Sunday, September 25, 2022

Monitor Cable Soup - (Mini) HDMI / DVI-A / DVI-D / Dual Link DVI-I / DisplayPort / VGA / Thunderbolt / USB-C

Not all displays are created equally.

With screens and video cards from different years you may end up with some weird combinations... and not all combinations work.


Red / Orange / Green

I've color coded the level of trouble you can expect with each combination. The green marked combinations are the easier / cheaper / better working ones.

Simply scoll down the page until you've find the combo you need, and read the notes.


Common connectors

Some brands may offer variants or miniature versions, but these are the more common type of connectors:

(Click image to enlarge.)



DVI

There are a couple of different flavors, and not all descriptions online match (DVI is a bit of a mess 😐).





For example, sometimes video cards don't have the pins for a DVI-I connector (ie. they do not output the analogue signal). Most monitors have all pins, so then you can use a cable without those pins, but sometimes the cable may be permanently attached to the monitor.

Fortunately, in most cases you can move on to display port, HDMI, or drop down to VGA. Even better, we've moved past DVI by now, and we rarely, if ever, find them on laptops.


USB-C


Should work. You may need suitable cables, especially when connecting more than one monitor through a docking station.

Note.

Docking stations may NOT support video on a USB-C port, or impose certain limits. This depends on your brand and model of docking station and laptop. In some cases you may need specific types of USB-C to be able to use all features.

Older docking stations may not support video at all. Modern docking stations and laptops will allow up to two monitors over a single USB-C. There should be systems offering more, but I haven't encountered them 'in the wild'. (I can hardly go around and buy any docking station in sight, now can I?)


Mini HDMI

Except for the connector, this one's identical to HDMI. See HDMI.


DisplayPort to HDMI


PC -> DisplayPort output -> adapter cable -> HDMI input -> monitor

Cables typically only work in one direction.


DisplayPort to DVI-D




PC -> DisplayPort output -> adapter cable -> DVI input -> monitor


Cables typically only work in one direction. Some cables may have the analogue pins on the DVI-I side (not very useful as it is digial only), or only carry DVI-D pins instead of DVI-D Dual Link. Some combos simply won't work, or are limited in resolution.


DisplayPort to VGA


PC -> DisplayPort output -> adapter -> VGA cable -> VGA input -> monitor

Cheaper adapters and some combos won't work.

This combo is often needed in offices with new laptops and older monitors. I had better experience with some of the more expensive adapters, but it may be cheaper to simply buy a new monitor.


HDMI to DVI-D


PC -> HDMI output -> adapter cable -> DVI input -> monitor



Cables often work in both directions. Some combos may be limited in resolution, and may or may not carry the analogue pins (quite useless as it is digital only).


HDMI to DisplayPort


PC -> HDMI output -> adapter -> DisplayPort cable -> DisplayPort input -> monitor



Only works in one direction. The adapter needs an additional power feed, typically from a USB port on the PC or the monitor. Doesn't always work. Expensive.


HDMI to VGA


PC -> HDMI output -> adapter -> VGA cable -> VGA input -> monitor

Cheaper adapters may not work. Many of the cheaper Raspberry Pi HDMI to VGA adapters may not work with a PC. Some combos may not work.



This combo is often needed for offices with new laptops and older monitors, or to connect a Raspberry Pi to an old VGA monitor. I had better experience with some of the more expensive adapters, but it may be cheaper to simply buy a new monitor.


DVI-D -> DVI-I




Example:

PC with GeForce GTX1060 (no analogue pins) -> DVI-D output -> adapter -> DVI-I cable -> Wacom Cintiq UX22.


DVI -> 2560x1440 monitor


Regular DVI-D maxes out at 1920 × 1200.

For higher resolutions you need to use DVI-D or DVI-I Dual Link, which may or may not include the analog pins. My GeForce GTX1060 supports Dual Link but doesn't have the analogue pins, neither does the one Dual Link DVI cable I own.

Dual Link DVI maxes out at 2650 x 1600.

NOT all monitors and video cards support Dual Link DVI. In some implementations, you can use Dual Link DVI, but you may lose one or more video output ports. For example, my GeForce GTX1060 has 4 connectors, 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, 2x DVI. It supports THREE monitors when using DVI-D and only TWO monitors when using Dual Link DVI.

Example:

PC with GeForce GTX1060 -> DVI-D output -> DVI-D Dual Link cable -> DVI input -> IIyama monitor ProLite XB3270QS 


DVI-D to HDMI


PC -> DVI output -> adapter cable -> HDMI input -> monitor


Cables often work in both directions (not always though). There may be limitations in resolution.


DVI to DisplayPort


PC -> DVI output -> adapter -> DisplayPort cable -> DisplayPort input -> monitor

Only works in one direction. The adapter needs an additional power feed, typically from a USB port on the PC or the monitor. Doesn't always work. Expensive.


DVI to VGA


PC -> DVI output -> adapter -> VGA cable -> VGA input -> monitor

Only works in one direction. DVI-A works with simple adapters. DVI-D requires active adapters with their own power feed. Doesn't always work.


VGA to DisplayPort


PC -> VGA output -> adapter -> DisplayPort port -> DisplayPort cable -> DisplayPort input -> monitor

This combo is often used to connect older PCs to newer screens, though HDMI is more common on the laptop side than DisplayPort. I had better experience with some of the more expensive adapters, but it may be cheaper to simply buy a new monitor. You also need to feed some power to the adapter / converter.

Update.

Then again, if you have a bunch of larger, older monitors laying around, and you're using your typical company laptop, you may have both a HDMI and a VGA connector on your laptop, thus allowing you to hook up to two external screens... It's probably worth to try in that case! The few times I tried VGA to HDMI worked a little better than VGA to DisplayPort though, and that combo doesn't require a power feed to the adapter / converter.


VGA to HDMI


PC -> VGA output -> adapter -> HDMI port -> HDMI cable -> HDMI input -> monitor



This combo is often used to connect older PCs to newer screens. I had better experience with some of the more expensive adapters, of which a few required external power. It may be cheaper to simply buy a monitor with the right input.

Tip.

If you have a bunch of larger, older monitors laying around, and you're using your typical company laptop, you may have both a HDMI and a VGA connector on your laptop, thus allowing you to hook up to two external screens... It's probably worth to try in that case! Most laptops can handle up to three screens, though that may not always be obvious, and depends on the chipset used.

Using a docking station may make things even easier, depending on model and brand of station and laptop, but it does work without in nearly all cases.


VGA to DVI

Why would you even try... Maybe to hook up an old PC to a newish screen?


Then again, all new screens are HDMI and display port, so... Unless it's DVI-A to VGA, I wouldn't even try.


Thunderbolt

Sorry. No Apple here, and no experience with Thunderbolt either. They're supposed to be USB-C compatible, I think? Or use the same cable? Frankly, I don't have a clue 😁


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