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I've tried a lot of things but I can't seem to get it working correctly. Below is my setup.

Laptop is a Dell Latitude E6535, which has Video chip/card NVidia NVS 5200M.

I have two external AOC IPS i2367Fh 23-Inch Screen LED Monitor. One connected to the laptop through HDMI and another through VGA.

Problem is, the text and overall image looks perfect and sharp on whichever of the two I connect through HDMI, while the VGA one just does not seem right, text does not look crisp, and just blurry enough that you cannot tell it's blurry, but you feel there's something wrong about it. I asked the wife to look at both monitors without telling her there was an issue, and she said the same thing.

Now, I have made sure it is not the cable because like I said, if I connect the monitor that looks odd through HDMI instead of VGA (i switch which monitor uses which cable), then it looks fine and the other looks bad. I've also tried two VGA cables.

When I go to the NVDIA settings, only one of the monitors can use the NVS 5200M chip, while the other one takes the Intel HD Graphics 4000 adapter, and I think that depends on which one I make my main display, but making the VGA monitor my main display (even though it would use the NVS 5200M) does not fix the issue. It will still look bad.

The resolution that I'm using is the native one for the monitors, 1920 x 1080.

I already tried tuning ClearType but did not fix it either.

Any ideas are welcome. Thanks

EDIT:

Thank you everyone for the responses/suggestions. It seems in order to get it working I will need either a docking station or an adapter. I'm considering the following:

LAST UPDATE:

The USB to HDMI adapter did NOT work for me at all. I just went with the docking station and DP to HDMI adapter and it worked flawlessly. Crisp image and text on both external monitors.

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You're suffering from seeing the digital and VGA displays side-by-side together. I've never seen that where the VGA monitor didn't look at least slightly inferior by comparison. Getting a better VGA cable isn't going to help. All of the posters here pointing out that HDMI is digital/VGA is analog are 100% correct. The digital display will be crisper. The USB docking station idea is a good one, especially if you can use USB 3.0. Or you could get a USB video adapter (can I say DisplayLink here?), but a docking station with DisplayLink technology might give you more utility. –  Craig Mar 25 at 12:42
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@Craig I was using a pair of NEC 2090's (high end 1600x1200 LCD) side by side for almost 2 years before discovering that my computer/monitor had decided to use the analog link in the DVI-I cable for one of them instead of the digital link. NEC's top line of monitors have a very large price premium to cover using top quality parts everywhere. Even knowing one 2090 was on analog I couldn't see any quality difference between the two. For most consumer grade monitors the difference is much more visible. I have immediately noticed cases where 1 of 2 dell 1280x1024 monitors was analog. –  Dan Neely Mar 25 at 13:13
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@DanNeely, you may have a good point, there. Where I've been seeing this most lately is in "consumer" grade 1080p LCD/LED monitors (e.g., not $800 IPS panels). Some of these displays are beautiful, actually, but when you feed two identical ones side by side with VGA and digital, the difference is hard to miss. Unplug the digital one, and the VGA display looks perfectly fine all by itself. :) –  Craig Mar 25 at 15:49
    
@DanNeely, also, are you really sure that monitor was using the analog lines in the DVI-I cable? Most of the monitors with DVI ports only have DVI-D ports on them and you can't even plug a DVI-I cable into them (you can plug male DVI-D into female DVI-I, but you physically cannot plug male DVI-I into female DVI-D). The analog lines are in those cables to let you use a DVI to VGA adapter and feed an analog port from a video card that puts an analog signal out the same port as the digital signal... –  Craig Mar 25 at 15:54
    
Another thing you may notice is that the VGA connection will look much better with cleartype turned off. –  JamesRyan Mar 25 at 17:44

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Basically, HDMI is digital and VGA is analogue.

There are a few solutions:

1) Buy a docking station which provides access to 2x HDMI or 1x HDMI + 1x DVI.

2) Use an on-board DVI instead of the VGA.

3) Buy a HDMI -> VGA converter. The 1st VGA will no longer seem blurry in comparison with the HDMI.

