Key Takeaway:

  • VGA connections were created in 1987 by IBM.
  • VGA only supports video display and cannot transmit audio
  • VGA relies on analog signals and features limited display outputs

Connecting a top monitor to your computer, or even to your television is technically easy. But if you don’t know which ports to use, and how to properly connect them, the process can be frustrating. Especially as HDMI continues to be the primary connection port, many people aren’t as familiar with VGA cables or ports. Find out more about VGA connectors and cables, and when you need to use them.

A Holdover From a Long Time Ago

The easiest way to describe VGA is that it’s a legacy connection that’s usually found on older monitors or televisions. Short for Video Graphics Adapter, VGA ports were first developed by IBM in 1987. The port was specifically designed to support IBM’s PS/2 PC series. In particular, it was perfect for analog connections with the classic cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors. Note though, that sometimes VGA is referred to as SVGA today.

Tip: sometimes VGA is referred to as SVGA today

Drawbacks of VGA Connections

Although the brand standard for quite a while, VGA connections weren’t without problems. One of the biggest issues was that these connectors weren’t designed to be “hot-pluggable”. In short, this means that you can’t connect or disconnect a VGA cable while you’re using a monitor.

Warning: these connectors weren’t designed to be “hot-pluggable”

Doing so could potentially damage the pins or even encourage surges that could damage your computer’s hardware. Additionally, these connections don’t support audio. So, you would also need to connect external speakers.

Warning: these connections don’t support audio.

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Why VGA Fell Out of Favor

When CRT monitors were the only option, VGA was the brand standard because of its analog support. But because it relies on an analog signal, it has limited display outputs. The resolution can only offer up to 640 by 480. Additionally, it has slower refresh rates at just 60 hertz with 16 colors being displayed at a time.

As technology improved and flat-screen monitors based on LED and LCD technology became more common, people began to abandon VGA in favor of better options such as HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort. Even though VGA is no longer the preferred choice for display connections, these connections are still found on flatscreen televisions and monitors.

Tip: Even though VGA is no longer the preferred choice for display connections, these connections are still found on flatscreen televisions and monitors

What do VGA Ports Look Like?

If you’ve ever seen a trapezoidal style blue port with 15 pinholes and two screw openings on either side, that’s a VGA port. Likewise, VGA cables feature the same trapezoid and pen design with screws to secure it to the monitor port.

Pins Explained

Each of the 15 pins on a VGA connector serves a purpose ranging from red, blue, and green video feed to grounding and sync for the horizontal and vertical visuals.

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Can I Still Use a VGA Connection?

This is going to depend on what you’re trying to connect through VGA. For example, while many monitors and televisions still feature a VGA connection, some video cards no longer include a VGA connection. In this case, you’re going to need an adapter or converter that can accept a VGA signal and convert it to DVI or HDMI.

Warning: some video cards no longer include a VGA connection

STAT:

VGA provides 640 x 480 resolution color display screens with a refresh rate of 60 Hz and 16 colors displayed at a time. If the resolution is lowered to 320 x 200, 256 colors are shown. (Computer Hope)

The VGA interface includes no affordances for hot-swapping, the ability to connect or disconnect the output device during operation, although in practice this can be done and usually does not cause damage to the hardware or other problems. The VESA DDC specification does however include a standard for hot-swapping. (Wikipedia)

Sources:

https://www.xenarc.com/different-types-of-monitor-ports.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VGA_connector

https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/v/vga.htm

https://www.hp.com/us-en/shop/tech-takes/top-3-reasons-to-carry-hdmi-vga-adapter

https://airtame.com/vga-to-hdmi/

What is a VGA Connector for Monitors FAQ

What is a VGA monitor port?

A VGA monitor port is a trapezoidal port with 15 pins that supports analog display signals. This port is commonly found on monitors, projectors, and some televisions.

Do you need a VGA cable for a monitor?

Unless you’re connecting your monitor to an older device that still relies on VGA for display signals, you won’t need a VGA cable.

What is the difference between VGA and HDMI?

VGA relies on an analog interface while HDMI uses a digital version. Additionally VGA is limited to visual-only while HDMI supports both visual and audio.

Dorian Smith-Garcia

Dorian Smith-Garcia is a bridal and beauty expert/influencer and the creative director behind The Anti Bridezilla. She is a diverse writer across beauty, fashion, travel, consumer goods, and tech. She also writes for Inverse, Glowsly, and The Drive along with a variety of other publications. When Dorian's not writing she's collecting stamps in her passport, learning new languages, or spending time with her husband and daughter.

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