HDMI Video Card

Video cards with High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) output are extremely popular today, due to the versatility and speed of HDMI communications technology. HDMI is a true digital output, and an HDMI cable can carry multiple sources and types of information simultaneously:

HDMI is also the preferred communications format of modern High-Definition Television (HDTV). For this reason, many PC gamers seek graphics cards with HDMI output, which allows games to be played on large, widescreen HDTVs rather than smaller computer monitors, allowing for a more impressive and immersive gaming experience.

Additionally, plugging the computer into an HDTV allows the computer to act as a DVD or Blu-ray disc player, saving the extra cost of purchasing an additional piece of hardware.

Lastly, HDMI is fully reverse-compatible with the older Digital Visual Interface (DVI) technology, the precursor to HDMI, which means users are able to plug HDMI graphics cards into monitors built for DVI communication.

HDMI Reigns Supreme

HDMI is hands down the fastest and most detail-rich digital video technology available, and far exceed the capability of older analog video technologies like composite video, Video Graphics Array (VGA), Separate Video (S-Video), or component video.

HDMI is purely digital, which means no signal compression is necessary between the graphics card and the display device. This increases the clarity of the video signal, since no information is lost during the compression or decompression of image data.

Further, purely digital graphics technology eliminates the need for a digital-to-analog converter (RAMDAC) in the graphics card itself, removing a step in the image generation process and increasing speeds even further.

The almost universal acceptance of HDMI extends across the spectrum of electronics devices - DVD players, game consoles, camcorders, and home theaters - meaning that HDMI technology is going to be around for a while, and won't be displaced by a new and potentially incompatible technology any time soon.

Graphics Card with HDMI

The two leading manufacturers of discrete graphics cards, Nvidia Corporation and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), both offer numerous product lines with HDMI output.

Nvidia began offering HDMI-out back in 2008 with the 9000 series - the ninth generation of the GeForce family of graphics cards. While the DVI-out port was retained to support legacy DVI display devices, all Nvidia cards manufactured as of this date offer HDMI out in addition to DVI.

ATI Technologies, now a subsidiary of AMD, beat Nvidia to the punch by releasing HDMI-out on selected models of the Radeon HD-2000 series of graphics cards in 2007, a year before the GeForce 9000 series. Like the newer Nvidia graphics cards, Radeons continue to retain legacy DVI outputs for users who do not have HDMI display devices.

HDMI and DVI

Since DVI and HDMI are both digital technologies, all existing HDMI and DVI graphics cards and display devices are fully compatible with the use of a simple DVI-to-HDMI connector.

There is a very minor amount of speed lost in the translation from DVI to HDMI, or vice versa, meaning that pure HDMI connections will still outpace any variation of DVI and HDMI translation. Still, the speed advantages of pure HDMI connections are very small, and certainly not worth the purchase of new hardware.

DVI output has been available on many graphics cards as early as 2002, meaning that most graphics cards presently in service can utilize a device with HDMI-only output by utilizing the same connector mentioned above.

It should be noted that DVI interfaces do not carry audio signals, while HDMI interfaces handle up to eight channels of digital audio. For this reason, connecting a DVI-out from a computer to an HDMI display device, such as a High-Definition Television (HDTV) will require and additional connection to carry sound signals.

However, this only applies to users who wish to pipe both visual and audio information to the HDMI display. For instance, if a user wants to play a Blu-ray disc on the computer and have the output sent to an HDTV. For situations where only the video output is required, no additional audio connection is necessary.

HDMI Video Cards Future Looking Bright

Both Nvidia and AMD are planning on dropping DVI technology for solely HDMI outputs in their next generations of video cards, due out in late 2012.

In the wake of HDMI, remaining support for analog video dwindles, and connections that support digital-to-analog image conversions are becoming less and less available, supportable, or desirable. Older cathode ray tube technology is fading fast as we approach a purely digital age in video technology.

Even still, this does not mean the death of DVI display devices. Newer versions of HDMI communications protocols remain reverse-compatible with existing and previous versions of DVI, meaning that dated display devices will still be usable with newer graphics cards well into the future.