All About the DVI Video Connection

Before HDMI, there was DVI

DVI is a common connection option used for connecting PCs to monitors. Before HDMI was made available for home theater applications, DVI connections were used for transferring digital video signals from some source devices.

DVI stands for Digital Visual Interface, but it is also referred to as Digital Video Interface.

What Is a DVI Connection?

DVI is a standard for transferring video signals from DVI-equipped source devices (like PCs and DVD players) to a video display that also has a DVI video input connection. The DVI interface has three designations:

  • DVI-D (designed to pass only digital video signals)
  • DVI-A (designed to pass only analog video signals)
  • DVI-I (designed to pass both digital and analog video signals)

Although the plug size and shape are identical for each type, the number of pins varies. In the home theater environment, if a DVI connection is used, it is most likely the DVI-D type.

A DVI connector port
Petr Kratochvil / Public Domain

Unlike HDMI, which has the ability to pass both video and audio signals, DVI is designed to only pass video signals.

DVI vs Composite vs Component vs S-Video

A DVI-equipped DVD player or other home theater source device can pass video signals with resolutions up to 1080p for display. Using a DVI connection results in a better quality image than using composite or S-Video, and it may be equivalent to or better than component video connections.

Connecting DVI Components to HDMI TVs

Since HDMI has become the default home theater connection standard for audio and video, you won't find DVI-connections on modern HD and 4K Ultra HD TVs. However, on some TVs, one of the HDMI inputs may be paired with a set of analog audio inputs. In such cases, the HDMI input may be labeled HDMI/DVI, and the analog audio inputs are also labeled DVI. This input can be used as a way to connect a DVI source using a DVI-to-HDMI adapter in combination with analog audio connections.

HDMI/DVI Input Connections on an HDTV
 Lifewire

You may still encounter older DVD players and TVs where DVI is used instead of HDMI. Some TVs offer both DVI and HDMI connection options.

DVI Video and Audio Limitations

When using DVI to connect an AV source device to a TV, you must also make a separate audio connection to your TV. This is usually done by using an RCA composite cable or 3.5mm analog audio connections. The audio connections designated for pairing with the DVI input should be located next to the DVI input or the HDMI input that is designated for DVI adapter use.

If you have a home theater receiver in your setup, you also have the option of connecting the DVI video output of your source device to an HDMI-equipped TV using a DVI-to-HDMI adapter. You can then connect the audio to your home theater receiver using analog or digital optical/coaxial connections if they are provided on your source device.

The type of DVI connection used in a home theater environment may not pass 3D signals, nor will it pass higher-resolution 4K video signals. However, DVI can pass resolutions up to 4K for certain PC applications using a different pin configuration. DVI connections can't pass HDR or wide color gamut signals.

DVI to HDMI Adapter
Monoprice

Connecting HDMI Components to DVI TVs

If you need to connect an HDMI source device (such as a Blu-ray disc player) to an older TV that only has DVI ports, you can use the same type of HDMI-to-DVI adapter used when connecting a DVI source to an HDMI TV. If you have a source device that only has a DVI output and a TV that only has HDMI inputs, you can use the same type of adapter to make that connection too. However, you will also have to make an additional connection for audio.

DVI/HDMI Adapter Cable
Monoprice

Sometimes when using a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, the display device will not recognize the source as legitimate. There are a number of things you can try to troubleshoot HDMI connection problems.

DVI and DisplayPort

DVI connections can also be adapted for use with DisplayPort, which is an option available on select PC monitors. There are two types of DisplayPort connectors (standard and mini), so make sure you use the appropriate adapter.

DisplayPort to DVI Cable
Cables 2 Go