All About the DVI Video Connection

Before HDMI, there was DVI

A DVI connector.

Petr Kratochvil / Public Domain

DVI stands for Digital Visual Interface but is also referred to as Digital Video Interface. 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 signals).

Although the plug size and size is identical for each type, the number of pins varies with the requirements of each type.

DVI is a common connection option used for connecting PCs to Monitors, but before HDMI was made available for home theater applications, DVI was used for transferring digital video signals from some source devices (such as from a DVI-equipped DVD player, cable or satellite box) directly to a video display (such as an HDTV, video monitor, or Video Projector) that also had a DVI video input connection.

In the home theater environment, if a DVI connection is used, it is most likely the DVI-D type.

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 from both standard and high definition video signals, than using Composite, S-Video, and may be equivalent to or better than Component Video connections.

Connecting DVI Components to HDMI TVs

Since the advent of HDMI as the default home theater connection standard for audio and video, you no longer find DVI-connection options on modern HD and 4K Ultra HD TVs.

However, you may notice that one of the HDMI inputs is paired with a set of analog audio inputs. This pairing is available for use when connecting a DVI source to the TV. In such cases, the HDM input may be labeled HDMI/DVI and the analog audio inputs are also labeled DVI.

HDMI/DVI Input Connections – HDTV

You may still encounter cases in older DVD players and TVs where DVI is used instead of HDMI, or you may have an older TV that includes either DVI, or both DVI and HDMI connection options. To connect DVI source to an HDMI TV connection, you will need to use a DVI-to-HDMI adapter or cable.

DVI to HDMI Adapter Example
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Unlike HDMI (which has the ability to pass both video and audio signals), DVI is designed to only pass video signals. If using DVI to connect an AV source device to a TV, if you also desire audio, you must also make a separate audio connection to your TV, usually by using RCA (as shown in the photo above) or 3.5mm Analog audio connections. The audio connections designated for pairing with the DVI input should be located next to the DVI input.

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, and connect the audio to your home theater receiver using analog or digital optical/coaxial connections if they are provided on your source device.

Other things to consider include the fact that the type of DVI connection used in a home theater environment may not pass 3D signals that use the standards in place for Blu-ray Disc and HDTVs, 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. Also, DVI connections cannot pass HDR or wide color gamut signals.

Connecting HDMI Components to DVI TVs

If you have an older HDTV TV that does not have HDMI connection, but only DVI connection, but you need to connect HDMI source devices (such as a Blu-ray disc player, upscaling DVD player, or set-top box) to that TV, in many cases, you can use the same type of HDMI-to-DVI connection or cable adapter used when connecting a DVI source to an HDMI TV.

DVI/HDMI Adapter Cable
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If you have a DVD player or other source device that only has a DVI output and need to connect it to a TV that only has HDMI inputs, you can use the same type of HDMI-to-DVI adapter to make that connection. However, you will also have to make an additional connection for audio.

Using DVI with HDMI – The Handshake Issue

When using a DVI-to-HDMI adapter or adapter cable to connect a DVI source to an HDMI-equipped video display, or an HDMI source to a DVI-only TV, there is an additional catch.

Due to the need for HDMI to "handshake" with a source device and display, sometimes the display device will not recognize the source as legitimate. If you encounter a handshake issue when using a DVI/HDMI adapter or cable, there are some possible ways you may be able to correct the situation.