VGA vs DVI vs HDMI? Which option is best?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by VNJ85, Jul 6, 2015.

  1. VNJ85 macrumors newbie

    May 29, 2015
    I would like to use dual screens for work with my MBA. It'll make looking at spreadsheets much easier.

    I was wondering which option to output video (VGA/DVI/HDMI) is best... or if there is a "best" option.

    Does anyone have any experience with this?
  2. Gav2k macrumors G3


    Jul 24, 2009
    Bag should be avoided.

    Hdmi and dvi are the same thing just different connectors. They are your best options.
  3. chabig macrumors 603

    Sep 6, 2002
    Digital beats analog. That's why VGA should be your last choice. DVI and HDMI both provide the same result. They are digital.
  4. iConnected macrumors 6502a


    Feb 17, 2011
    Do you also want to output audio to the external display?

    HDMI would be my preference and can output both video and audio.

    Depending on your monitor / graphics set up, you may need to adjust underscan / overscan settings to get the display scaled to fill your monitor.

    DVI and HDMI are not the same thing, btw.
  5. Moonjumper macrumors 68000


    Jun 20, 2009
    Lincoln, UK
    It depends on the monitor.

    Macs don't have HDMI 2.0, so you will will be limited to 30Hz output if the monitor is bigger than 1920x1080. HDMI will often need a bit of adjustment to settings. Overscan for example, as previously mentioned.

    Avoid VGA as it is analog.

    DisplayPort is the best option. Is there any reason you didn't mention that as an option? I find monitors waking from sleep is unreliable with any other connection on a Mac.
  6. VNJ85 thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 29, 2015
    I didn't mention DisplayPort as an option because I've never used it before. I'll have to check my monitor to see if it has this options (I would think it does and I simply never noticed it).

    My monitor is 23".
  7. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    What resolution? If it's 23" then I would guess the resolution is 1080p.

    For a 1080p monitor, I would recommend HDMI. (That is, buy a mini-DisplayPort-to-HDMI cable and use that.) Simple reason being that you could use the same cable to plug your laptop into a TV, which is useful sometimes, e.g., when traveling.
  8. VNJ85 thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 29, 2015
    Ok... new thought... if I want to output to two monitors, how do I do that? There's only 1 display port...
  9. Gav2k macrumors G3


    Jul 24, 2009
    There is no mention of the need for audio. So yes they are both digital signals. If you want to be technical then yes hdmi carries audio too.
  10. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    I've read that you can daisy-chain two ThunderBolt displays but that's an expensive proposition. The only Thunderbolt display I'm aware of is Apple's, and that costs a grand.

    Otherwise you will need to plug a monitor into one of your USB ports. This can be done via a USB graphics card, e.g.:

    This doesn't seem like a "normal" thing to do and I wouldn't be surprised if you ran into some issues with it. But the web page does say that it supports OS X.

    You might consider just buying a higher-resolution monitor if you need more screen real estate?
  11. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    A Thunderbolt dock will provide multiple display ports.
  12. iConnected macrumors 6502a


    Feb 17, 2011
    It's helpful to consider such questions from a practical perspective. There was no mention of DisplayPort either, but @Moonjumper gave the best answer by recommending it.

    The OP asked a technical question. A technical answer seems appropriate. ;)
  13. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    No it won't.

    Even a dock with two thunderbolt ports (in and out) and a HDMI port won't support two displays simultaneously. You can only have one display (or display output) per Thunderbolt peripheral (which is why you can't plug a displayport monitor into a thunderbolt display). You could, in theory at least, daisy-chain a dock (or any dual-ported TB peripheral) to a Thunderbolt display and add a display to that, or use two docks.

    * Two TB displays (needs 2012 or later MBA) - horribly expensive and poor value.
    * USB video adapter (if compatible with your model of Mac - I think it needs to be supported by the GPU) - these tend to be laggy/aritfact-y and won't be much good for video or games, but should be acceptable for spreadsheets etc.
    * Matrox 'dual head 2 go': - pretends to be an ultra-wide monitor then splits the image between two displays.

    Haven't personally used any of these.
  14. VNJ85 thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 29, 2015

    I didn't mention Display Port because I didn't realize that Thunderbolt2 and Display Port were the same thing. I found a support page from Apple that explained everything to me.

    So your answer is a good one, I just didn't fully understand until I read through the Apple Support pages on Display Port & Thunderbolt ports. Actually your answer led me to the solution: mini-Displayport adapter to HDMI cable, which is the advice what Motrek gave. Thanks to both of you!

    Similar Moonjumper's answer, I now understand my Thunderbolt port is a mini-DisplayPort! So yes, this is probably the best option from what you and everyone is saying.

    Your right, I didn't mention audio. You are correct - I don't need audio.

    Thanks for the heads up about audio, while I don't need it at the moment it's definitely something I'll probably need in the future when I upgrade. Your suggestion of HDMI was right on the money though, it's definitely the best answer as it simply provides best quality, future proofs with sound, etc...
  15. VNJ85 thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 29, 2015
  16. Significant1 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2014
    Thunderbolt and displayport is not the samething. Apple just choose to use the mini-displayport for thunderbolt, since it was already using those. So the same plug in Apple's computer can act as either mini-displayport or thunderbolt, it depends on what kind of cable is connected.

    Displayport can carry audio.

    There is no advantage in an adapter, it is just add price and clutter.

    Cables can be had very cheap, so just go for what your monitor support. my order would be displayport, hdmi, dvi (only up to 1920x1200) and last resort vga.
  17. VNJ85 thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 29, 2015
    My display only has hdmi & dvi, I'm going to need a Displayport to hdmi cable.
  18. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    Oh no, first of all, please don't buy any accessories like this from Apple or on Apple's site!

    You should be able to get a cable OR an adapter for around $10 on Amazon.

    Personally I would get the adapter. It only adds a few dollars to the total price (HDMI cables are cheap) and it provides the most flexibility if you travel.

    If you go somewhere, e.g., hotel, friend's house, rental house, etc., then the TV there will almost certainly already have an HDMI cable to plug it into whatever it's plugged into. Thus, all you need to connect your laptop is the small adapter, which is easier to travel with than an entire 6' (or even 3') cable. Also, the adapter is easier to handle, since you don't have to plug one end of it into the back of your monitor or TV or whatever.
  19. techielens macrumors newbie

    Feb 7, 2017
    Ive experince for both DVI and VGA. What can i see is DVI is the better option.
  20. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    I've done that. Worked up to 1,600 by 1,024. Not a chance with 1,920 by 1,080. Had to buy another one. In that case, no harm done except for some wasted money. You often get what you pay for.

    Just don't buy "genuine Apple" products from Amazon - because Apple checked them, and of all the "genuine Apple" cables, chargers, and adapters, exactly zero were made by Apple.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 8, 2017 ---
    VGA is analog, your Mac and display are digital. So your Mac will convert its digital signal to analog, and the display will convert it back to digital, with all kinds of noise due to two conversion.

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