When you look at the back of your PC, you can see that your graphics card for gaming carries different types of connectors. But have you ever asked yourself what these different ports are for and why you’d use one over another? Which one should you use to connect your computer to your monitor or TV?
DVI (digital visual interface) is one of the most common types of video connections these days, but there are several different sub-types. Not all DVI cables are created equal, and if you don’t know what the differences are, you might end up with games that don’t look as sharp as they should.
In this quick guide, we’ll walk you through the differences between DVI-A, DVI-D, and DVI-I connectors so you’ll know exactly what to expect when you hook one up to your sweet gaming rig.
What Is a DVI connector?
DVI connections are standard on most GPUs nowadays, along with HDMI and DisplayPort connections. They’re usually white ports on your GPU, but sometimes they’re black, and they might be another color entirely. The most reliable way to identify a DVI connector is by looking at it; they have three rows of six or eight pins each, as well as a separate single pin that’s much wider and flatter.
The oldest version of DVI is DVI-A, which only carries analog video signals for CRT monitors. Nowadays, it is obsolete and not ideal for gaming on high-end gaming monitors.
The other two types of DVI connectors used on modern GPUs are DVI-I and DVI-D.
DVI-I vs. DVI-D: Signal Compatibility
DVI-D connectors can carry only digital signals, while DVI-I connectors carry both digital and analog signals. Unless you have a really old monitor, you’ll never need analog capabilities, so DVI-D connectors are the only kind modern gamers need.
You can spot the difference between DVI-I and DVI-D connectors visually. Since they carry analog signals in addition to digital signals, DVI-I connectors have 4 extra pins.
Both DVI-I and DVI-D can be single-link or dual-link connectors. The difference can be determined by simple visual observation. The dual-link connector has 24 pins—9 more than the single link connector—because it allows for higher bandwidth. For that reason, the dual-link connector can provide a higher resolution and refresh rate than the single-link DVI connector.
For example, with the dual-link connector, you can have 2560 x 1600 resolution at 60 frames per second, or 1920 x 1080 at 144 frames per second, while the single-link connector tops out at 1920 x 1200 resolution at 60 frames per second.
DVI ports are very useful and versatile because they allow you to use all different kinds of adapters for connection to HDMI or VGA devices. However, you should know that most DVI cables do not carry audio signals.
VGA connectors (which are usually blue) are the oldest types still in use. They carry only analog signals. Although you can still find them here and there, they can’t compete with HDMI, DVI, or DisplayPort in terms of bandwidth and picture quality.
HDMI is the most common connector for TVs at this time, but it is also used on other devices. It is an affordable, all-in-one cable that can transmit both video and audio signals. Keep in mind that some of the best monitors under $200 don’t have HDMI ports because of their age, so DVI is a safer bet in terms of compatibility.
The maximum resolution for HDMI 1.4 ports (an older standard) is 3820 x 2160 at 30 frames per second. To enjoy 4K video and gaming at 60 frames per second, you’ll need to make sure that your device and cable are both HDMI 2.0.
DisplayPort is mostly used for computer connections. There are almost no TVs with this type of connector. It provides great quality since it can deliver 3840 x 2160 resolution at 60 frames per second. DisplayPort 1.2 also has a Multi-Stream Transport feature that allows you to connect multiple display units to one connector.
Similar to HDMI, DisplayPort can carry audio, and the cables are about the same price. Therefore, we can conclude that DisplayPort is the best type of connector for PCs and monitors at this time.
One last thing: The picture quality you get will depend on the type of connection you’re using, as well as the TV or monitor itself.
For example, if you own a great 1080p gaming monitor, the picture quality will be the same with every type of connector and every type of cable. The cable either delivers a 1080p signal or it does not. Thus, the difference between the connectors is visible only with newer, higher-resolution displays. Your picture quality will always be limited by the capabilities of your display device, and that is where you should start before you decide which cable to use.