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Why Does My HDMI Look Worse Than My VGA?


You may have noticed that your monitor connected with a VGA cable may oddly look better on some displays than when connected with an HDMI cable.

VGA is an inferior analog media interface that transfers limited data, while HDMI is a superior digital media interface that transfers unlimited data.

The HDMI output display may look washed out or have parts of the screen cut off compared to the VGA output. 

Many monitors, even those of high-definition resolution, seem to work better with VGA cables than HDMI cables. 

That is because many monitors and televisions were made with these VGA analog media interfaces in mind for years. In contrast, the HDMI digital media interface is still relatively new but much better technology.

Some tinkering is required to use the much better HDMI digital media interface and make it look better than your monitor’s outdated VGA analog media interface. 

The two common problems involve the Dynamic Range and overscan on specific monitors and high-definition televisions.

1. Set Your Dynamic Range to Full Instead of Limited

The NVIDIA GPU on a Windows operating system often automatically defaults to a Limited Dynamic Range for your HDMI output instead of Full Dynamic Range.

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The dynamic range of your GPU, such as an NVIDIA RTX 3060 graphics card, determines the level of detail of the color spectrum displayed upon the monitor. 

Dynamic range comes in two options, which are known as Limited Dynamic Range and Full Dynamic Range.

Limited Dynamic Range cannot output the full crisp color spectrum of your HDMI digital media interface output. It was not made for digital displays, but rather for analog media interface displays that could not display the full-color spectrum of digital media interfaces like HDMI. 

Essentially, a Limited Dynamic Range setting makes VGA displays look better. An analog media interface corresponds with a Limited Dynamic Range created to compensate for its limited color output. 

In turn, this Limited Dynamic Range setting will make the colors of HDMI digital media interfaces, especially the black and gray colors, washed out. As opposed to a VGA analog media interface monitor that will display the colors on this setting in crisp detail.

Digital Media Interfaces, such as HDMI, are made to display a much higher quality of color and, therefore, the entire color spectrum. 

Unfortunately, many GPUs automatically calibrate their color settings to Limited Dynamic Range. It has done this for years for analog media interface technology, like VGA, before the existence of digital media interface technology, like HDMI. 

HDMI, therefore, does not utilize the full color spectrum of digital media interface technology on the Limited Dynamic Range setting.

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To fix this, you have to alter your GPU to output Full Dynamic Range, which outputs the entire color spectrum to your HDMI monitors instead of Limited Dynamic Range.

This common issue above pertains mainly to NVIDIA GPUs, and so I will show you how to change it for these GPUs on the Windows operating system:

  1. Firstly, right-click anywhere on your desktop to open a window that offers additional functionality to alter the various settings on the Windows operating system.
  2. Scroll down till you find the one labeled “NVIDIA Control Panel” and left-click on it.
  3. This action will launch the NVIDIA Control Panel that allows you to customize how your HDMI input plugged into your GPU outputs your display on your monitor.
  4. Go to the “Display” category and select “Change Resolution.”
  5. Say you have a dual monitor setup, make sure that you select the HDMI display that you want to calibrate in the “Change Resolution” section.
  6. Then, double check that your “Refresh Rate” setting is set to the correct type of Refresh Rate your monitor supports, such as 60 Hz.
  7. Now, scroll down to the “Apply the following settings” section.
  8. There, first make sure that it is set to the option “Use NVIDIA color settings.”
  9. Lastly, go to “Output Dynamic Range” and change it from “Limited” to “Full.”
  10. Hit “Apply”, your monitor may first briefly flash, but it will now be fixed to the correct Full Dynamic Range.

Now, your GPU is set to use Full Dynamic Range, which is needed for digital media interfaces like the HDMI to output the color of its display correctly. The HDMI display will now output the full color spectrum that HDMI supports.

2. Check Whether Overscan Is Disabled on Your HD TV

There may be a problem if you’re using a high-definition television as your HDMI monitor, where parts of your screen may appear to be cut off completely. An outdated technology known as overscan is to blame for this problem.

Overscan was created to compensate for all the different displays coming out between the era of high-definition becoming more common than standard-definition resolution. It essentially showed a zoomed-in picture in case the content displayed appeared odd or too small. 

Overscan technology is no longer needed, as high-definition resolution content is standardized, yet it remains a default setting on many high-definition televisions. 

This will make your HDMI output appear too zoomed-in or even cut off parts of your display.

Monitor Edges Cut off Computer Monitor - How to fix Overscan and Adjust Computer Screen to be center

The method to fix it depends on the television manufacture, but below is a common way to alter the overscan setting:

  1. In most cases, you will go into the “Picture” category under your television settings.
  2. Hopefully, there will be an option to “Disable Overscan.” If not, look for the “Aspect Ratio” option.
  3. Upon locating this option, change it from “16:9” to something along the lines of “Screen Fit.”
  4. Overscan should be disabled.

Conclusion

VGA, an outdated analog media interface, may sometimes accidentally look better than HDMI, due to obsolete monitor or television settings.

The most common problem is when your GPU is outputting the HDMI display into Limited Dynamic Range instead of Full Dynamic Range, limiting the HDMI’s capabilities. 

Changing from Limited Dynamic Range to Full Dynamic Range will unleash the full powers of the HDMI display.

If you are using a high-definition television as a monitor, you may be using the outdated overscan technology. 

To get rid of overscan, you will need to disable it in your television settings.


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