HDMI vs DVI

There are several HDMI vs DVI questions that are causing much confusion. What is the difference? Which one is better? Are DVI and HDMI compatible? And of course, given the choice, which one should you use? We provide all the details below. The differences (or lack there of) may surprise you.

Confused about connection types? See our connection page to determine which ones you have and which ones are the best for your situation.

What is DVI
We will start the HDMI vs DVI comparison with an introduction to the Digital Visual Interface (DVI). Reason being that it was developed first and HDMI is based off of DVI. DVI is a digital standard introduced in 1999 by the Digital Display Working Group (DDWG).

DVI Connector Types
It is designed primarily for carrying uncompressed digital video data to a display. Originally the display was a computer monitor but DVI is now commonly used for television as well. If you're interested in technical information then you can download the DVI specification from here.

One of the main areas of confusion with DVI is the number of different connectors available, which represent different functionality. There are three main connection types for DVI.

DVI-D (digital only)
DVI-A (analog only)
DVI-I (digital & analog)

In addition the digital connections also add to the confusion by adding Dual Link creating an additional connection. Dual Link simple adds additional pins for a second set of data signals.

When buying adapters or attempting to connect various components examine your connections closely to determine which ones you have. Beware, the cheap component to DVI converters are typically DVI-A (analog) which is really just a connection adapter while the DVI to HDMI are DVI-D (or DVI-I) which is a cable adapter for the digital connections.

What is HDMI
The High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), released late in 2002, is an all-digital audio/video interface capable of transmitting uncompressed streams similar to DVI. However HDMI also incorporates HDCP, which is a Digital Rights Management technology. HDMI provides an interface between any compatible digital audio/video source, such as a set-top box, a DVD player, a PC, a video game system, or an AV receiver and a compatible digital audio and/or video monitor, such as a digital television (DTV).

Although HDMI has a standard connector, like DVI, HDMI also has its way of confusing and frustrating users. Although the connector for HDMI remains the same, the versions change. Meaning that it is possible that components that can be plugged in together, using the HDMI connecter, will not necessarily work together. Therefore the consumer is stuck with noting the various versions (Latest version is 1.3) of HDMI available and trying to make sure they will work together. Each device is manufactured to adhere to various versions of the specification, where each version is given a number, such as 1.0 or 1.3. Each concurrent version of the specification uses the same cables, but increases the throughput and capabilities of what can be transmitted over the cable. With version 1.3, HDMI now also supports very high bitrate lossless compressed streams such as Dolby TrueHD.

Note on DVI to component converter
For those of you looking to connect your new HDMI component with your existing component TV, unfortunately due to HDCP, this will not work. See the Component to HDMI Cable article for details.

HDMI vs DVI what is the difference?
When looking at the differences, HDMI vs DVI actually have more in common then differences. They are both all digital, they also are all based on similar specifications since HDMI was derived from the DVI specification. There are two big differences:HDMI incorporates content protection called High Definition Content Protection (HDCP). HDMI supports audio in addition to digital video. (DVI only supports digital video)

HDMI vs DVI are they compatible?
In reviewing HDMI vs DVI, we noted a few differences. So the big question is are HDMI and DVI compatible? Since DVI is the predecessor to HDMI, HDMI and DVI are identical as far as video is concerned. Therefore, video backward compatibility exists. However, DVI will not support digital audio. For example, if you have an older DVI connection on your source and a HDMI connector on your display, a HDMI to DVI cable is all that is needed in order to view the video. A separate audio cable (TOSLINK or SPDIF) will be needed to carry the digital audio. See our HDMI to DVI Converter article for all the details.

A Warning about Cable length
The HDMI specification does not define a maximum cable length. HDMI 1.3 defined two categories of cables: Category 1 (standard or HDTV) and Category 2 (high-speed or greater than HDTV) regardless, neither HDMI or DVI works well over distances greater then 15 feet. If you need a cable longer then 15 feet consider top of the line cables such as our Cheap (Price not quality) HDMI cables or Monster cables. Some companies also offer amplifiers, equalizers and repeaters that can help bridge longer distances.

Which one should I use today?
When considering HDMI vs DVI, if available, we recommend HDMI. This is not because it is any better then DVI, only because the industry will heavily push HDMI due to the HDCP Digital Rights Management technology. However you should not expect any difference when moving from DVI to HDMI, therefore if you have DVI already stick with it until the next standard comes around. Also note you may be interested in staying with your component connections. See our HDMI vs Component article.

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