VGA Connector and Cable: How to Convert to HDMI and USB

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A VGA cable is mainly used to connect computers and laptops with screens and monitors, although you may also find this connection type on older AV equipment.

While a VGA port is a relatively old connection type now, it still has its uses, so don’t be surprised if you occasionally run into one of these.

There are still plenty of times that you might need to use a VGA connection.

You might be surprised that you can connect VGA to HDMI, which can be extremely useful if you want to connect older equipment. Read on to find out more.

A Brief History of VGA Connections

VGA was developed in 1987 by IBM for an original display resolution of 640×480 pixels.

As VGA also became the standard video connection type for computers, VGA might refer to the standard VGA display resolution of 640×480 – or the 15-pin D-Sub connection.

Over the years, the VGA standard connection has been adapted for higher video resolutions, including Super Video Graphics Array (SVGA) and Extended Graphics Array (XGA).

A VGA connection now even supports high-definition formats like 1920×1080 and 2048×1536.

What Does VGA Do?

A VGA connection sends analog video signals between compatible devices. You would usually use a VGA connector on your AV equipment to connect your PC or laptop to a projector or television.

VGA connections usually receive an analog RGB signal from a device – the video signal you get from a computer – and VGA supports standard and high-definition resolutions.

A VGA cable does not transmit audio signals, so a separate audio connection will be required to hear any audio.

The standard 15-pin D-Sub connector is common on many computers, and therefore you can use VGA male-to-male cables to send a computer image to your TV screen.

When Should You Use VGA?

A VGA connection is often used to connect your PC or laptop to your TV or projector.

However, if your computer or laptop has a DVI or HDMI output, it would usually be better to connect using those.

If your output device only has a VGA port – or has no spare DVI or HDMI inputs – then a VGA connection will still give you a good picture.

However, ensure you buy a good quality cable, as the cheaper VGA cables can often produce a poor image.

What Does a VGA Port Look Like?

The VGA connection on your device looks like this:

Blue VGA connector

It is a female 15-pin D-sub port.

The ‘D’ shape ensures that VGA cables will only fit one way around, and it is often colored blue or black.

Depending on your device, the connector will either be a video input or output.

It may be labeled as ‘input’ or ‘output’ on the device itself, but if not, you should know what it is by considering what the device is for.

For example, the VGA port will be a graphics card output for connecting to a monitor or screen on a desktop computer or laptop.

But, it will probably be a video input for receiving video from a source device on a projector.

What Does a VGA Cable Look Like?

VGA cable connection

A VGA cable looks like this.

It will have a male 15-pin D-sub connector, which fits nicely with your hardware’s female connector.

Be careful when plugging this in, as you can bend the pins unless you are careful. If it isn’t going in easily, check for any bent pins on the cable end.

If you see some that aren’t properly aligned, you can carefully straighten them with tweezers or a small pair of pliers.

How to Get a Good Computer Image on Your TV Screen Using VGA

To get a sharp computer image on the TV screen, it’s best to set the output video resolution of the computer to match the native resolution of the TV.

If not, the image will appear stretched or blurred.

Also, you may be unable to fill the whole TV screen with a sharp image as the computer’s output resolution may not match the TV’s resolution.

If you are using a laptop, you will usually need to press a combination of keys to send the image to the TV – for example, function + F7.

This will vary between models, so consult your manual.

Does VGA Work With HDMI?

Although both support video signals, VGA won’t work directly with HDMI because they use different signal types and connectors.

VGA uses an analog video signal, whereas HDMI is a digital interface.

However, you can make this connection type work if you buy a compatible converter or adapter, although there are some limitations on what you can send.

Knowing which way you wish to convert the signal – VGA to HDMI or HDMI to VGA – is crucial because this will determine which type of converter you need.

How to Convert VGA to HDMI

You will need to buy an adapter cable to convert a VGA signal to HDMI.

Sending a computer image to your television is more difficult if you have a VGA port on your computer – but you don’t have a VGA connection.

Most modern TVs will have several HDMI inputs, but maybe not VGA.

The VGA to HDMI adapter pictured below supports sending from a VGA output to an HDMI input – but not the other way around.

Best VGA to HDMI Adapter
VENTION VGA to HDMI Adapter with Audio
What Is It: An adapter for sending video from a VGA output to an HDMI input that also supports audio.
  • Supports 1920x1080@60Hz (1080p Full HD)
  • Also supports 720p, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200
  • Use the 3.5mm connection to send audio with the picture.
  • Comes with USB for devices that require power
  • Not bi-directional - VGA to HDMI only

You can also use the supplied 3.5mm male-to-male cable to send audio to your TV, so you will get both the picture and sound if required.

All you need to do is connect the VGA connector on the adapter to the VGA output connection on your laptop – then connect a separate HDMI cable from the adapter to one of the HDMI inputs on your TV.

There is a USB connection for devices that need additional power.

The above model supports video up to 1080p Full HD but will also support 1600×1200 (UXGA) and 1024×768 (XGA) – and the resolution you can send will depend on your laptop.

Just be aware that you won’t be able to send copyright-protected content because the HDCP protection for HDMI requires support from all devices in the chain – and a VGA connection doesn’t support HDCP.

How to Convert HDMI to VGA

You should be aware of some potential limitations for converting HDMI to VGA.

You won’t be able to play copyright-protected material as there will be no end-to-end HDCP connection required for copyright protection.

This will be a problem if you try to play movies from your DVD, 1080p or 4K Blu-ray player.

You may also require a separate audio connection.

However, if that isn’t an issue, then the HDMI to VGA adapter below will do the job just fine.

