With all the options for HDMI-to-VGA cables and adapters, it can be challenging to figure out which ones will work for your devices. More importantly, should you use these cables and adapters, and do they even work?
HDMI-to-VGA cables and adapters work. They allow you to establish a connection between digital and analog devices. However, there are certain parameters that these cables or adapters should have to convert signals properly.
In this article, I’ll go through everything you need to know about HDMI-to-VGA cables and adapters. I’ll also talk about HDMI- and VGA-enabled devices to help you figure out the one you need when converting signals. Let’s begin!
Why Do HDMI-to-VGA Cables and Adapters Work?
HDMI-to-VGA cables and adapters work because they contain a chip that allows them to convert the video signal from digital (HDMI) to analog (VGA). However, these signals require active conversion that needs a constant power supply, making it important for you to have the right cable or adapter.
This conversion process—digital to analog—is one of the reasons you can’t splice an HDMI cable and connect it to a VGA cable. Even if you connect the wires, the resulting cable won’t be capable of active conversion.
Apart from this, some VGA ports cannot transmit power through their cables. This means that you should be careful when choosing an HDMI-to-VGA adaptor or cable.
This is one of the reasons people who try to use these converters often find themselves wondering whether they work or not.
Comparison: HDMI vs. VGA
To better understand how converters work, it’s important to learn about the differences between these two connections. This will also help you figure out whether converting HDMI-to-VGA or upgrading your device would be a better solution.
Below is a useful table explaining their differences:
|Compatibility||Newer monitors, graphics cards, and devices.||Older monitors, graphics cards, and devices.|
|Max Refresh Rate||240Hz||85Hz|
|Audio||32 audio channels||No audio output|
|Power Supply||HDMI ports can send +5V power through the cables.||Older VGA ports can’t send power through the cables.|
HDMI vs. VGA: Video Comparison
The main element that sets HDMI and VGA cables and adaptors apart is the video output. The max resolution for VGA ports is 1600×1200, while HDMI’s max resolution is 1920×1200 (HDMI 1.4b and later even supports 4k displays).
VGA was created in the late eighties and was developed to send analog video data using existing technology. It has a lot of video delivery limitations when compared to modern technologies. However, there are still a lot of monitors and projectors that were manufactured after 2003 that still work today.
In contrast, HDMI was innovated in 2002, with production starting in 2003. It’s capable of delivering uncompressed video data with very little interference. Most modern computers, gaming consoles, monitors, televisions, and projectors use HDMI connectors because of their superiority in transferring data.
HDMI vs. VGA: Audio Comparison
The audio output will be the biggest difference if you use an HDMI-to-VGA cable or adapter. It will also determine the type that you’ll need for the conversion. HDMI can transfer compressed and uncompressed audio data, while VGA doesn’t have audio support.
So, using a cable will work for you if you’re only trying to convert video data from digital to analog. It won’t produce audio because VGA ports can’t process audio data.
Connecting an HDMI-enabled computer to a VGA-enabled monitor or projector while processing audio signals is still possible. You just have to use an adapter with an audio port, like this Tendak Active HDMI-to-VGA Adapter from Amazon.
Be careful when choosing a converter because some don’t include active conversion capability or an audio port.
HDMI vs. VGA: Device Compatibility
Device compatibility is another factor you must consider when looking for an HDMI-to-VGA cable or adapter. Although VGA was developed decades ago, it was a mainstream port for several years, and some modern displays still use it due to low interference and less input lag.
On the other hand, it would be difficult for a consumer nowadays to find a computer, gaming console, monitor, TV, or projector that doesn’t have HDMI capability. Manufacturers also make it so much easier for consumers to use HDMI with its backward compatibility—you can use HDMI 2.1 or 2.0, and it will still be compatible with other previous versions.
HDMI and VGA have many distinct features, with each one offering unique advantages.
However, using a converter will strip away most of the varying features that both of these connections offer and will most likely reduce video quality.
Converting HDMI-to-VGA: How Does It Work?
HDMI transmits and receives digital signals, while VGA transmits and receives analog signals.
HDMI-to-VGA converters allow you to connect devices, such as your computer or gaming console and a television screen. They do this by converting the signal from digital to analog for the receiving device.
Analog video data is the ‘real’ uncompressed video sent through the cables from your computer to your monitor. Digital video data is simply a representation of the ‘real’ data comparable to the original version.
To compare it to something that you can see and feel, a digital representation of video data is similar to a CD soundtrack, while an analog is a vinyl record. CDs carry the data that allows you to play it in a CD player, while a vinyl record has the music etched in it for the phonograph.
When listening to both, you might not notice that much difference in quality, or the digital version might even sound better. That’s because there are a lot of digital enhancements that aren’t possible with an analog signal.
Using a CD in a phonograph won’t work because they’re built differently—phonographs can’t read a digital representation. HDMI and VGA work similarly—VGA-enabled devices can’t process digital signals from an HDMI-enabled device.
