Component vs HDMI

Oh yes, the increasingly popular Component vs HDMI video question. What is the difference? Which one is better? Is an HDMI cable required to watch HDTV? Why can’t I find a HDMI to component adapter? We provide all the Component vs HDMI details below.

Do I need HDMI cables to watch HDTV?
Ok let’s start by answering the important question for most people. What do I need to watch HDTV? It is a simple question, but the answer is not so simple. The confusion is caused by the fact that Component cables can carry an HDTV signal. However most devices do not output HD quality signals to the Component output. Therefore technically the answer is no you do not require HDMI cables to watch HDTV, Component video cables are capable of carrying an HD signal if available, however the reality is that most likely you will require a HDMI cable or an HDMI to Component Adapter (more on adapters/converters below) for your device to output HD quality signals. Therefore the answer is not related to the cable but related to if your device will output the signal. Does the device output HDTV on the component output? You will most likely need to contact the device manufacturer to find the answer to this. Unfortunately in the majority of the cases the answer will be no which leaves many people in a situation where their latest electronic device outputs HD though an HDMI output but their display supports Component and not HDMI. Therefore many people are not concerned so much with Component vs HDMI but are looking for ways to get them to work together. They are looking for a way to obtain HD quality without replacing the display, this can be achieved, see HDMI to Component for details on handing this. Although less common, some people are also looking to convert the other way from Component to HDMI.

What is Component Video?
When referring to Component Video cables, most people are referring to YPbPr. Which is the commonly used three cable output on many DVD players, HD televisions, video projectors, etc. Component video is an analog signal where the information is transmitted as three separate signals. The important point to note here is that the signal is analog and that it is video only meaning it is not transmitting audio. Despite much confusion, Component video cables can support HD quality video as Component is capable of carrying HD resolutions 720p, 1080i and even 1080p. See HDTV Information if you are interested in more details on the resolutions.

What is HDMI Video?
For detailed information see What is HDMI. In brief, HDMI sends a digital format and supports both audio and video through a single cable. The cable is capable of supporting HD quality video but, what is often overlooked, is that it also supports audio at higher bit rates than the majority of other audio cable options. Unfortunately HDMI also comes with High bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) which limits the ability to convert and adapt the signal to other connection types that do not support this copy protection. For more on HDCP and the limitations it brings see understanding HDCP. For more information on adapters see HMDI to Component Adapter.

Sounds the same, so what is the difference?
When considering HDMI versus Component differences, they do not seem very different. The differences are one is analog and one is digital which will not concern most users as long as it works for their situation. HDMI supporting audio will only be useful if the user has a HDMI receiver or television to accept the audio. Therefore the biggest difference, for the average user, is that the sending device (cable box, DVD player, etc) will most likely not send HD quality signal on the component output. This is the difference that will impact and frustrate users. Mostly this is due to companies trying to support HDCP therefore things are going to move to HDMI so you will most likely want to move sooner or later.

Why can’t I find a HDMI to Component converter?
There are many complications related to this due to the HDCP copy protection. However you can find converters, see HDMI Component converter for details on this.

Given a choice HDMI vs Component Video which one?
As mentioned above, HDMI will be the way of the future therefore if you have to make a Component vs HDMI choice we suggest HDMI. Note, there are some things to watch out for when selecting a HDMI cable, especially if you require a longer length. See Find the Best HDMI Cable or the HDMI Cable Guide for additional information.

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