Top HDMI to VGA Adapter
Moread HDMI to VGA Adapter
What Is It: An adpater for connecting an HDMI output to a VGA input.
  • HDMI male to VGA female
  • Supports 1920x1080@60Hz (1080p Full HD)
  • Also supports 720p, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200
  • Works with laptops, Chromebooks, Roku, Wii U and many more
  • Doesn't support Blu-ray players and low-power HDMI ports

It supports sending video from devices such as PCs, notebooks, Chromebooks, Xbox and Wii U.

However, it doesn’t support devices with low-power HDMI output ports such as the Sony PS4 and some Apple products.

Can You Convert DisplayPort to VGA?

You can convert DisplayPort to VGA.

You can buy an adapter that allows any device with a DisplayPort output to connect to a VGA input.

As with HDMI to VGA, you must buy an adapter that converts the signal in the correct direction, so, in this case, it is from DisplayPort to VGA.

The adapter pictured below will do the job for you and supports 1080p Full HD video plus many other resolutions, including 1920×1200@60Hz, 1280×768, 1680×1050 and 1024×768.

Best DisplayPort to VGA Adapter
BENFEI DisplayPort to VGA Adapter
What Is It: An adapter for sending video from a DisplayPort output to a VGA input on monitors and projectors.
  • Supports resolutions up to 1920x1080@60Hz (1080p Full HD)
  • Also supports 720p, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200
  • No software installation required
  • 18-month Warranty
  • Not bi-directional - DisplayPort to VGA only

You will need a suitable VGA cable to connect from the adapter to the VGA input on your display device.

You cannot use this to transfer audio; it is video-only, so you must make a separate audio connection from your source device to your display or speaker system.

VGA to DisplayPort Conversion

Of course, it may be that you are in the opposite situation.

You might have an older computer with a graphics card with VGA-only – and you need to connect it to a newer screen, TV or projector with a DisplayPort input.

In this case, you need to find an adapter that converts the video signal in the right direction.

Here is a VGA to DisplayPort adapter that does just that:

Top VGA to DisplayPort Adapter
TECHTOBOX VGA to DisplayPort Converter
What Is It: A converter cable for connecting a VGA video output to a DisplayPort input.
  • Maximum resolution of 1920x1080@60Hz
  • Audio transfer available via 3.5mm connector
  • Flexible, shielded cable
  • No driver software required
  • Not bi-directional - VGA to DisplayPort only

With a maximum resolution of 1920×1080@60Hz, you can transfer a high-quality HD image.

Attach the 15-pin D-Sub male connector to the VGA output to output the video. Audio support is also available when you connect the supplied 3.5mm connector to a suitable audio output.

You will also need to connect the USB plug to provide power for the adapter.

What Is a USB to VGA Adapter For?

You would need a USB to VGA adapter to add a VGA output to a device that didn’t have one.

For example, you might have a projector with a VGA input and want to connect your laptop computer to display on a big screen.

But, many new computers no longer have a VGA output, so you have a problem.

Fortunately, most computers do have plenty of USB ports. So, buying this adapter allows you to add a VGA video output to your computer, and you can easily connect your hardware.

The model shown here is a popular example of a USB 3.0 to VGA adapter:

Top USB to VGA Adapter
BENFEI USB 3.0 to VGA Adapter
What Is It: A adapter for adding a VGA output to any device with a USB-3.0 or USB 2.0 connection.
  • USB 3.0: support up to 1920x1080@60Hz
  • USB 2.0: support up to 800x600@60Hz
  • Software installation required - Windows only

The most important consideration is the operating system of your computer.

This model only works with Windows 7/8/10, and you need to install the provided software on your computer.

The other important point is that it will only support resolutions up to 1920×1080@60Hz if you connect it to a USB 3.0 port.

If you only have USB 2.0 connections on your device, the resolution will be limited to 800×600@60Hz.

What if you don’t have a Windows computer? Then, you will need to purchase a different adapter.

This USB to VGA adapter will work on any device with a USB Type-C connector:

Top USB-C to VGA Adapter
BENFEI Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type C) to VGA Adapter
What Is It: A adapter for adding a VGA output to any device with a USB-C connection.
  • Resolutions up to 1920x1200@60Hz inc.1080p & 720p
  • Support for any USB-C device, including Thunderbolt 3
  • Works with compatible MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iPad Pro and iMac
  • Support for compatible laptops, tablets and phones
  • Not all laptops, phones and tablets supported

You don’t need to install any software with a USB-C connection, so it will work on various devices, including compatible MacBooks (Thunderbolt 3 connections), iPads, laptops, tablets and phones.

Check with the manufacturer for a complete list of supported devices before buying.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some quick and easy answers to common questions about VGA.

What is VGA?

VGA can refer to either the original video standard resolution of 640×480 or the analog video connection found on many multimedia devices. The connection is mainly used on computers and laptops for linking to display monitors but may also be found on projectors and TVs. These days, it is more common to use a digital video connection to transfer video like HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI.

What Does VGA Stand For?

VGA stands for Video Graphics Array.

What Is a VGA Cable?

A VGA cable is for connecting VGA video inputs and outputs. Although an older connection type, many computers, laptops, projectors and TVs still have VGA connections, so you can use a VGA cable to send an image to your display device.

How Many Pins Are on a VGA Connector?

A standard VGA D-Sub connector has 15 pins.

Which Is Better, VGA or DVI?

You will unlikely see much difference in picture quality between VGA and DVI-A. Just ensure you buy a good quality cable because analog video can be adversely affected by electrical interference and long cable runs. A DVI-D connection is digital, which may work better than analog in some circumstances.

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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.

Image Credit: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Kirshal
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