A cable or adapter allows your analog displays to receive and process digital video data from your computer. To do this, you’ll need to have an active conversion that requires low power running through the cable.
One of the best use cases for a converter is when you buy a gaming console or graphics card that only delivers digital data and you only have an analog screen. Instead of buying a new TV or monitor to use your device, you can use a converter, which is a much cheaper solution.
Pros and Cons of Using HDMI-to-VGA Cables and Adapters
There are many different options you can choose from when looking for HDMI-to-VGA converters. You also need to be very careful when looking for one because some won’t work or don’t have the features required to convert the signal from digital to analog.
Aside from this, you also have to determine whether you should get an adapter or cable. These converters work very differently, so to help you find the one you need, here are some pros and cons of using HDMI-to-VGA cables and adapters.
Pros of Using HDMI-to-VGA Cables
- Ease-of-use: if you use a converter cable, you’ll only have to plug the HDMI side into your computer and the VGA side into your display. It’s a plug-and-play option that will work for a lot of computers.
- Cable management: you don’t have to worry about managing too many cables for the connection. Using them is almost like having an HDMI-compliant PC that is connected to another HDMI-compliant screen.
- Affordability: cables are much cheaper because you won’t need to establish multiple connections and buy more cables to connect your computer to your display. Aside from this, they don’t have as many features as adapters, which reduces the overall cost.
Cons of HDMI-to-VGA Cables
- Power supply: active digital data to analog conversion requires low power for continuous processing. Most converter cables won’t have the power needed for this process, which is why many converter cables don’t work.
- Audio output: HDMI can send audio and video signals, but an HDMI-to-VGA cable won’t be able to process the audio signals. So it won’t be an ideal solution for people who want to connect their gaming console to an analog display.
Pros of HDMI-to-VGA Adapters
- Compatibility: HDMI-to-VGA adapters, in many cases, have all the features you’ll need to convert digital video data to analog. Most of them can even de-embed the audio signal and simultaneously process it in a separate port. This feature will allow you to connect your gaming console to an analog display and a sound system simultaneously.
Cons of HDMI-to-VGA Adapters
- Complexity: if you want to use an adapter, you have a wide range of options from which to choose. For instance, you have female (HDMI) to male (VGA) adaptors and also male (HDMI) to female (VGA) ones, which feature power and audio supply. Moreover, there are some that will only convert digital video to analog. You must be careful when choosing one because some might not work for your devices.
- Cable management: if you use an HDMI-to-VGA adapter, you’ll have to use anywhere from one to four cables! You might need one for the HDMI input, VGA output, audio output, and power supply. Having all these cables just to connect your computer to your display can be unmanageable for some people.
- Affordability: adapters are slightly more expensive than converter cables, which may not be a deal breaker for some people. However, if you consider the cost of the cables you’re going to need to connect it to your computer properly, it can quickly be a very expensive option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use HDMI-to-VGA and VGA-to-HDMI Interchangeably?
HDMI-to-VGA is unidirectional, and you can’t use it interchangeably. Converting analog to digital and digital to analog are two very different processes that require different processing chips.
Aside from this, VGA-to-HDMI also needs low power running through the cables for processing. And since many VGA ports can’t send power through cables, you will need a power supply to enable the conversion.
If you’re looking for a bidirectional option, it would be best to check your display or computer and see whether you have a digital output port. I have seen many people looking for HDMI-to-VGA converter solutions. However, they often find that their screens also have DVI ports.
In this case, using HDMI to DVI cables or adapters is a better option because doing so requires passive conversion, and you can use them interchangeably. It’s a better option than using HDMI-to-VGA because you won’t need to convert digital signals to analog.
Will HDMI-to-VGA Cables/Adapters Affect Video Quality?
HDMI-to-VGA cables and adapters will affect quality in terms of max resolution and refresh rate. VGA displays are very limited, especially by today’s standards, and they might not give you the video quality you expect.
Although the input lag is less when using VGA, it’s not the best solution for entertainment due to the limited video quality and lack of audio support.
Do HDMI-to-VGA Cables Need a Power Source?
You won’t need a power source when converting from HDMI to VGA. HDMI ports can provide low +5V power through the cables that allow it to process the conversion.
VGA ports, originally, weren’t able to deliver power through the cables. In later versions, designers added a 5V line for the cables to deliver power. However, since we can’t determine whether power is flowing through the cables, we should always assume that we’d need a power supply to process the conversion.
This difference in power delivery is another reason you can’t use HDMI-to-VGA cables and adapters interchangeably. It’s also another reason why you want to pay special attention when you’re looking for a connector for your devices.
HDMI-to-VGA cables or adapters will work if you pick the right option for what you need. The conversion from digital to analog is very important to figure out what type you’ll need for connecting your computer to a display.
As long as you have all the necessary information and understand how the conversion works, it’ll be easy to pick the right cable or adapter for your device.