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Understanding the DVI Connector and Video Cable

Understanding the DVI Connector and Video Cable


A DVI connection can be an excellent alternative to HDMI, but when should you use one? Find out more about the DVI connector and cable in this simple guide.

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

However, there may be better ways to connect your devices, and you might have plenty of other questions about using DVI.

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 standard port on modern computer graphics cards and 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?

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

DVI Cable

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 You Use a DVI Connection?

Most modern AV equipment usually has an HDMI connector, which can send high-quality digital video and audio signals.

However, if you have a device with a DVI connection rather than HDMI, you should use this to send the video signal.

You would generally use DVI ahead of component video, s-video and composite video – as long as your equipment supports this method.

DVI Connector Types

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

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

The 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 – which are pictured above.

However, it is probably safer to refer to the manual before buying a cable to ensure which version you are using.

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

Another less common version is dual-link (or DVI-DL), which has a second internal connection for delivering data and can be used for high-resolution displays up to 2560×1600/60Hz.

Dual-link DVI connections aren’t widely used, but you would need a special dual-link cable if your device does have this interface.

Can You Convert DVI to HDMI?

The digital DVI-D or DVI-I version is compatible with an HDMI connection – so you can get DVI to HDMI cables or adapters if your AV equipment requires a connection like this.

Remember, a DVI connection doesn’t transfer audio signals, 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. Terrific!

Another thing to check is the image resolution supported by the cable.

The cables above support 1080p video with a maximum resolution of 1920×1200.

How Do You 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? They do indeed.

If you are using the DVI-I or DVI-A versions, 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.

The male DVI connector plugs into your device’s female DVI output, and you connect a standard VGA cable into the female VGA connector.

Finally, simply 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 a 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

You have learned how to make a DVI to VGA connection, but what if you need to connect everything the other way?

In this case, you will need a different cable.

If you want to make a VGA to DVI connection, 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, so you need to make a separate connection for the sound.

In fact, this cable is bi-directional, so if you want to make a DVI-I to VGA connection, then this one will work too.

This is an excellent alternative to the previously mentioned DVI to VGA adapter.

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

However, 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 both ways, but many are designed for one way only.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does DVI Stand For?

DVI stands for Digital Visual Interface.

Is DVI Better Than HDMI?

DVI sends the same high-quality digital video signal as HDMI. However, unlike HDMI, DVI doesn’t support audio signals, so you must make a separate connection to hear the sound.

Are DVI and HDMI the Same?

DVI-D and HDMI are similar, although not exactly the same. The main differences are that HDMI supports stereo and multichannel audio, the YUV color space and CEC control signals – where DVI doesn’t. You may also have trouble playing copyright-protected material with DVI as the connections may not support HDCP.

What Are the Three Types of DVI Connectors?

The three types of DVI connectors are DVD-D (digital signals), DVI-A (analog signals) and DVI-I (compatible with both digital and analog).

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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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