DVI vs. HDMI: What's the Difference?

Understand the major differences

If you've gone shopping for a computer monitor lately, you might wonder what the differences are between DVI vs. HDMI. These are both digital video cables, with the main difference being HDMI handles both audio and video, while DVI transmits video only.

However, the differences don't stop there. There are plenty of reasons why you might opt for one over the other, depending on your situation.

DVI vs HDMI
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Overall Findings

DVI
  • Adapters can convert to HDMI.

  • Only transmits video.

  • Max data rate of 9.9 Gbit/sec.

  • Capable of up to 3840x2400 at 30 Hz.

HDMI
  • Supported by more devices.

  • Transmits video and audio.

  • Max data rate of 42.6 Gbit/sec.

  • Capable of up to 8k at 120 Hz.

Both DVI and HDMI are fully capable of handling most standard computing needs. With supported resolution of 2560x1600 at the 60 Hz most standard monitors support, DVI is beyond capable of the resolution most users even set their displays at.

Where HDMI comes into play is with high-end video and audio needs. If you're looking for more than standard computing, HDMI might be a requirement. This is especially true if you want to stream HD video or connect an HDR output from your gaming console to your TV.

HDMI 2.0 is a necessity if you've purchased a 4K TV or monitor and want to get the most out of its capabilities.

Compatibility: HDMI Is Everywhere

DVI
  • Available on older monitors.

  • Supported by most graphics cards.

  • Adapters can convert to HDMI.

HDMI
  • Available on all newer monitors.

  • Smaller versions available for phone or cameras.

  • Supported by most graphics cards.

If you're trying to connect to an older monitor you've stored away for years, there's a good chance you may have no choice but to use a DVI cable. DVI was introduced in 1999 to replace VGA, so most monitors from 2000 through 2006 typically included a DVI port.

However, selecting the correct DVI cable can get confusing, since there are 7 port variations ranging from DVI-A, DVI-D, and various versions of DVI-I. So, you need to make sure to check the port on the graphics card as well as the monitor to make sure you purchase the right cable.

HDMI, on the other hand, has a universal shape that fits any computer or monitor that has an HDMI port. There are also mini- and micro-HDMI cables that'll let you connect cameras and mobile devices to a monitor's HDMI port as well.

Since HDMI was launched in 2002, nearly every modern monitor you find today will have an HDMI port available.

Audio: Only HDMI Supports It

DVI
  • DVI only transmits video.

  • Requires second audio output.

  • Newer graphics cards provide DVI audio.

HDMI
  • Supports 32 audio channels.

  • Supports Dolby and DTS high-resolution audio.

  • Doesn't require second audio cable.

If you want one cable to rule them all, you may want to stick with HDMI if possible. HDMI supports the transmission of both digital video as well as high-resolution sound, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD. DVI only transmits the video signal.

That doesn't mean you're completely out of luck if you only have a DVI port on your graphics card. Typically older graphics cards with DVI ports included a secondary audio port. You can connect that to your monitor using a standard audio cable to include sound.

Newer graphics cards that have a DVI port include an audio signal output in the port. To take advantage of it, you simply need to purchase a DVI to HDMI adapter, and use a standard HDMI cable. This is assuming your monitor supports HDMI and has speakers.

Data Transfer Speed: HDMI is 4X Faster

DVI
  • Maximum data rate of 9.9 Gbit/sec.

  • Maximum resolution is 2560x1600 at 60 Hz.

  • Can reach 3840x2400 at 30 Hz.

  • Capable of up to 144hz refresh rates.

HDMI
  • Transmits up to 42.6 Gbit/sec.

  • Supports up to 4k at 144 Hz or 8k at 120 Hz.

  • Supports HDR video output.

Even though DVI is typically available on older monitors, that doesn't mean it's very limited when it comes to resolution. Using a DVI dual-link cable and a graphics card that supports it, you can use a large screen monitor at 2560x1600 resolution at the standard 60 Hz most monitors support.

DVI can also handle up to 144hz refresh rates that are typically preferred by gamers, but the available resolution will be lower than what's available with HDMI.

However, if you've purchased a newer 4k monitor and want to take full advantage of its capabilities, you'll have to purchase an HDMI cable and a graphics card that supports it.

You can also connect the HDR output of a PlayStation or Xbox to the HDMI port of a monitor, so long as the TV or monitor itself supports DVR. For high-end gamers playing modern games, HDMI is a must.

Final Verdict: Only Upgrade to HDMI If You Have To

If you're using a laptop or computer that only supports DVI video with an available audio output port, and you have a monitor that supports DVI and has an audio input, there's not much reason to upgrade either.

Unless you're an avid gamer, a resolution of 2560x1600 at 60 Hz is more than capable of supporting most standard desktop computing requirements.

However, if you plan to upgrade to a high-end 4K monitor (or monitors) and would like to take full advantage of streaming HD movies now available online today, you'll need to upgrade both your graphics card and your monitor to support HDMI. Also, make sure you go with HDMI 2.0 to take advantage of the highest data transfer rates and resolution.