For the longest time, VGA has been considered the standard for video output. Developed back in 1987 by IBM and implemented for many years, VGA was used for display devices like monitors, TVs, and projectors. VGA is also the first video output that allows HD resolution, enabling 16 display colors at a time at 60Hz.
But is VGA analog? Or is VGA digital? And what exactly does this mean for the previous display standard?
The answer is that VGA utilized analog signals to transmit video and images, making it analog itself. By carrying red, green, and blue signs, VGA could output a 640 x 480 resolution color, creating a sharper resolution. Not long after, however, VGA became obsolete and was superseded by HDMI and DisplayPort, both digital.
Before VGA, video output was more or less grainy and used fewer pixels, so they were only possible in smaller TVs and monitors.
But if you wish to learn more about VGA and the difference between digital and analog signals, this article will go over everything you need to know.
What is an Analog?
When it comes to electronics, there are two main signal processing types, namely analog and digital. But what differs one from the other?
Essentially, an analog signal is a continuous and often imprecise current bound to a range, much like a slide or a ramp in the real world. And because that current is continuous, it also allows for an infinite number of values.
Because of this, an analog signal can achieve any value as long as it’s contained within the parameters of the system that controls it.
For example, think of a lightbulb with an attached dimmer switch. In the context of analog signals, there’s an infinite number of positions between the “off” and “full” positions of the switch.
This means that the lightbulb would always be as bright as the voltage provided by the switch.
But while this is easier to process, analog signals are susceptible to external sources. Analog signals that travel far distances also experience decay of some sort, so connecting a monitor to a 50ft. VGA cable results in lower quality.
This is one of the reasons why modern devices use the more reliable digital signal for any output. Of course, there are exceptions.
What is Digital?
On the other end of the spectrum are digital signals, which represent several precise quantities instead of infinite values.
When data is digital, the current only communicates in 1s and 0s, and there’s no range of values.
This makes it easier to manage compared to analog, as the voltage values do not constantly change. It’s either in the “on” or “off” position, removing any in-between that can muddy the process and make it more confusing.
Digital signals also have the advantage of going for much, much longer without suffering from any functional degradation. This is thanks to digital data sent via binary chunks, which are far less susceptible to interference.
The better and more enforced your wire is, the better the digital data holds, making it the better option in most cases. This is also why digital cables (like HDMI) can be longer than analog cables (like VGA).
Additionally, digital signals also don’t get noise damage, use a lower bandwidth, have a higher transmission rate, and are generally more secure than analog signals.
Is VGA Digital or Analog?
As mentioned above, VGA cables are old-school, so they’re analog.
Released in the late 1980s, VGA cables took advantage of the technology at the time, using its familiar tiny pins to output four variables in charge of the color intensity in your screen.
The VGA then combines these variables to create a 16-color scheme that outputs intense colors at up to 1080p resolution. Aside from that, however, the pins were also primarily used to ground any excess electricity and provide a consistent picture and video.
However, this also meant that VGA cables couldn’t transmit audio, meaning that you would need a separate connection for it alone.
Luckily, the rise of more advanced digital output solutions like HDMI and DisplayPort made it possible to transmit audio and video. This convenience and efficiency quickly became the new standard, therefore making VGA obsolete.
Are Monitors Analog or Digital?
Much like the cables that connect to them, monitors (and TV sets) also went through their fair share of evolution. One of these is the transition from analog to digital.
Long ago, monitors took advantage of CR-T technology, which was used in older models of monitors and televisions. As such, these monitors are analog and sport VGA ports you can connect to.
Additionally, analog TVs are the ones that have long antennas sticking out.
However, the years that followed saw the rise of newer screen technologies like LCD , LED , Plasma, or even the fancier OLED . Today, smart TVs and flat-screen TVs classify as digital appliances and take advantage of digital signals to access the latest technology.
That said, a TV that accepts a digital signal via an adapter to its VGA port is still an analog TV. Furthermore, there are plenty of digital TVs that can receive both digital and analog signals.
When Should You Switch from Analog to Digital?
Unless you are specifically going for a vintage or retro set-up in your home, then the advantages of switching to a modern digital TV far outweigh its disadvantages, if there are any.
For one thing, digital TVs are the standard these days, and it would be easier to find a well-priced and high-quality unit than it is looking for an analog-only TV. Furthermore, there are still digital TVs that accept analog signals.
Analog TVs are also limited by their old resolution, and the best way to experience higher refresh rates for watching movies or playing video games is through digital TVs.
Lastly, there is always new technology and products coming out, so high-end TVs and monitors tend to go down in price real quickly.
During its time, VGA was the analog standard, and it was commonly used in TV sets and gaming monitors for a few years.
However, VGA and the analog age were soon replaced by digital, which is far more superior and efficient in more ways than one.
That said, there are plenty of ways to still experience old-tech like analog monitors, especially when enjoying media and content from the same period.