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Understanding the DVI Connector and Video Cable

a DVI output connector on a laptop computer

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 around.

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
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.

Top HDMI to DVI Cable
UGREEN Bi-Directional HDMI to DVI-D Cable
What Is It: A converter cable for directly connecting an HDMI port to a DVI port.
  • For any HDMI and DVI connections, including laptops, PC's, game consoles and set-top boxes
  • Sizes: 3 and 6 feet
  • Supports 1080p video, from 800x600 to 1920x1200 resolution
  • Bi-directional - HDMI out to DVI in, or DVI out to HDMI in
  • Video only; you will need to make a separate connection for audio

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.

If you use 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.

Popular DVI to VGA Adapter
UGREEN DVI-I Male to VGA Female Adapter
What Is It: An adapter for connecting a DVI output to a VGA input - simply attach it to your DVI output port and use a VGA cable to your display device.
  • Easily convert DVI to VGA for older display
  • Supports up to Full HD 1080p@60Hz
  • Plug and play
  • It only works with a DVI-I connection, not DVI-D. Check the manual of your output device to ensure it outputs DVI-I.

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 to 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.

Top DVI-D to VGA Adapter
Benfei Active DVI-D to VGA Adapter
What Is It: A converter box for sending video from a DVI-D output to a display device with a VGA input.
  • Creates a VGA female connection for a standard VGA cable
  • Ideal for older monitors and projectors
  • Supports standard 1080p up to 1920x1200
  • Plug and play - no driver required
  • Not bi-directional - DVI to VGA only, not VGA to DVI

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 device.

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

VGA to DVI Adapter
Monoprice VGA Male to DVI-A Female Adapter
What Is It: A adapter that allows you to connect an old device with a VGA output (like a graphics card) to a display with a DVI-A input (like a computer monitor).
  • You only need a simple DVI-A cable to wire everything together
  • Gold-plated connectors
  • Easy installation
  • It only works with DVI-A (analog), not DVI-D (digital), so ensure your display device supports this

This VGA to DVI-A adapter lets you connect an older device with a VGA output – like a graphics card – to a DVI-A input on your display device, like a monitor or projector.

It doesn’t send audio, so you must make a separate sound connection between the source device and the speaker system.

The critical thing to check before buying is if your monitor or projector supports DVI analog.

This adapter doesn’t convert the video signal from analog to digital; it simply changes the interface from VGA to DVI.

Therefore if your display device only accepts DVI-D (digital), this won’t work.

Can You Connect DisplayPort to DVI?

Another common problem with modern AV connections is connecting DisplayPort connections to DVI.

DisplayPort is common on new graphics cards and monitors, but this can lead to problems when you have older hardware without a DP interface.

Fortunately, DisplayPort is compatible with DVI; you just need to buy the correct cable or adapter.

The main problems of DisplayPort and DVI connections are:

  1. DisplayPort only natively supports single-link DVI, not dual-link. However, active dual-link adapters are available, which are more expensive.
  2. Adapters need to change the voltage between DVI and DisplayPort, which can slow performance.
  3. Simple passive adapters only work from DisplayPort to DVI. You will need to buy a more expensive active adapter to send a signal in the other direction, from DVI to DisplayPort. These are less common than DisplayPort to DVI solutions.

For DisplayPort to DVI, you can buy a simple cable with DP and DVI connectors at either end.

Top DisplayPort to DVI Cable
Benfei DisplayPort to DVI Adapter Cable
What Is It: An adapter cable that allows you to connect a DisplayPort output device (like a graphics card) to a DVI input device (like a computer monitor).
  • DisplayPort male to DVI male
  • Sizes: 3, 6, 10 and 15 feet
  • Supports video resolutions up to 1920x1200 @60Hz
  • Gold-plated connectors
  • Not bi-directional, DisplayPort to DVI only

If you need the higher resolutions of dual-link DVI, you will need to spend more and buy an active adapter that can handle the higher bandwidths.

While plenty of cables and adapters support sending from DisplayPort to DVI, finding solutions for sending a video signal the other way is more challenging.

Here is an active DVI-D to DisplayPort adapter cable that does work in this way:

DVI to DisplayPort Adapter
BolAAzuL Active DVI-D to DisplayPort Adapter Cable
What Is It: An adapter that sends video from a DVI-D output to the DisplayPort input of a PC monitor or projector.
  • Supports resolutions up to 1920x1080 @60Hz
  • 1.8m cable
  • DVI-D single link support
  • Male to male connectors, no further cables required
  • USB power connector available if required
  • DVI-D (digital) to DisplayPort only, not the other direction
  • It doesn't work with DVI-I connections
  • The adapter must connect directly to the DVI port of the source device

You must buy the correct adapter for the job, as all of these solutions are unidirectional and will only send video in one direction.

You must also check if your devices support DVI-D, DVI-I or DVI-A. This is very important with these converters as they often only work with one type.

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 The Author

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has been 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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