Connecting Your Monitor
For this holiday season if you got a new computer, video card or monitor you might have questions about the different ways you can hook them up, I figured this would be a great way to explain it. Just like a TV your monitor needs a way to get the video images sent to it and so there is a cable that runs from your computer to the monitor. Depending on the age of your monitor there can be up to three different basic methods of doing this, I will work through each, explaining why each choice works and then which is best.
First up we begin with the oldest standard, VGA. I have people asking me all the time what these different acronyms mean, who cares? I mean seriously we could go into what the letters each stand for but over the years the acronym and not the name is the standard convention things are referred by. VGA is the original hookup method of used oh so many years okay and today is finally, slowly dying. If you are still using a CRT monitor this is your connection method, also some older and budget monitors still use this.
Next up is the DVI, where the VGA system was an analog conversion of digital data to your monitor the DVI is pure digital, meaning no conversion is going on. This results in better image quality, also the DVI standard introduced such things as the monitor speaking back to the PC and access to higher resolution displays. This connector actually comes in a number of different models but for the most part the connection is fairly standardized. The one difference to look for that can be important is the 4 holes surrounding the horizontal slit. This type of DVI connector allows for a VGA adapter to be used if your monitor does not support DVI. Other connections without this will not work at all with a VGA connection.
From DVI the next move was toward one that is probably the the current most common connection method, HDMI. This was originally introduced on TVs and has grown to be strongly supported in the computer world. For all practical purposes the HDMI connector and the DVI connector are the same. From a video perspective they carry the same image quality and signal, the HMDI connection however adds audio top the mix. This means if your monitor has built in speakers they c an be fully used with only a single cable. This also simplifies hooking your computer up to your TV is that is your plan.
The newest connection method on the scene right now is DP, or DisplayPort. A DP connection is a higher resolution and data bandwidth version of HDMI meant for computer monitor use. Like HDMI the DP connection carries audio as well so a single cable will give you image and sound. Now in the case of DP there is actually another connector commonly seen on AMD video cards, the mini DP. This is the same as the regular DP adapter just in a smaller form factor. This was done because it allows two ports to be put in the same space a single port would normally fit in, meaning the cards could hook to more monitors at once. Most cards that use this come with an adapter to take the DP to an HDMI or DVI connector if needed.
Another neat feature of DP is that it can chain monitors. Now what that means that if the monitor supports it or you buy an adapter for this the DP single from a single computer connection can drive multiple monitors at once.
There is one other connection system out there, Thunderbolt. This is a new connection method championed by Intel and Apple. The idea is to take a DP connection and add a computers PCIe bus to the interface and allow not just video and audio but data transferring as well. This is pretty much just an Apple feature at the moment so for most people a none issue.
So with all these different connections which one do you choose. The simplest and best answer is the most current model your system support in both he computer and the monitor. However lets break it down a bit more than that. VGA in my opinion is dead, unless your monitor does not have support for any other connection method or it is the only cable you have I would skip it. DVI is the most all around stable connection choice, it will work with practically everything on the market and does a great job. If you want sound run to your monitor however I would skip DVI if I could and go HMDI. Where DVI will work with most monitors HDMI adds TVs to the mix and so it is the singly most easily used connection out right now. DP is the choice if you are going to run a higher resolution screen or need faster data rates for your video. If you are using a 1440 resolution monitor, an ultra wide or 1080 monitor with high refresh rates, 120/144 or higher, then I would go with a display port cable.
Your choice however Christmas morning might be limited to what you have. Most monitors today come with a DVI or HDMI cable so those are the mostly likely methods of hooking up. Sometimes the best connection method is the one we have available.