HDMI: The New Standard
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cables are the new standard for audio/video cables on modern televisions, computers, video game consoles, and more. The majority of new electronics today are built with at least one HDMI port. HDMI is excellent at what does, being able to transmit digital audio and video through a single line.
While HDMI is fantastic, many older devices that predate HDMI are still around and in use. Some newer devices are also built with only alternatives to HDMI, although this is much less common. When either of these scenarios come up, the easiest solution is to use an HDMI adapter. There are different types of adapters (as well as converters) that you may need depending on what you want to convert to HDMI.
HDMI to RCA
Converting HDMI to RCA is one of the more common problems that you can run into, with RCA being the old standard for televisions. Devices such as VCRs, older DVD players, and older video game consoles will only have RCA connections. RCA has mostly been phased out of modern devices. When using older electronics with a newer TV or vice versa, going between RCA to HDMI usually becomes an issue.
Because RCA is analog and HDMI is digital, the device is called a converter instead of an adapter. Converters, unlike adapters, are one-way. If you convert RCA to HDMI, something like an old VCR to a new TV, you would need this converter. If you need to go HDMI to RCA instead, something like a new DVD player to an older TV, you would need this converter.
When using any type of analog to digital converter, the audio/video signal will get weaker. Because RCA has lower quality than HDMI, the limits of RCA will determine the signal quality. Do not expect to use any sort of analog to digital or digital to analog converter and get a 4k signal.
HDMI to VGA
HDMI to VGA is usually needed when connecting older monitors to a newer computer, or vice versa. Like RCA, VGA is an analog signal so you will need a converter instead of an adapter. Being a converter, HDMI to VGA is one-way so you need to be sure you are using the right device. For HDMI to VGA, you would need this converter. For VGA to HDMI, you would need this one.
VGA, unlike HDMI, is video only. If you also need the audio, like on a monitor that has speakers or an older TV that uses VGA, you will need a second cord. HDMI to VGA adapters are built to use a 3.5mm cable so that the audio can go through a headphone jack.
HDMI cables transmit power, so HDMI to VGA adapters can get the electricity they need directly from the HDMI cable hooked into them. However, sometimes that is not enough power for long-distance runs. HDMI to VGA converters also have spots for plugging in a Micro USB cable (similar to a phone charger and included with the converter) for extra power. If you plug in an HDMI to VGA converter and it does not work, the USB cable also needs to be plugged in for the extra power.
HDMI to DVI
HDMI and DVI are very similar, both being types of digital cables. There is also an analog version of DVI, but it is not compatible with HDMI. DVI comes in three different versions: DVI-A (analog), DVI-D (digital), and DVI-I (integrated). DVI-D and DVI-I also come in two different versions, single-link and dual-link. Any cable or adapter going HDMI to DVI will always use DVI-D.
Like VGA, DVI is a type of video-only cable. Unlike VGA, HDMI to DVI cables and adapters are not equipped with a secondary cable for the audio. If you also need the audio, you will need to use a completely separate cord with a different audio port.
HDMI to DVI adapters are available as adapters as well as cables. The cables are limited to 15 meters (49.2 feet) in length, the maximum length DVI cable can go. A standard HDMI cable can go up to 65 feet, making an adapter superior when those few extra feet are needed.
HDMI to DisplayPort
HDMI to DisplayPort is one of the easiest adapters to use since HDMI and DisplayPort have so much in common to begin with. Both HDMI and DisplayPort use digital signals for audio and video. DisplayPort was designed with computers in mind, so it is usually seen on newer monitors. Many monitors today are built with both HDMI and DisplayPort but some will only have one or the other. Newer computers will sometimes have DisplayPort built in but many manufacturers only include HDMI ports.
Like HDMI to DVI, HDMI to DisplayPort is available as both an adapter and a cable. Also like DVI, DisplayPort has a distance limit. DisplayPort can only go for 15 feet. The upside of DisplayPort is that it transmits data much faster than HDMI since it was designed specifically for computers.
There is also a downsized version called HDMI to Mini DisplayPort. Mini DisplayPort has the same quality as the full-sized version but takes up less space on smaller devices like laptops. It was originally developed by Apple and is most commonly seen on Apple devices such as MacBooks. Apple also refers to Mini DisplayPort as “Thunderbolt”. HDMI to Mini DisplayPort is also available as both an adapter and a cable.
HDMI to USB
HDMI to USB adapters are another type of converter since the signal transitions from audio/video to data. Some of these adapters use full-size USB A for devices like computers while others use Micro USB and USB-C to connect cell phones to televisions. Since USB cables are used to recharge phones and other devices, HDMI to USB adapters do not need external power. Software is not needed when using them on a computer either, they are just plug-and-play.