HDMI To DVI Cables
One of the benefits of the "universality" of modern high-definition televisions, and to a lesser extent, computers, is that we’re no longer faced with the hodgepodge of cables and connectors we commonly used to keep on hand. Newer HDTVs and home theater components primarily use HDMI connectors and cables, while most of today’s computer monitors are equipped with DVI ports. (There’s also the more recent DisplayPort used on some computers, but that’s another story for another Learning Center article.)
Both HDMI and DVI cables are capable of transferring high-def video signals; DVI, however, only can handle video transfer, while HDMI can deliver both audio and video (and some other signals as well) on the same cable. When used for the purposes for which they were originally designed, that makes sense and is not an issue. Where things get a bit tricky, though, is when trying to send signals between video components and computers. That’s when you need HDMI to DVI cables or adapters.
We’ll examine those cables in more detail shortly after a brief primer (or refresher course) on HDMI and DVI, to make sure we’re all on the same page.
What Is HDMI?
High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) was created to carry uncompressed video and audio signals on cables connecting high-def components, primarily between televisions and video monitors and the other components connecting to them. The “uncompressed” part is important, because it means the actual digital content isn’t changed in any way while being transferred from device to device. HDMI is actually a set of standards for connectors and cables, and the latest versions can handle enough bandwidth to easily allow the transfer of the 4K and 3D video signals becoming more and more common.
You’ll find HDMI ports on HDTVs, TV monitors, Blu-ray players, sound bars and most other ingredients of a home theater system. You may also find one on your computer, but that’s relatively rare. Incidentally, here we’re talking about full-size (type-A) HDMI connections and not the smaller ones you find on camcorders or tablets.
What Is DVI?
Digital Video Interface (DVI) has become one of the go-to connectors used on computer monitors, although it’s starting to be replaced by DisplayPort. DVI was also created to carry high-resolution digital video, primarily used between computers and monitors but also featured on many video projectors. A modern DVI-D dual link cable is able to handle resolutions as high as 2560 x 1600 – not capable of faithfully reproducing 4K signals, but still well over the requirements for most high-def video signals.
As we’ve mentioned, DVI does not transfer audio signals, only video; a separate cable is needed to handle the sound that accompanies video being moved between devices via DVI. (There is actually a form of DVI called DVI-I that integrates video and audio, but you don’t see it often.)
Why Would You Need to Connect HDMI to DVI?
It used to be that we used televisions for watching TV, and computers for surfing online. Today, the lines between the two are increasingly blurry. You might want to watch videos that are stored on your laptop on your HDTV, or something from cable or satellite on your laptop. You could be trying to send a Blu-ray movie to your computer or play a PlayStation game while sitting in front of your desktop machine. If you don’t have a smart TV, set-top box or dongle, sending video from your computer to your home theater might be the simplest way for you to watch Netflix or YouTube from your couch. You could also need to connect an HDMI source to a DVI-equipped video projector.
These days we have a nearly-infinite number of reasons to transfer video between home theater components and computers, and usually those devices don’t have matching connectors. That means you need something to carry signals between them and accommodate the devices at both ends.
Connecting HDMI- and DVI-Equipped Devices
Even though the digital signal you want to transfer between your devices will be compatible with both, it probably goes without saying that HDMI and DVI connectors and ports don’t look the same; things are never that easy. For that reason, you probably won’t be able to connect HDMI and DVI devices with any cable you have on hand. You’ll have to buy either an HDMI-to-DVI cable or an HDMI-to-DVI adapter. Adapters may be the answer if you have a spare HDMI or DVI cable you wouldn’t otherwise be using (and we sell adapters as well), but it’s easier to just pick up an HDMI-to-DVI cable and not have to worry about plugging and unplugging an adapter when you need the cable it’s attached to for another purpose. Also note: these cables are sometimes called adapters because they perform the same purpose.
Just as with any other type of electronic or electrical equipment, there are male (the plug with the prongs) and female (the jack with the holes) connectors used on HDMI-to-DVI cables. In almost all cases, your equipment will have female connectors (known as ports) – so you will need cables that are called "male-to-male", with an HDMI plug on one end and a DVI plug on the other. This will transfer the high-quality video from one device to the other, and connect easily to the ports on your component and computer.
Remember, though, that audio is not transferred via DVI. If you are going to want to transfer sound between your devices, you’ll need to find out what type of audio jacks each is equipped with, and buy a corresponding audio cable (or use one you already have). This could be done with something as simple as a phone plug, mini-plug or RCA cable, or as complicated as a TOSlink optical cable if you want high-quality digital audio.
What to Look for in an HDMI-to-DVI Cable
It’s easier to tell you what you should not look for: an overpriced department-store cable promising the world. If any cable, including HDMI-to-DVI, meets the required standards for the signals it needs to transfer, it’s just as good as any other. You don’t have to pay an arm-and-a-leg for promised "super-duper high quality cables."
What you do need to ensure is that the cable is long enough for your needs and meets the specifications of your components. Both HDMI and DVI are backward-compatible, so if the connectors are HDMI 2.0 on one end and DVI-D on the other, you should be all set to transfer digital signals. (HDMI 1.X can’t handle today’s higher resolutions, and DVI-A only handles analog signals.) Be aware that you can’t send resolutions higher than 1080p over DVI cables longer than 15 feet, and that you could start to see HDMI signal degradation at lengths longer than 50 feet.
You should also look for connectors that are gold-plated at both ends to guarantee optimal signal transfer and fight corrosion, and of course, you should always buy from a reputable manufacture like Cmple or another major company.