A visual guide to display cables: DVI, D-Sub, ADC and more

Here's how to identify every important cable for use with computer monitors.

VGA (aka D-Sub 15)


Use it for: Connecting older PCs, monitors, HDTVs, and video projectors

It's similar in performance and use to: Component VGA

It adapts to: Mini-VGA, RGB Component

Add more ports by: Installing a new graphics card; connecting a splitter or adapter

The still-in-use analog classic, a VGA connector carries an RGB signal and can often be found on older or lower-spec PCs and HDTVs; laptops have moved past VGA some time ago due to the push for slimmer form factors. Because the analog design can pick up interference, you're better off choosing a digital cable if your device supports it.

Where to buy: Amazon

DVI (aka Digital Visual Interface)


Use it for: Connecting TVs and computer displays to PCs and other devices

If you have a choice, select it instead of: VGA, component video

It's similar in performance and use to: HDMI

It adapts to: HDMI, VGA, Mini-DVI, Micro-DVI

Add more ports by: Connecting a switchbox, adapter or upgrading your graphics card.

DVI comes in a few versions, having evolved as needs have grown. 

DVI-I (integrated) supplies an analog and digital signal, which means that you can connect an old VGA monitor to it with a simple adapter. DVI-D (digital) carries only the digital signal. 

Both types also offer single-link and dual-link versions; single-link has fewer pins and can't support the massive resolutions of dual-link, but you can connect a single-link monitor to a dual-link port. HDCP, the copy-protection technology used for streaming and other HD sources, works with the digital signal in DVI.

While the market has advanced over time DVI is still capable of pushing out a 144hz refresh rate on 1080p monitors, keeping it relevant for gamers on a budget.

Where to buy: Amazon.



Use it for: Connecting small devices to DVI displays

It's similar in performance and use to: DVI, HDMI

It adapts to: DVI, HDMI, Micro-DVI

Add more ports by: Connecting a switchbox

Most often found on older Apple laptops, this connector is essentially just a scaled-down DVI design.

Where to buy: Amazon



Use it for: Connecting small devices to DVI displays

It's similar in performance and use to: DVI, HDMI

It adapts to: DVI, HDMI, Mini-DVI

Add more ports by: Connecting a switchbox

Even smaller than Mini-DVI, this port is most often found on tiny devices.

A few Apple laptops have used it, although Apple moved on to Mini DisplayPort before the switch to USB-C in their most recent generation of laptops and computers.

This article was updated by Michael Serban in October 2019.

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PC World Staff

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