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Understanding the DVI Connector and Video Cable

Understanding the DVI Connector and Video Cable


A DVI connection can be a good alternative to using HDMI. But, when should you use one? Find out more about the DVI connector and cable with my guide...

A DVI connector can provide a high-quality picture for your home cinema components.

However, it may be that there are better ways to connect your devices.

Is DVI compatible with HDMI? What is DVI-I?

And, can you connect a DVI output to a monitor with a VGA input?

Find out more about this connection type and when you should use it.

What Does the DVI Connector Look Like?

The connection on your device will look something like this:

DVI Connector

It is a common port found on modern computer graphics cards and some AV devices such as projectors.

Some manufacturers will color the port depending on which type of DVI connector it is – DVI-D, DVI-A or DVI-I. See below for more information on the different types.

What Does a DVI Cable Look Like?

DVI Cable

The cable that is used to connect two devices looks like this.

The ‘D’ shape means the video cable can only be inserted one way round.

The DVI connection on the end of the cable may have different amounts of pins depending on the type of DVI connection it is designed for. The different pin configurations are explained below.

When Should I Use a DVI Connection?

Most modern AV equipment will usually have an HDMI connector. This can be used to send high-quality digital video and audio signals.

However, if you have a device with DVI connections rather than HDMI, then this should be used for sending the video signal if possible.

This type of connection would normally be used ahead of a component video cable, an s-video cable and a composite video signal – as long as your equipment supports this type of hookup.

What Else Can You Tell Me About DVI Connections?

The acronym stands for Digital Visual Interface.

This connection is mainly used in computers for sending images to screens. However, you may come across them in some AV equipment, especially projectors.

There are actually three types of cables and connections, and each type has a slightly different pin configuration:

  • DVI-D – for digital signals
  • DVI-A – for analog signals
  • DVI-I – can send digital and analog signals

These different types were designed to allow a flexible solution for connecting to either digital or analog screens. However, in reality, it can just be plain confusing! In general, most AV equipment will have the digital version.

DVI Connection types

It is possible to tell the type of port you have/need by checking the pins used on your device connectors – and these are pictured above.

However, it is probably safer to refer to the manual before you buy a cable to make sure which version you are using.

You don’t want to buy a digital cable if your outputs only support the analog version!

There is also another less common version – dual-link (or DVI-DL). This has a second internal connection for delivering data and can be used for high-resolution displays.

This type of connection isn’t widely used, but you would need a dual-link cable if your device uses this type of interface.

Can I Buy a DVI to HDMI Cable?

The digital DVI-D or DVI-I version is compatible with an HDMI connection. So you can get DVI to HDMI cables or converters if your AV equipment requires this type of hookup.

Remember, a DVI connection doesn’t transfer audio signals and so these cables will send the picture but not the sound.

UGREEN Bi-Directional HDMI to DVI-D Cable
UGREEN Bi-Directional HDMI to DVI-D Cable
Image Credit: UGREEN

The cable pictured above will work both ways.

So you can send a signal from a DVI-D output to an HDMI input. Or from an HDMI output to a DVI-D input.


Another thing to check is the image resolution supported by the cable. These cables support 1080p video with a maximum resolution of 1920×1200.

How Do I Connect DVI to a VGA Monitor?

There may be a time when you have a DVI output, but only a VGA input on your monitor.

Do DVI to VGA adapters work? By golly, they do indeed.

If you are using the DVI-I or DVI-A versions, then you can buy an adapter to convert your DVI output into a VGA interface.

Then, you just need to connect a VGA cable to your display.

UGREEN DVI-I Male to VGA Female Adapter
UGREEN DVI-I Male to VGA Female Adapter
Image Credit: UGREEN

Does this work both ways? No, this adapter is designed for a DVI-I to VGA connection.

It has a male DVI connector that plugs into the female DVI output on your device.

You can then connect a standard VGA cable into the female VGA connector – and then plug this into your monitor.

DVI-D to VGA Connections

What if your device has a DVI-D output? Then you will need a different type of adapter.

This active VGA adapter will work with any DVI-D device – such as the graphics card connector of an desktop or laptop.

Benfei Active DVI-D to VGA Adapter
Benfei Active DVI-D to VGA Adapter
Image Credit: Benfei

This adapter supports 1080p TV resolutions at 60Hz – up to 1920×1200 @60Hz.

How to Make VGA to DVI Connections

Up to now, we have looked at making a DVI to VGA connection. But, what if you need to connect everything the other way?

In this case, you might need a different cable.

If want to make a VGA to DVI connection, then you can buy a cable like this one:

Cable Matters VGA to DVI-I Cable
Cable Matters VGA to DVI-I Cable
Image Credit: Cable Matters

This VGA to DVI-I cable will allow you to connect a VGA output to a DVI-I input on your display device.

It doesn’t send audio. You will need to make a separate connection for the sound.

In fact, this cable is bi-directional. So if you want to buy a DVI-I to VGA cable then this one will work.

This is a good alternative to the DVI to VGA adapter I mentioned previously.

Sometimes buying a cable rather than an adapter will save you the cost of buying an extra cable.

Always check that the cable or adapter that you are going to buy supports the correct signal direction that you need.

Some cables will send either way. But some may be designed for one way only.

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Understanding the DVI Connection

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About Home Cinema Guide

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has worked as a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment. You can find out more here.

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