Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt is a hardware interface brand name developed by Intel and Apple. It allows external peripherals to be connected to computer monitors. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 use the same connector as the MiniDisplay Port while Thunderbolt 3 uses the USB-C connector from a USB.

Thunderbolt combines DisplayPort (DP) and PCI Express into two serial signals, as well as provides DC power in one cable.

The major advantage of Thunderbolt is its ability and speed to support multiple devices and monitors via a single port as it provides power in both directions.

Thunderbolt was first adopted by Apple. Today, the majority of PCs and laptops support         Thunderbolt.

DVI

A Digital Video Interface (DVI) monitor cable transmits only video. It is ideal for  144Hz at 1080p or older systems. It is, however, complete because it can transmit analog and digital video data. It is the most commonly used monitor cable today for connecting digital monitors because it can support up to 1920×1200 image resolution. It can also support 2560×1600 video resolutions.

When used in LCD monitors, DVI can significantly reduce digital noise. It may look like a VGA cable except that it comes with flat pins that are longer than the pins of a VGA cable.

DVI is a video interface technology designed to maximize the value of LCD monitors and the newest video graphics cards.


VGA

Video Graphics Array (VGA) is a cable monitor you can use when you have no other cable monitor available. A VGA monitor cable can transfer video signals from your computer to a monitor. VGA can either be a male or female connector.

Video Graphics Array or VGA is one of the oldest monitor cables available. It was launched by IBM in 1987. VGA cables produce low-quality screen resolutions making them used far less. It has today been replaced by faster HDMI and DVI cables.

VGA has, for decades, been the standard monitor cable for computer monitors, video cards, projectors, laptops, and high-definition televisions sets. VGA is a 15-pin cable  (three rows of 5 pins) that delivers an analog video signal.

SDI

Serial Digital Interface or SDI is a digital video interface used to transmit unencrypted and uncompressed digital video signals for professional video equipment. SDI is a standard cable that is used to transmit digital video through long distances.

SDI has a long range of up to 300 feet because it is sent along with BNC cabling that consists of specialized connectors on each end allowing the cable to be locked into the devices they connect to.

SDI cables are reliable, sturdy, and robust. They are mass-produced so, they are the cheapest among monitor cables.

DisplayPort vs. HDMI vs. USB-C

Display Port is the best cable for audio and video signals. It can transmit 144Hz up to 4K. This cable has security latches giving you peace of mind when plugging into your computer you cannot find with HDMI.

The DisplayPort 1.3 pioneered 4K resolution at 120 Hz and HDMI release their own HDMI 2.1 three years later. The DisplayPort 1.4 is one of the best options for computer gaming monitors because it has been in the market for quite some time, not to mention its wider acceptance among manufacturers of graphic cards.

The DisplayPort 1.4 has a 25.92 Gb/s bandwidth to offer 4K gaming at 144 Hertz, outperforming the HDMI 1.2 and HDMI 2.0. DisplayPort 1.4, however, lags behind the HDMI 2.1.

HDMI 2.0 is a big improvement from the HDMI 1.4’s bandwidth of 10.2 Gb/s to its (HDMI 2.0) almost double 18 Gb/s. HDMI 2.0 also expands color ranges and is noticeable in bright and dark scenes in support of HDR.

The HDMI 2.1 is a much-improved version of the HDMI 1.4 and 2.0. It offers 10K resolution without sacrificing the up to 120Hz refresh rate. HDMI 2.1 also comes with upgraded audio, especially with surround sound.

Similar to HDMI, USB-C is also an all-in-one cable due to its accessibility. USB-C can be plugged in any position. Other than with a computer monitor USB-C can be used with tablets, laptops, and smartphones.

The USB-C offers 10 Gb/s bandwidth with 85 Watts charging capability. This cable can replace. The USB-C, though, does not support Adaptive-Sync technology, so you will not be able to run Nvidia’s G-Sync or AMD’s FreeSync. If you want simple and smooth gaming, the USB-C is not the right choice.

HDMI vs. DVI vs. VGA

HDMI is the most commonly used cable to connect your TV. If you need to connect your computer to a monitor your best options are HDMI, DVI, or the good old VGA.  HDMI and DVI are digital while VGA is analog.

