Though mostly superseded in the past decade by digital video connectors that can handle more data and provide a clearer picture, analog video connectors are still employed on numerous legacy devices and still form an integral portion of many video display relays. Whether you need to hook your DVD player up to an analog projector, or pass data between your computer and an analog monitor, knowing the different types of analog video connectors available on the consumer market can prove essential to making the most of your Audio/Visual setup.
VGA is the most commonly used form of analog video connector for transferring data between PCs and display monitors. You’ll find VGA connectors on most PCs, laptops, and monitors built between 1987 and the early 2000s. Because of how easy they are to use, VGA connectors have been employed on numerous computer monitors and projectors intended for use in the consumer market.
The initials VGA stand for Video Graphics Array. You’ll be able to easily identify a VGA connector by its shape. VGA connectors employ a D-shaped, subminiature-type connector with 15 pins. This connector is often identifiable by its metallic sheathing and blue-colored, molded grip.
VGA has come to be known as the lowest common denominator for computer graphics hardware. You won’t get particularly amazing resolutions from a VGA connector, but its widespread compatibility means that almost all analog monitors, projectors, and PCs will feature some sort of VGA input.
Whereas VGA connectors found their primary use in connecting PCs to external displays, S-video connectors were more commonly used in the consumer video market, showing up frequently on VHS players, TVs, and in European Audio/Visual setups.
The term S-Video is a portmanteau of the words Super Video. S-Video connectors carry standard definition (480i or 576i resolution) video signals via a four-pin, mini-DIN connector. As opposed to composite video connectors, which carry video data via a single channel, S-Video connectors transfer video data in two, synchronized channels. The upshot of this technical innovation is that S-Video connectors provide slightly better video quality than composite video connectors, though S-Video signals require more processing power in order to display properly. Conversely, S-Video connectors provide a slightly lower quality of video than three-plug, component video connectors.
S-Video is less common on PCs than it is on VCRs and TVs, though some legacy PC and Macintosh models do feature S-Video connectors.
Composite Video can be a little confusing, as its connector isn’t as readily identifiable as the VGA or S-Video connectors. As opposed to the VGA connector, which employs 15 pins, and the S-Video connector, which employs two channels and four pins, composite video connectors use only a single plug and transmit video via a single channel. Though this means that composite video connectors can’t provide the same picture quality as the two connectors we just discussed, it also means that composite video schemes have been able to find wide employment on consumer video devices, owing to their simple interface and diminutive size.
You’ll typically run into composite video connectors as part of a three-pronged, RCA connector cable. RCA connectors are the circular, red, white, and yellow connectors you see on the backs of almost all VCRs, DVD players, and TVs. While the red and white ports allow you to transfer stereo audio signals to and from these entertainment devices, the yellow port is intended for transmitting composite video. You can also get composite video cables with only a single, yellow connector, but these are rarer, as they allow for video data transfer, but not audio. If you’re looking to transfer analog video data in your home entertainment system, you could scarcely find a safer bet than a composite video cable.