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I recently bought a Mac mini. It comes with an HDMI to DVI adapter. I bought a LG monitor that has an HDMI port.

My concern is: Is there any improvement when I connect the Mac Mini to the monitor using an HDMI cable?

Currently I am connecting to the monitor's DVI port via the adapter and it is working fine. I need to know whether there's any difference in using the HDMI port directly.

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    Not a quality issue but my Samsung monitor won't go into power saving mode when using HDMI. Something to watch out for.
    – BJ292
    May 17, 2012 at 22:27
  • is latency the same? May 18, 2012 at 11:48

6 Answers 6

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The only benefit to HDMI is that you don't need a second cable for audio. HDMI essentially combines a DVI connection with audio. Actually, because of this, you can acutally get converters that go from HDMI to DVI for a few bucks.

Because it already has a DVI connection in it, the quality over the HDMI connection would be identical. The only reason you'd want to use HDMI is if you'd like to run sound through the monitor--but it's not going to improve the video quality.

That being said, there's a ton of other factors that affect "video quality". Variations in display coatings, backlights, and LCD panels can make the same "red" icon look very, very different on two different displays. However, since DVI and HDMI use the same digital link, there's effectively no signal loss, so one wouldn't look any different than the other on the same display.

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    Also HDMI doesn't have annoying screws May 17, 2012 at 21:39
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    I'm with BlueRaja, HDMI wins for easy of connection and disconnection from devices. May 17, 2012 at 22:45
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    Agreed, but it wasn't in the scope of the original question as I read it. It sounded like the OP wanted to know if the video quality would improve. I might be wrong on this, but I don't think it's typical that a Mac Mini gets connected/disconnected on a regular basis. May 17, 2012 at 22:48
  • Thanks for your answer. What I experienced is there is difference in seeing something in iMac and in my monitor. The red badge over mail or Appstore seems deep red in iMac but light red in my LG monitor.
    – rakeshNS
    May 18, 2012 at 3:53
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    I'm confused. Are you trying to compare the iMac display to the LG display? Different displays will display the same icons differently. This is because of panels, screen coatings, backlights, etc. That's really got nothing to do with the connection (which, since it's digital, has effectively no signal loss). May 18, 2012 at 5:24
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HDMI shouldn't cause a difference in image quality vs DVI. However, you will have to worry about bandwidth issues. These issues really only occur if you're intending on playing computer games. Over HDMI, I found that some games I tried to play would cap the refresh rate at an abysmal 24 Hz, which translated into a lot of image tearing and headaches. However, I found that it was perfectly fine for typical desktop/office tasks and movie watching.

If that's all you're doing, then you're perfectly fine using HDMI. If you plan on gaming, though, I'd recommend keeping an eye out for performance issues. They should be readily apparent.

*Note that these issues that I described can also depend on the software you're running and the drivers you have. My experience may not directly translate to yours. Ultimately, the best way to find out is to try it yourself and see what happens.

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    The OP is using a Mac Mini. I don't think he bought it for gaming ;)
    – slhck
    May 17, 2012 at 19:51
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    Of course. But Macs can run Steam these days. It's always a possibility, like when I was running games on a low-powered laptop back in the day. They may not run well but you never know. :) May 17, 2012 at 19:52
  • Yeah, 24 Hz/fps is common for movies, so it's possible that 24Hz is the minimum rate required by the HDMI spec. :-/ Clearly, though, YMMV. May 17, 2012 at 22:24
  • This is something to watch out for if you're wanting to use a 3D enabled monitor which requires a higher refresh rate. May 22, 2012 at 18:11
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HDMI vs. DVI

Here are a few other facts beside the audio being included with HDMI.

From Wikipedia

HDMI is backward compatible with single-link Digital Visual Interface digital video (DVI-D or DVI-I, but not DVI-A). No signal conversion is required when an adapter or asymmetric cable is used, so there is no loss of video quality.

This means that HDMI is not the exact same as DVI Dual link whose bandwidth "is limited only by the bandwidth limits of the copper the DVI cable is constructed of and by the DVI signal's source." Also, there are several specification types and versions to HDMI that limit it's speeds.

With those two combinational factors there's a possibility that a HDMI cable and/or port will not produce the same quality as the DVI and vice versa. For example, with my home PC I ran into an issue with my HDMI cable connected monitor only running at 60Hz vs the 120Hz that I got from the DVI-DL. This can cause issues with 3D enabled content.

Note: There ARE HDMI Cables that can handle 3D content, but not all.

Here are some other sources to look at and a summary of their findings:

  • HDMI vs DVI: High Speed HDMI can support up to 4k x 2k res while DVI's max is 2560 x 1600

  • ecoustics.com:

    So, which is better, DVI or component? HDMI or component? The answer--unsatisfying, perhaps, but true--is that it depends. It depends upon your source and display devices

The Introduction of the Adapter

Whenever you introduce any type of adapter, you are limited by the specifications of the lowest operating medium. For example, a VGA to DVI adapter is limited by the specifications of VGA. In your case (HDMI to DVI), the limitations are dependent on the individual devices being used. If the receiving monitor is a single link DVI then there is probably no difference in quality. However, if the receiving monitor is a dual link DVI, there may exist a reduction in quality.

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    +1 "This can cause issues with 3D enabled content". Indeed, you can't play 60Hz game in 3D over an HDMI cable, it's limited to 24Hz. Dual-link DVI, however, is capable of this. May 23, 2012 at 21:07
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Video quality alone, they are the same. HDMI also carries sound, as long as it's supplied. I have heard (although not confirmed) that audio can be carried through a DVI cable, but I haven't heard it IRL

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    DVI can, because they're pin-compatible. You will need a DVI->HDMI converter though (usually supplied with the device). May 17, 2012 at 19:39
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    When enabled some PCs can output 2-channel audio along with the video on the DVI connector. With a DVI->HDMI plug adapter, my HDTV gets both video & audio with just one cable from the PC's DVI port. If you want multichannel (e.g. 5.1) audio then use HDMI.
    – sawdust
    May 17, 2012 at 19:58
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I agree with all the comments regarding your particular situation. There will be no difference in video quality. However, to answer the question in a general case ("Is there any benefit of using HDMI over DVI?"), some differences can be stressed I think.

AFAIK, there is a major advantage in using HDMI when it comes to sound (e.g. when watching bluray movies).

  1. As said, HDMI is able to carry both video and audio (and potentially other streams) in one cable.
  2. More importantly, it is the only interface able to carry high-definition audio (i.e. Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD) at lossless quality (outside of using 6 or 8 RCA connectors with LPCM signal).
  3. Also, it is the only link capable of carrying HD encoded bitstream and have the decoding done by the receiver and not your computer. This can be important to alleviate the computer from this load, and also because it can increase sound quality if the receiver's DAC is better than the soundcard's (which is most often the case).
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HDMI and DVI are both digital video signals. The advantage of using HDMI over DVI is that HDMI carries both audio and video over a single cable and for DVI you will need to run two cables one for the video and another one for audio. HDMI is the latest as far as technology goes and all the digital video splitter, extender, matrix solutions are HDMI. All the devices these days have HDMI ports on them. So I would recommend going with HDMI.

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