Computer monitors typically come with HDMI connectors. It is connected to a monitor using HDMI. This monitor cable is also cheap and delivers audio. A 4K monitor only offers 30fps with HDMI. With the coming of HDMI 2.0, connecting a 4K monitor via HDMI can offer up to 60fps.

HDMI is a pretty good option, but if your want higher frame rates and resolutions, you have other options.

Video signals delivered by DVI is somewhat similar to HDMI. With DVI, the maximum resolution, though, depends on your monitor. DVI does not typically do audio. If you are connecting your computer to a TV, HDMI is a better option. This is often not a big issue, because Computer monitors do not usually come with speakers.

VGA delivers 640 x 480 resolution color display with 60 Hz refresh rate. It delivers 16 colors but if you reduce the resolution to 320 x 200, it can display 256 colors.VGA can now support high-definition video resolution at 1080p. While VGA is still being used by many, it will soon be replaced with the newer HDMI and DVI interface.

How to Convert between Different Video Ports?

Converting between different video ports is like translating from one language to another. You may have bought a new LCD monitor for your old desktop computer but the only available port in your computer is incompatible with your monitor. You can buy a video adapter so you can use your the cable of your new monitor with your old computer. 

See more: Types of Video Display Adapters (converter): Everything You Need to Know

DisplayPort to HDMI

DisplayPort and HDMI are similar video interfaces. They, however, use different transmission methods. You can connect a DisplayPort on your computer to an HDMI monitor using a DP to HDMI adapter cable or adapter and not experience lose image quality.

VGA to HDMI or HDMI to VGA

You can use a VGA to HDMI to covert to and from VGA. VGA is a video only interface. You can have audio by separately using a USB or 3.5 mm jack connection. If you convert  HDMI to VGA, the high-resolution HDMI signal will downgrade to 1920 x 1200 (WUXGA) at 60 Hz.

To and from VGA

VGA is an analog interface. You can convert VGA to digital interfaces such as HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPOrt via a VGA adapter.

USB-C to HDMI

You can either convert USB-C to HDMI via an adapter or with a USB Alt Mode. Your USB-C port should be able to support USB Power Delivery so you can use USB HDMI Alt Mode. You should also have a cable with an HDMI connection on one end and a USB-C connector on the other end.

USB-C to VGA

You can use an adapter cable or adapter to convert video from USB-C to a VGA monitor via the DisplayPort Alt Mode. The DisplayPort Alt mode is supported by all USB-C ports. The display resolution will be a maximum of 1920 x 1200 at 60Hz which is the maximum resolution supported by the VGA interface.

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FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the Best Cable for Monitor? DisplayPort or HDMI or USB-C?

HDMI provides a stable signal. You can do daisy-chaining with HDMI 2.1- connecting your computer to a monitor, and connecting the same monitor to another monitor. HDMI cables are also cheap.

If your monitor supports only HDMI 2.0, you will be better off with DisplayPort, especially if you plan to daisy-chain multiple monitors.

DisplayPort has always been the choice of desktop computer users. DisplayPort can handle an output of 80Gbps while HDMI 2.1 can cap out 48 Gbps. This means the standard DisplayPort 1.4 is still the favorite of many as compared to HDMI 2.0.

On the other hand, many opt for the USB-C because it is easy to use.

What is the Best Display Cable for PC gaming?

Gamers classify display cables when choosing video ports according to hierarchy. DisplayPort is the best display cable to connect your graphics card to your computer monitor. DisplayPort offers full support for such adaptive refresh features as FreeSynch and G-Sync. DisplayPort also has the best bandwidth.

What is the Best Displayport cable for gaming?

DisplayPort is known for carrying high-quality audio and video data from your computer to the display monitor. DisplayPort cables deliver frame rates and high resolutions that are critical for gaming monitors that have high refresh rates.

DisplayPort 1.4 is the best cable if you are into competitive gaming. It has a high bandwidth of 32.40Gbps that allows a 240Hz refresh rate. It also has a 60 Hz refresh rate with 8k resolution or 1080p resolution.

What is the Best Displayport cable for 165hz?

While all gaming monitors, PCs, and graphic cards come with DisplayPorts, you want to choose a gaming monitor with 165Hz. 165Hz is the middle ground between 60Hz and the ones with high frame rates such as 240Hz and 360Hz. This means 165Hz monitors deliver better color accuracy, improved panels, faster response, and better HDR.

