It has been over three decades since the Video Graphics Array, or VGA display standard, made its debut in 1987. We have made groundbreaking advancements with newer AV technologies at an incredible rate since then. Fast-forward to the present, VGA still coexists with its successors, including DVI, HDMI, and the newer DisplayPort standard.
While VGA is the gold display interface of the past, you can find it in relatively modern televisions, monitors, and media devices. It also has an abundant presence on server hardware and low-end graphics cards. Plus, if you have an old monitor lying around that has a VGA port, you can still probably use it as a second display for your computer.
This brings us to the question that many of you are here for– What’s the maximum resolution achievable over the VGA interface? Can it carry 1080p video signals and above? Considering how old the standard is, you may have your doubts.
Can VGA Carry 1080p Signals?
Yes. The original VGA standard initially had a maximum video output of 640 x 480. Later on, the analog display interface was extended to transmit up to 1080p (1920 x 1080) FHD video signals. If you look hard enough in the used market, you will definitely come across Full HD, flat-screen LCD monitors that only has a VGA input connector.
It’s worth mentioning that there isn’t really any noticeable difference in a 1080p video output over VGA or HDMI. However, the signal quality over VGA only begins to degrade above 1080p due to the fact that it’s an “analog” standard.
VGA Max Resolution: What’s the Max Resolution Achievable over VGA?
The truth is– VGA doesn’t have a standardized maximum resolution. It’s more about the limitations of analog signal transmission, which causes higher-resolution signals to degrade in quality.
With a high-quality VGA cable and transceivers on either end of the input and output sources, the maximum resolution you can achieve over VGA is 2048 x 1536, which has an aspect ratio of 4:3. It’s part of the QXGA (Quad Extended Graphics Array) standard. Anything above it requires the DVI or newer interface.
Without the special hardware or high-grade cable, 1080p is the highest recommended resolution you can get with VGA. Even if your 4K display has a VGA port, you can’t use it to get a 4K video output by any means. Only the HDMI and DisplayPort are capable of driving the 8.3 million pixels.
What’s the Max Refresh Rate you Get Over VGA?
Once again, there isn’t any maximum standard for refresh rates on VGA. It mostly varies across different displays and source devices. 60Hz at 1080p is the general limit, but you can go up to 85Hz at lower resolutions like 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1280 x 1024, etc.
On special monitors, you can get up to a 100Hz video signal over VGA. However, it causes the display panel to burn through its lifespan faster.
Why shouldn’t you Use VGA for High Resolution Video Output?
As we previously mentioned, VGA is an analog interface. While it can carry relatively higher resolution video signals (at least up to 1080p), it comes at the cost of degradation in quality and lower refresh rates.
Most displays and media devices communicate over digital DV, HDMI, and DisplayPort signals, so the internal hardware is put through the process of converting them to analog signals when connected over VGA. It results in higher power consumption and overall worse picture quality.
Furthermore, if you still have a desktop or laptop with a VGA port, it most probably uses either onboard graphics, an older graphics card, or a display adapter. Hence, it’s unlikely suitable for high-resolution video output in the first place.
Another key drawback of using VGA is that the video signal degrades significantly or suffers from crosstalk at greater cable lengths. A bad VGA cable or corroded connector can also cause random signal dropouts, flickering, color inaccuracies, ghosting, etc. The only fix to such issues is to use shorter VGA cables with proper insulation and coaxial wiring. Such problems are quite rare on digital interfaces like DVI and HDMI.
VGA vs. DVI Summary
DVI is also an older display interface, introduced as a successor to VGA at the beginning of the 2000s. However, it’s the first to carry digital video signals right alongside analog signals, unlike VGA.
The benefits of using DVI over VGA are support for higher resolution and refresh rates. It’s also more resistant to external noise and unwanted crosstalk. In short, DVI is the better option for connecting an older display to a computer.
VGA vs HDMI in short
HDMI is the current standard for AV signal transmission, receiving major improvements with every revision. The reasons to use HDMI over VGA are quite apparent, including support for ultra-high resolutions, high refresh rates, better color depth, and HDR (High Dynamic Range) video output. Plus, it can simultaneously carry lossless audio signals.
HDMI is also pretty much immune to electromagnetic interferences since all standard HDMI cables use multiple layers of shielding. They are also easier to find on the market as almost every media device uses the interface for audio and video output.
Note that HDMI is backward-compatible with DVI-D, so you can use a passive adapter to get HDMI video signals on a display over DVI.
VGA vs DisplayPort Explained
DisplayPort is mostly used on computer monitors with higher refresh rates above 240Hz and resolutions beyond 8K UHD (7680 x 4320). However, newer high-end TVs also offer the interface right alongside HDMI.
It actually is backward-compatible with HDMI and DVI through active and passive adapters. Like HDMI, it can carry HDR video and high-quality lossless audio signals, as well as enable other HDMI-centric features (e.g., CEC, HDCP). The self-latching connector is also more durable than the screws on the VGA cable.
For all the obvious reasons, DisplayPort is superior to VGA in every aspect, and even HDMI in some cases.
We hope you have got your answers regarding VGA Max Resolution in this informative guide. We have also summarized the advantages of using newer digital video interfaces over the analog VGA standard for high-resolution content.
It all comes down to what your options are for connecting a television or monitor to your computer or other media devices. If you have an old desktop monitor, VGA should do the job as long as the display resolution is no further than 1080p.
However, if you have the option to use either DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort, consider using them over VGA for a better home theater and gaming experience. With the second and third digital interfaces, You won’t even have to use a separate cable to get audio output!