Question Of The Day: HDMI Versus VGA

This question is posed by Joshua S.

"One question I have that may be of interest to the readers of this website: is there really a perceptable difference in quality between an HDMI hookup and a plain old PC-VGA monitor connection?  I have a Samsung 46" LCD TV (720p) in my setup, which is connected to my HTPC using just a VGA cable.  I just installed the new Pioneer $299 blu-ray drive and the quality looks outstanding on my TV, just as good as HD out of my cablebox (which is connected to the TV using HDMI).  Maybe I have poor eyesight, but I really cannot tell much of a difference between VGA and HDMI, certainly not enough of one to warrant all the restrictions (i.e., HDCP) that go along with HDMI.

Am I missing something?  With all the hype around HDMI, I feel like I have to be."

VGA, otheriwse known as RGBHV, is an analog signal ouput by most modern video cards. DVI and HDMI is a digital signal output in most cards built in the last couple of years. With HDMI gaining acceptance in the last year or so. When using HDMI or DVI you maintain a digital path from computer to display. This eliminates a digital to analog conversion and an analog to digital conversion when using VGA. In theory, and too many people, the signal does look cleaner and clearer when maintaining a digital path. However, the A/D D/A conversions are done very well and can be very hard to tell the difference. Without really studying an HD signal I have a difficult time to tell the difference.  If you are happy with VGA I say go for it.

The other reason digital signal paths are gaining acceptance is the ease in which DRM can be implemented. As of right now, you won’t have a problem playing Blu-ray or HD DVD with VGA. However, sooner or late, the studios are bound to turn on the flag for the analog token. Which means, if you playback through VGA it will be downsampled to SD resolutions. That isnt expected to happen for a few years.

Other tidbits.

HDMI can also carry audio signals. 1.3 is the newest revision with bandwidth changes to support the newest audio CODECS.

DVI is video only.

Component connections are an analog connection as well that carry the information in a slightly different way. The first method many of used to hook our first HTPCs up was component video to a CRT HDTV.

If you want to submit a question for the editors to answer please email alan at missingremote com. We will take our best stab at it. If we can answer it, we will post it anyways and let the community have a shot at it :).