Using Video Cable Adapters
Summary: "What are the limitations on using a Video Cable adapter".
No video using a cable adapter.
One problem you may encounter when connecting a system to a monitor is that the video output connector on the system may not match the video input on your monitor. This is especially common when you replace the system but use your existing monitor with the new system.
Problems are often seen when the system has a legacy video output and the display has an advanced input. (VGA or DVI output on the system, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort or DisplayPort input on the display.)
The preferred solution is to have matching video output on your system as the video input on your display. VGA to VGA, DisplayPort to DisplayPort etc.
If you are in a situation where you need to use a cable adapter, you must always remember that the adapter description indicates the direction that a conversion can go from the system to the monitor.
Use the correct orientation of video cable adapters will always be from the advanced (newer) video connection to the legacy (older) type connection.
Here are some examples of current adapters and their orientation when connected between the system and the monitor display. (Figure 1.)
- HDMI (Connection on the system) to VGA (Connection on the monitor)
- DisplayPort (Connection on the system) to VGA (Connection on the monitor)
- Mini-DisplayPort (Connection on the system) to VGA (Connection on the monitor)
- DisplayPort over USB Type-C (Connection on the system) to VGA (Connection on the monitor)
- HDMI (Connection on the system) to DVI (Connection on the monitor)
- DisplayPort (Connection on the system) to DVI (Connection on the monitor)
- Mini-DisplayPort (Connection on the system) to DVI (Connection on the monitor)
- DisplayPort (Connection on the system) to HDMI (Connection on the monitor)
- DisplayPort over USB Type-C (Connection on the system) to HDMI (Connection on the monitor)
- Mini-DisplayPort (Connection on the system) to HDMI (Connection on the monitor)
Figure 1. - Types of Video connections
Digital Video Connector Guide (HDMI®, DVI™, DisplayPort™)
What are digital video connectors?
Digital Video connectors are used to deliver the highest quality video signal. The technology uses TMDS (Transition Minimized Differential Signaling) to transmit large amounts of digital data from the source to the display, resulting in a high-quality image. DVI (Digital Visual Interface) was developed by the industry body DDWG (the Data Display Working Group) to send digital information from a computer to a digital display, such as a flat-panel LCD monitor. HDMI took a step forward by integrating audio and video into a more compact interface. DisplayPort is an interface technology that is designed to connect high-graphics capable PCs and displays as well as home theater equipment and displays. DisplayPort is similar to HDMI in that the DisplayPort signal carries both digital audio and video.
Select the digital video connector that you want to learn more about:
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HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. This technology carries the same video information as DVI but adds the capacity for digital audio and control signals as well. The current version of HDMI carries one TMDS link of digital video. Found on many home theater/consumer electronics devices, HDMI uses a 19-pin connector that is held in place by friction. This connector is technically described as a Type A HDMI connector.
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The HDMI Micro connector is a Type D HDMI connector measuring 6.4 mm x 2.8 mm. This micro connector is the smallest of all HDMI connectors and has the same 19-pin configuration as the standard HDMI A and C connectors. Using an adapter, this connector can be used with a standard HDMI cable.
Shop HDMI Micro
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The HDMI Mini connector is a Type-C HDMI connector measuring 10.42 mm x 2.42 mm. This mini connector has the same 19-pin configuration as the standard HDMI A connector and is intended for use with portable electronic devices. Using an adapter, this connector can be used with a standard HDMI cable.
Shop HDMI Mini
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This connector contains 24 pins, arranged in three horizontal rows of eight pins. To the side of this grouping of 24 pins is a wide, flat pin called a ground bar. A dual-link interface provides two TMDS links, or groups of data "channels" that can carry more than 10 Gbps of digital video information. A dual-link cable is backwards-compatible with single-link applications. The majority of DVI applications will use this DVI-D dual-link cable connection.
Shop DVI-D Dual-Link
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A single-link DVI connector has 18 pins. The male plug has them arranged in two groups of nine pins, with the flat ground bar off to one side. A single-link interface provides one TMDS link. This type of cabling is ideal for use with DVI to HDMI adapters.
Shop DVI-D Single-Link
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This connector appears almost identical to the dual-link DVI-D connector except that it has an additional four pins that surround the flat offset ground bar. This is because the DVI-I interface was designed to carry both digital and analog signals. However, most DVI displays and video sources are DVI-D, and the female ports do not contain sockets to accept the four extra analog pins. As a result, DVI-I cables are limited to a narrow range of applications such as certain KVM switches. Also note that the offset ground bar on a DVI-I plug is larger than the one on a DVI-D plug. This means that a DVI-I connector cannot fit into a DVI-D socket simply by removing the four analog pins.
Shop DVI-I Dual-Link
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A single-link DVI-I connector has 18 pins. The male plug has them arranged in two groups of nine pins, with the 4 pins surrounding the flat ground bar off to one side. A single-link interface provides one TMDS link.
Shop DVI-I Single-Link
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DisplayPort is an interface technology that is designed to connect high-end graphics capable PCs and displays as well as home theater equipment and displays. Like HDMI and DVI, DisplayPort utilizes TMDS (Transition Minimized Differential Signaling) link technology to send high bandwidth video and audio signals. The 20-pin connector allows the contact point to send maximum data transfer rates of 8.64 Gbps plus 1 Mbps for its AUX channel which can carry additional data.
