Technology 10. April 2017

Screen connections briefly explained

Most modern monitors offer multiple ports, just like PCs and laptops offer multiple ways to connect monitors. Most users understand relatively little under the abbreviations HDMI, DP, DVI, VGA and USB-C. Most are content to find a suitable cable to connect the screen. It is worth considering which connections offer what.




HDMI – First choice for connection to the TV

HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is one of the most widely used connection options of various multimedia systems. The reason is that this standard is designed for uncompressed video and audio signals. HDMI was introduced in 2002, today mostly found in versions 1.4 and 2.0. The latter allows, for example, the transmission of a 4K resolution with 60 frames per second and a stronger color saturation (HDR). Some notebooks and many digital cameras have mini or micro HDMI ports, a smaller version. HDMI is the first choice for connecting a PC or media center to a TV.


(Mini)DP – First choice for multiple displays

DisplayPort (DP), with the most common version 1.2, lies between HDMI 1.4 and 2.0 in terms of performance. Newer versions – 1.3 or 1.4 – allow transfer rates that enable resolutions of up to 8k. The biggest advantage of this standard is the ability to connect multiple screens in series (multi-streaming). Thus, the first screen is connected to the notebook and the second screen to the first. In addition, Apple, later together with Intel, developed the Mini DisplayPort, which is very common in notebooks and desktops today. What’s confusing here, however, is that Apple includes an identical-looking interface called Thunderbolt on newer devices (the difference is in the lightning bolt next to the port). A Thunderbolt port also functions as a DP. Conversely, however, it is not possible to run Thunderbolt devices on a DP port. The DP connector, unlike HDMI, also has a locking mechanism that ensures a more reliable connection between the PC and the display device.


DVI – Standard for PC and Monitor

DVI (Digital Visual Interface) is the standard for the connection between PC and monitor at present. DVI comes in different versions, all of which are aimed at video transmission. The most powerful DVI version allows a transmission rate that is sufficient for normal requirements, but reaches its limits with new multimedia technologies. DVI will thus gradually be replaced.


VGA – The classic

VGA (Video Graphics Array) has been the standard for several decades. It relies on analog transmission and allows a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 – and is thus outdated for today’s requirements. Only in exceptional cases, for example with a projector, is a VGA connection still necessary or recommended today.


USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 – The best solution for the future

The latest addition to the plug salad is the USB (Universal Serial Bus) version C. Unlike today’s widespread connections, USB-C is twist-proof. So it doesn’t matter how the plug is inserted. As a new standard, USB-C will gradually replace a number of previous ports on laptops, including the port for the power adapter. The versatility and fast data transfer rates – even under pressure from the competing standard Mini DisplayPort – make USB-C the best option for connecting an external screen to a laptop.
But beware: Thunderbolt 3 also uses the USB-C port. Thus, different data transfer technologies can be operated via the same connector. Depending on the device, however, not all functions are available. Before buying a device with a USB-C port, you should definitely check which functions are implemented.

Daniela Siebertz

Marketing and Communication Manager

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