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it just sounds silly that if someone doesn't have a laptop with HDMI that they will be stuck with bad looking text. How good are the adapters? I only have VGA and HDMI, no DVI on my work laptop. I was told maybe a USB to HDMI. Are those good enough? –  silverCORE Mar 25 at 21:17
    
@silverCORE The USB to DVI and USB to HDMI adapters are totally digital. The quality is as good as a straight DVI/HDMI connection. DVI and HDMI are the same thing, electrically. Just get whichever one works for the hardware you have, and you can buy simple passive adapters (cheap) if you need to. If you have USB 3.0 you could play fairly high frame-rate games through one of these adapters. USB 2.0 is obviously slower, but for anything that isn't really video intensive USB 2.0 adapters work just fine. –  Craig Mar 25 at 21:39

VGA is analog. HDMI is digital. Meaning: the digital output of your computer is converted to the analog VGA signal. The analog VGA signal is converted back to a digital signal by your monitor. These conversions depend on the quality of the involved cable, connectors and especially the analog/digital converter components within your graphics card and the monitor. It can be very good, but never perfect. Some data is always lost/changed. At low resolution, this difference is not notable. At higher resolutions, it is. And with the analog use case being not very common nowadays, you can expect vendors to use cheaper/worse A/D converters for current hardware, not better ones. See also: http://www.brighthub.com/computing/hardware/articles/23769.aspx

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I see. It's really weird though, I don't think I had ever run into a monitor that I couldn't get to display nicely. Granted, I haven't worked with hundreds of them, but a least a dozen or so, with different workstations. It's also a little strange that the text on my external monitor at work looks decent enough, with the same laptop, although this monitor uses a lower resolution, 1440 x 900 –  silverCORE Mar 25 at 21:13
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I have also encountered issues with two identical monitors side by side, once using VGA, one using DVI. The VGA connected one was ever so slightly fuzzy by comparison, but I only noticed because they were side-by-side. Cable quality definitely contributes. –  Michael12345 Mar 26 at 3:34

Each and every VGA flat-panel display has an "Auto" button. It automatically adjusts the interpretation of the analog signal to achieve a (more or less) pixel-perfect mapping.

Activate this function when the outer edges of the image displayed are clearly defined (nothing black) and you have text visible.

Still, 1080p is in the upper regions of what's possible (at all) with VGA and many devices nowadays have lowish-quality VGA output.

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Virtually every time I've seen VGA and digital (DVI/HDMI/DP) displays side-by-side on the same system, the VGA side looks inferior, sometimes almost imperceptibly, but inferior nonetheless. –  Craig Mar 25 at 12:35
    
@Craig Yeah, that depends a lot on the graphics card and the display. A Full-HD CRT display can still look much better over VGA than a typical LCD over HDMI (different sub-pixel layout, proper color gamut, no need for gamma (re)correction...). Using VGA with LCDs is silly - it's a last-chance fallback, not a worthy interface :D –  Luaan Mar 25 at 13:13
    
High quality CRT's did do a nice job of smoothing those pixels. R.I.P., LCD... :-) The things I don't miss about big CRT's are the space they take, the weight and the 140 Watt power draw. :-) –  Craig Mar 25 at 16:00
    
Hi Daniel. It is pretty weird. My monitors do have an Auto button, but when I click it it does something else, not an auto adjustment. The monitors also came with a program that can do some monitor configurations on-screen vs physically pushing the buttons, but the Auto seems to be unavailable for some reason. –  silverCORE Mar 25 at 21:07
    
Could you elaborate on what "something else" is? :) –  Daniel B Mar 25 at 21:49

I suspect the lower quality you see is due to the analogue nature of the VGA signal. The higher the bandwidth you use (higher resolutions), the worse it becomes.

I see one reliable but not exactly cheap solution: A docking station. I checked briefly, the one for the 6540 comes with dual DP and dual Dual-link DVIs, make sure you have sufficient ports before you buy. Then, with both screens connected digitally, you should see crisp text on both screens. You might still see a difference in colour though.

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This is what I use and works like a charm. You can get DP (Display Port) to HDMI adapters too if you want to go all HDMI. –  Bradley Forney Mar 25 at 12:41
    
@TheUser1024 unfortunately it seems like it is what I will have to go for. To be honest I was already considering it, to avoid having to plug 2 monitors and a keyboard when I got home from work, I guess I just hate the idea of the dock not being useful to me whenever I get a new computer from work. It's also $130 =S –  silverCORE Mar 25 at 21:14
    
@silverCORE: Have you asked your employer to buy it? Or is it not for doing work at home? It might aslo be worth asking (if they won't buy it) if you can buy it through your employer. They might be getting a worthwhile discount. –  TheUser1024 Mar 25 at 21:23

As others have said, VGA is an analog signal but the pixels in a flat panel display are digital. The monitor has to know where in the VGA analog waveform to sample the signal to convert it to digital. The auto adjust feature on flat panel displays attempts to guess the best timing for that sampling. But if the timing isn't perfect, you will get a blurry image.

To give your monitor the best chance for the auto adjust to pick the correct timing values, you need to display an image with lots of high-contrast transitions. My go-to for this type of image is a single-pixel black/white checkerboard. And this is the place I always go to get that checkerboard: http://techmind.org/lcd/phasing.html

tl;dr: Go to http://techmind.org/lcd/phasing.html, maximize your browser window, and press your monitor's auto adjust button.

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