DVI-I and DVI-D connectors have been used with modern displays and graphics cards for years, offering up a digital interface for connecting the two devices together.
Despite being grossly outdated (with both HDMI and DisplayPort offering better efficiency and performance), you’ll still see both interfaces used in today’s market – albeit on aging hardware. For that reason, we’ll be exploring some of the fundamental differences that separate DVI-I and DVI-D. Which one should you use? Which is better for your display needs? And should you just use HDMI? Let’s find out.
What is DVI?
Before diving into the differences between the two standards, let’s explore exactly what DVI is.
DVI connectors are used for connecting modern displays (LCD monitors or projectors) to a graphics card. DVI connectors are often colored white (unlike VGA connectors which are blue) and feature a formation of pins that varies depending on the specific DVI connector you plan to use. Two screws can be found at the side of each DVI connector to help secure it in place during usage.
The DVI connector utilizes a digital protocol that transfers the illumination of pixels as binary data. When using a panel in its native resolution, the DVI connector will transfer each number and allow the monitor to apply the correct brightness to the appropriate pixel.
While DVI connectors are becoming outdated, some individuals still utilize them for their display needs.
What are the different types of DVI connector?
To help confuse the situation further, there are several different variations of DVI connectors. In total, you can narrow the variations down to three primary options, DVI-I, DVI-D, and DVI-A. Each of the DVI variants offers a unique set of transfer features that make some more useful than others.
Additionally, both DVI-I and DVI-D also offer single-link and dual-link versions
In terms of popularity, DVI-I and DVI-D are much more common than DVI-A. In fact, DVI-A was rarely used back when DVI connectors were most popular. The DVI-A connection can only transfer analog signals.
Below you can clearly see the differences between all five DVI connections.
DVI-I vs DVI-D: The basics
Ultimately, there isn’t a great deal that separates DVI-I and DVI-D connectors. That being said, there are some comparisons that can be drawn – starting with the physical design of the port.
As you can see from the above graphic, there’s a clear difference between the pin design of both DVI-D and DVI-I connections. The pin design is a key factor in the transfer of data, helping determine how much bandwidth and what signals are actually supported by each version.
Besides design, DVI-I vs DVI-D also differs in terms of what data can be transferred. DVI-I offers up support for both analog and digital signals. In comparison, DVI-D only supports digital signals – making them less functional than the DVI-I alternative.
What’s the difference between digital and analog signals?
Well, apart from one being digital and one being analog, the main difference lies with what monitors they support. Analog signals were more commonly used when CRT monitors were the dominant force in the market. Fast forward to 2022 and modern digital LCD monitors aren’t supported by the same analog connections.
As LCD monitors became more prevalent, DVI-I connections were then utilized as they could carry the digital signal used by these modern panels.
Below we’ve outlined the restrictions of both DVI-I and DVI-D connections:
What’s the main difference between DVI single-link and dual-link?
The main difference that can be found when comparing DVI single-link and dual-link (regardless of DVI type), is the max bandwidth that they support.
Roughly speaking, a single-link DVI interface offers up around half the bandwidth of a dual-link connection. How does this affect its performance? Well, the additional bandwidth found in dual-link variants allows for a greater maximum resolution – as seen in the table above.
A single-link DVI-I or DVI-D connector can transfer a maximum of 3.96 Gbit/s – resulting in a max resolution of 1920 x 1200 at a max refresh rate of 60Hz. Dual-link, on the other hand, offers up support for up to 7.92 Gbit/s that can support up to 2560 x 1600 max resolution. Unfortunately, no DVI connector has the available bandwidth to support 4K in any capacity.
DVI-I vs DVI-D: Verdict
So, there you have it, our quick guide to the fundamental differences between DVI-I and DVI-D. Ultimately, when you take away the fact that one can transfer both analog and digital signals (why the other can only transfer digital), there isn’t a great deal of difference between the two.
The glaring issue for both variations of DVI is that the technology is rapidly aging and many of today’s GPUs (and displays) don’t actually support the interface. It’s quite literally fading out and soon there will be no real-world requirement for the display interface – unless you plan on using your CRT monitor for the foreseeable future (which I’m not against).