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Mini DisplayPort is a miniaturized version of the DisplayPort interface. The Mini DisplayPort connector is primarily used on Apple® computers. This connector type carries both digital and analog computer video signals. The Mini DisplayPort connector can be adapted to support a VGA, DVI, or HDMI interface. When adapted to HDMI, the audio signal will be transmitted only if both the Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter and Graphics Adapter are capable of passing the audio signal.
Shop Mini DisplayPort
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September 10, 2021
Many modern laptops use small, versatile USB-C ports to connect to everything from chargers to monitors to hard drives, but most monitors, TVs, and projectors still have only older, more common ports like HDMI or DisplayPort. We’ve found the best USB-C–to–HDMI, USB-C–to–DisplayPort, USB-C–to–DVI, and USB-C–to–VGA cables and adapters to help you use your new computer with the video display you prefer. Most of the cables and adapters we tested worked identically, so we’ve examined the small details to figure out what sets the best models apart from the rest.
Why you should trust me
As Wirecutter’s accessory writer, I’ve tested hundreds of accessories across a wide swath of categories over the past several years. I’ve been deeply immersed in the confusing world that is USB-C since the standard launched. Before that, for a little more than three years, I was the accessories editor at iLounge, where I reviewed more than 1,000 products, including dozens of adapters.
The best USB-C–to–HDMI cable
The best USB-C–to–HDMI adapter
Uni’s USB-C to HDMI Adapter is the best way to connect a USB-C computer to a high-definition TV or monitor if you already have an HDMI cable you like. The Uni adapter is our pick because it is made of the same high-end nylon and aluminum materials as our HDMI cable pick, it doesn’t take up much room in a bag and comes with a carrying pouch, and it works properly with both Windows PCs and Macs.
The best USB-C–to–DisplayPort cable
Most USB-C–to–DisplayPort cables we tested worked flawlessly, offering a pixel-perfect image and full 60 Hz performance, even at 4K. That said, we recommend the Uni USB-C to DisplayPort Cable because, like the HDMI models the company makes, its cable and housing materials are top-notch, and it comes in 3-, 6,- and 10-foot options, offering more lengths than any comparable model.
The best USB-C–to–DisplayPort adapter
The best USB-C–to–DVI cable
The best USB-C–to–DVI adapter
Kanex’s USB-C to DVI Adapter performs as well as every other DVI adapter we tested. The main advantage it has over the competition is that it offers just a bit more length, 9¾ inches from end to end, for the same price. That’s enough of a difference to give you more options for positioning the adapter on your desk, but not so much that the extra length will get in the way or make the adapter less portable.
The best USB-C–to–VGA cable
How we picked and tested
We focused our research on simple, inexpensive cables and adapters from reputable companies. You can find more expensive options that provide extra features, such as passthrough power or USB-A ports, but this guide is specifically about video accessories.
In general, we recommend USB-C–to–video cables that plug directly into your computer and your monitor rather than adapters to make older cables USB-C-compatible, because cables cost around the same price and you have one fewer thing to disconnect accidentally. But if you have a cable you’d like to keep using—because it’s already wired into your setup, say, or it’s a specific length—an adapter may be better.
To ensure compatibility across platforms, we tested each cable and adapter with both a MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) and an early-2018 USB-C–only Dell XPS 13. For the male-to-male cables, we connected directly to the monitor we were using, and we used cables we knew to be good to connect the male-to-female adapters. We used a Philips 272P7VUBNB/27 monitor for HDMI and DisplayPort testing and an older Dell monitor with DVI and VGA inputs for those connector types. To measure the refresh rate, we relied on the Blur Busters Motion Tests.
Unless specified below, almost all of the cables and adapters we tested worked the way they were supposed to, and in many cases the difference between a pick and a non-pick came down to a few Amazon reviews, a price difference, or better shipping options.
Nonda’s USB-C to HDMI Cable works well, but the company’s website shows that it has pivoted to car accessories, and our emails to confirm whether this cable would continue to be sold and supported went unanswered.
The Kimwood USB C to HDMI Adapter performed well and tended to be a little cheaper than our pick at the time of our tests, but it also felt cheaper in terms of materials and build quality.
The adapters we tested from Amazon Basics, Monoprice, and Kanex were plastic, though they still seemed well made. We prefer our pick, but if it’s out of stock any of these adapters would do.
Nonda’s USB-C to HDMI Adapter performed fine and had a cute fold-up design, but we found it hard to unfasten (a drawback that outweighed the cuteness of said design).
We liked USB-C–to–HDMI cables from Cable Matters, but none compared to our pick in build quality.
StarTech’s USB-C to DVI Cable usually costs more than our pick but doesn’t perform any differently, and it has a large plastic collar that makes it less convenient to take with you.
Even though the CableCreation USB-C to VGA Adapter worked well in our testing, we’ve seen enough customer reviews citing failure over time that we don’t feel comfortable recommending this adapter.
About your guide
Nick Guy is a senior staff writer covering Apple and accessories at Wirecutter. He has been reviewing iPhones, iPads, and related tech since 2011—and stopped counting after he tested his 1,000th case. It’s impossible for him not to mentally catalog any case he sees. He once had the bright idea to build and burn down a room to test fireproof safes.
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