DisplayPort 1.4 is the best DisplayPort cable for 165Hz.

Should You Use HDMI, DisplayPort, or USB-C for a 4K Monitor?

HDMI 2.1 delivers the greatest throughput with regards to frame rate, maximum resolution, and color depth making it the best choice.

Many PC users though, still prefer the DisplayPort 1.4 because of its daisy-chaining abilities and throughput. If you are not connecting multiple monitors to your PC, the choice between DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 for your 4K monitor does not really matter.

USB-C is also a good choice as long as your laptop supports USB-C Alt Mode with DisplayPort. Your 4K monitor should also be able to deliver the power to charge your laptop.

Is DisplayPort or HDMI better?

DisplayPort is your best option when you require higher bandwidth. DisplayPort cables can deliver higher bandwidth than HDMI cables, thus they can transmit more signals simultaneously. This is a great advantage if you intend to connect multiple monitors to your computer. If you are gaming, it is the best to use a DisplayPort cable to connect a monitor to your computer.

HDMI, on the other hand, is your best option if you want to connect a TV to your computer. HDMI supports Audio Return Channel (ARC) so the sound is transmitted to your TV.

Which Cable Do I Need For 144Hz?

If you want to display 1080p or 1440p at 120Hz or 144Hz, you can choose between a DisplayPort cable, a dual-link DVI cable, or HDMI 1.3 cable or higher. These cables support higher refresh rates and higher resolutions.

If you want to display 4K at 144Hz, DisplayPort 1.4 or an HDMI 2.1 cable is your best option because they can also carry 120HZ signal without any compression. If you want to display 1440p at 144Hz, go for at least a DisplayPort 1.2 cable or HDMI 2.0.

If you want to have a fast refresh rate as well as crisp and crystal clear content, choose a high-quality cable to maximize your 144Hz monitor. In which case, DisplayPort is your best choice because it also supports audio and video.

What Cable is Best for Gaming?

Most gamers consider HDMI as the best cable when connecting a computer, blu-ray player, or computer to a TV. If you want to maximize a 1080p monitor and high frame rates, a DVI cable is your best choice.

HDMI and DisplayPort cables have individual specs and features that are advantageous to a gaming monitor. These two monitor cables tend to overlap each other in many areas.

What cable is best for 240hz?

DisplayPort is the best cable for 240Hz monitors. DisplayPort has a higher bandwidth than HDMI 2.0 and lower versions. With a DisplayPort cable, you do not need to purchase aftermath cables because the one that goes with your 240Hz monitor is often high and of sufficient quality.

Does HDMI support 240hz?

All HDMI cables support a 240hz refresh rate. Using the refresh rate depends on the device you are using the cable with – PC, monitor, or HDTV.

Does HDMI support 144hz?

Yes, HDMI supports 144 Hz. It, however, depends on the bandwidth, resolution, and HDMI version. HDMI 1.3 through HDMI 2.1 delivers enough raw bandwidth for 144 Hz monitors. Compromises, though have to be made in terms of resolution, compression, chroma, or color.

Do all HDMI cables support FreeSync?

Yes, all HDMI cables support FreeSync ever since this technology was launched. If you have a FreeSync certified display that supports FreeSync across HDMI, then, you can enjoy varied refresh rates even if your display does not support an HDMI 2.1.

What DisplayPort cables support G-Sync?

All DisplayPort cables regardless of version can support G-Sync. DisplayPort cables offer the best bandwidth and offer full support to adaptive refresh features such as Free Sync and G-Sync.

Conclusion

Knowing what the different types of monitor cables look like, their functionalities,  as well as their individual capabilities gives you the power to choose the best monitor depending on what you want to achieve.

Monitors can be equipped with one or multiple ports. Being able to choose which port and cable to choose allows you to maximize the use of your monitor.

References

  1. “Monitor Ports and USB-C: A Comparison of Display Connections”, Viewsonic.com, May 19, 2021
  1. “How to connect a monitor to a computer”, Computerhope.com, June 6, 2021       

Andy Avery

I really enjoy helping people with their tech problems to make life easier, ​and that’s what I’ve been doing professionally for the past decade.

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