Monitor Connection Types

There are 6 main types of connector that link a computer (graphics card) to a monitor.

1. USB-C (Apple Thunderbolt-3) Connection

Currently most Macintosh Computers and many Windows PCs are shipping with Thunderbolt-3/USB-C connectors. These all-in-one ports are often the only way of connecting power, external displays or any other peripheral to the computer.

This type of connector is only just being available on new monitors so most cases an adaptor or specific cable will have to be used to connect to a monitor. Adaptors for most configurations can be obtained from both Apple and third-party suppliers. Just ensure the adapter’s specifications match the resolution of your display.


2. HDMI V 1.2 and V 1.3 Connection

This is generally used on audio-visual displays, televisions and BluRay players etc. It is a digital only connector but will also take audio data if the graphics card is compatible.

HDMI 1.2 and 1.3 only supports up to a 1920 x 1200 resolution (if the graphics card will support it).

Most recent laptops have HDMI connectors and with an adaptor can be converted to a DVI-D monitor connection.

Likewise, for conversion in the opposite direction, adaptor cross-cables are available for the DVI-D port of a graphics card (computer), to HDMI output (monitor). However, these can only be used on output devices that explicitly indicate the HDMI accepts DVI-D feed.

HDMI V1.4 and V2 Connection

After further development and the release of HDMI v1.4 and v2, the HDMI connection is now capable of full UHD and 4K (4096 x 2160) resolutions.

The HDMI cable and connector are visually the same as previous versions but if you are using one to drive a UHD or 4K display, but make sure that the cable is V1.4 or V2 compatible.

3. DisplayPort Connection

DisplayPort includes a USB channel, so it is often not necessary to use a separate USB cable for utilisation of USB ports on the monitor. The connection is also capable of handling audio data (for compatible graphics cards and monitors).

Mini DisplayPort:
This is generally used on laptop computers especially Apple Macintosh iMacs and laptops. This (as its name suggests) is a smaller sized version of the standard DisplayPort connector and has the same functionality.
Most monitors are only equipped with standard display port sockets so a mini display port to standard display port cable or adaptor is required for connecting to external monitors.

These are available in the following configurations:
  • Mini DisplayPort to VGA (up to 1920 x 1200 resolution).
  • Mini DisplayPort to DVI –D and DVI-I (up to 1920 x 1200 resolution).
  • Mini DisplayPort to DVI –D Dual Link (up to 2560 x 1600 resolution).
  • Mini DisplayPort to Standard DisplayPort (up to 2560 x 1600 resolution).
  • Mini DisplayPort to HDMI (up to 1920 x 1200 resolution)
  • Mini DisplayPort to HDMI 1.4/V2 (up to 4096 x 2160 resolution)
On Apple Computers the Mini Display Port connector was also known as the Thunderbolt 2 port. This was still used as the main connection to external displays but could also be used to connect hard drives and other Thunderbolt 2 compatible peripherals.

4. DVI Connector

There are 3 variations of standard DVI connectors: DVI–I, DVI–D and DVI–D Dual Link
  1. DVI–I connectors transfer both digital and analogue data

    In addition to providing full DVI–D functionality, DVI–I also carries an analogue (VGA) signal. This can be utilised through a cable or adaptor with DVI–I at one end and VGA on the other.
  2. DVI–D connectors only transfer digital information

    DVI–D is used when the graphics card and the monitor both have DVI–D connections. This provides superior image quality up to 1920 x 1200 resolution with no possibility of analogue interference.
  3. DVI–D Dual Link connectors only transfer digital information

    DVI–D ‘Dual Link’ is used when the monitor resolution is greater than 1920 x 1200, mainly on 27” – 30” monitors with resolutions up to 2560 x 1600.

    The cable has added pins to take the second link and to transfer the larger amount of digital information. This will only provide full 2560 x 1600 resolution if the graphics card is capable of providing a Dual Link signal.

5. Mini DVI Connector

For a brief period, a ‘Mini DVI’ connection port was used in some older Mac Laptops and Mac Minis (see image). This connection will only output a maximum of 1920 x 1200 resolution.

Adaptors are available to convert from Mini DVI to DVI–D and also Mini DVI to VGA.

6. VGA Connector

This is an old-style connector which provides an analogue only feed and have a maximum of 1900 x 1200 resolution. This format is being phased out and replaced by the range of digital connection options.

Most PC laptops and older graphics cards will have this type of connector, but, as mentioned above, they are being gradually replaced by digital connections.