The VGA Port

The death of the VGA port will mean more complexity and less freedom for you. VGA stands for Video Graphics Array and is the most common way to connect your computer to a monitor. The VGA port is found on most computers, monitors, and even in some TVs. VGA is almost universal, but it’s on the way out.

AMD, Dell, Intel, Lenovo, Samsung Electronics LCD Business, and LG Display announced the death of the VGA port yesterday:

Intel and AMD expect that analog display outputs such as Video Graphics Array (VGA) and the low voltage differential signaling technology (LVDS) panel interface would no longer be supported in their product lines by 2015.

That’s too bad. I like VGA. VGA is an analog connection and there is simplicity and freedom associated with it. VGA is simple: if you connect a computer to a monitor using VGA it just works. You don’t need special drivers or cables.

There is freedom, too. New digital connections like HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort increasingly work with HDCP or High Definition Content Protection. I’m all for protecting copyrights but the way it works now can be a hassle. Some digital connections don’t work because older TVs or monitors don’t know how to communicate with them. VGA lets you connect and get on with your life. And VGA is analog, you can playback almost anything through the connection.

DisplayPort and HDMI allow for slimmer laptop designs, and support higher resolutions with deeper color than VGA – a technology which is more than 20 years old.

This isn’t 100% true. VGA allows for slimmer notebook designs, too. Apple used a mini-VGA port on its iBook. The iBook isn’t as thin as the new MacBook Airs but at the time it was a nice and slim design. Wikipedia has a nice photo of it.

Higher resolutions? This is not as simple as you think. A while back I messed around with an IBM T210. It was a 20.8-inch monitor that had 2048×1536 pixels. The only way to make use of all those pixels at the time was via VGA. If you have a computer with a DVI connection, did you know a dual-link DVI adapter is needed to run monitors that have more than 1920×1200 pixels? With VGA you don’t need to worry about anything like that.

And what’s wrong with a technology that’s 20 years old if it still works?

Eric Demers, CTO at AMD, thinks there should be two standards: DisplayPort for PC monitors and HDMI for TVs. This is short-sighted. What is the difference between a monitor and a TV? Not that much. The difference between the two will only get more blurry in the future. If Demers’ future comes true we’ll be wasting time figuring out whether a display is a monitor or a TV and finding the right cables for them. At that time we would be wishing for a simple connection like VGA.

Part of the impetus for the depreciation of VGA is the ongoing push for 3D displays in both TV and PC markets.

Because 3D is selling so well? If you have children, I would stay away from 3D if possible. Read Dvorak: 3D Bad For Your Eyes.

The way I see it, the move to digital connections has little to do with slimmer designs, higher resolutions, or even 3D. I think content providers are pushing to get rid of VGA. They can’t control what can be played back on a monitor or a TV that uses an analog connection. Hold on to your VGA gear because it might be the only way to view your collection of multimedia.