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HDMI Converters Explained
I get asked all the time about HDMI converters and what they are. The big thing most people don't realize is that there is a large variety of things that could be classified as an HDMI converter. There are devices that just adapt the physical connection and also devices that convert the type of signal from one format to another. NOTE: in most cases a simple cable or physical adapter will not be all that is needed. Let me explain what some of the most common devices are.
So what are the different types of converters?
Most HDMI converters are devices that connect a non-HDMI source to an HDMI display. This means we're going from another signal type to HDMI. Some people get that backwards, but think of the signal as being something flowing from one location to another. For example, the HDMI signal flows out of your DVD player and into your TV. Some converters go the opposite direction and go from an HDMI source to a DVI or VGA display. Below are the most sought-after connections to convert to HDMI. Click on it to quickly go to that section.
What do these converters do for me?
To put it simply, each of these converters make it so you can have two devices interact that use two different signal types. It gets slightly more complicated depending on which two signals we're dealing with. I'll go through each of the types mentioned above and try and give you a basic explanation of what each accomplishes.
VGA to HDMI converters are most commonly used to go from a computer to a TV that has an HDMI input. VGA is an analog signal so the converter has to convert the signal from analog to digital. Many VGA to HDMI converters also take an audio input and add that to the HDMI signal since HDMI does both audio and video, while VGA only does video. See more detailed information on making a VGA to HDMI conversion here: Convert VGA to HDMI
DVI is a digital signal in the same format as the video portion of HDMI. The difference is that DVI doesn't carry the audio signal like HDMI does. This means that if you are only using the video signal you can use a simple DVI to HDMI plug adapter that changes the physical connections. If you want to go from a DVI source with audio, you'll need an active converter to combine the video signal from the DVI source and the audio into the HDMI signal.
Component sources are usually things like DVD players or video game consoles that are a little too old to have been built with HDMI support. Component is an analog signal type like VGA and must be fully converted to a digital signal. You cannot use a simple cable to go from component to HDMI. The component to HDMI converters will allow you to take sources like those and view them on your HDMI display.
Composite video is an older standard definition signal type, but it is still very widely used. Common sources that used that are VHS players, early DVD players, older video game consoles, video security systems, and video cameras.
This device accomplishes the same thing as the devices above. It simply supports more than one format of input on a single device. These types of converters generally have either a physical or electronic switch that allows you to choose which input is being used and converted to the HDMI output.
As mentioned in the description of the DVI to HDMI device, DVI and HDMI use the same digital video format for the video. This means that if you are only using the video signal you can simply use an HDMI to DVI plug adapter or cable that simply changes the physical connections. If you need to use the audio signal that’s on the HDMI connection you’ll need a fully active converter that can separate the video and audio signals apart, sending video over DVI and the audio over some other connection.
HDMI to VGA is a more difficult conversion to make. HDMI is protected by a system called HDCP. I won’t go into specifics on that, but let me say that it is designed to prevent HDMI from being converted to unprotected analog signals. There are a few emerging products that allow you to go from HDMI to VGA. This would allow you to view an HDMI source on a VGA computer monitor.
What other devices are there?
There are some devices that by some definition could be considered an HDMI converter, but don’t fall into the types of categories I just described. The most note worthy of these devices is a USB to HDMI adapter.
A USB to HDMI adapter connects to the USB port on a computer and allows adds an HDMI output to the computer. This allows you to connect your computer to your HDMI enabled display, like a TV or computer monitor. This also allows you to add multiple extra displays to your computer making for much more powerful monitor set ups. So while this may not technically fall under the category of an HDMI converter, it is an incredibly useful device.