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A VGA Tool for the Digital Sunset

By: Richard Mitchell

When creating the scope of work for your next AV project, it’s OK to let go of the analog Video Graphics Array (VGA) connection. No really, it’s OK. It has been a long run for the VGA connector, 30 years in fact, but the sun has set on the format… in fact it did a few years ago.

So, now that we no longer support VGA connections, how do we support VGA connections? That sounds like an odd request, but it’s going to come up. At some point, a senior level guest will arrive on-site with a circa 2006 Sony VAIO running Windows Vista (woof), and you’ll need to make that (err… classic?) device speak to your fancy new, and fully digital, AV system. Have no fear, they make a device for that… and it’s cheap.

In walks the ~$20 AV Access VGA+Audio to HDMI Converter, a surprisingly small and capable device that converts a VGA signal of various resolutions into an HDMI signal of a matching resolution. The 5 volt power requirement makes the device especially versatile as it can be powered by a laptop with the included USB to micro USB cable. But, if you want to power the device from a traditional wall outlet, you’ll need to buy a micro USB power supply (wall wart) for under $10 on Amazon. Audio isn’t forgotten on this device. It contains an 1/8th inch analog audio input that, when combined with a VGA signal, seamlessly joins the audio and video to the outgoing HDMI signal. The audio quality seems reasonably good, but I doubt the analog to digital converter will win any awards. It should be noted that if the device is not receiving a VGA signal (say you only want to use the device to play music from a mobile phone’s 1/8th inch audio jack), it will not send audio alone to the HDMI output. Other (usually much more expensive) devices have a “free run” mode that will pass audio alone to the HDMI side, without a VGA video signal… but this isn’t that type of device. One additional item to consider is that the device will pass 18 of the most common resolutions, but all of them are at 60Hz, so… if you have a really odd device that only runs at 30Hz or 24Hz, it might not be compatible with this converter. Finally, this piece of hardware doesn’t function as a scaler. So, if your VGA signal is 800×600@60Hz, the HDMI signal will also be 800×600@60Hz. It won’t scale the 800×600 resolution to a different resolution, like 1920×1080. If you don’t have a scaler on your system, and the endpoints (projector, TV, monitor, etc.) don’t support the resolution, you’ll have a problem. That said, most systems have a scaler and rather forgiving endpoints, so it’s not a major concern.

We’ve installed this device at the Technology Engagement Center on campus (a digital only install, until now), and we’ll update this story if the device releases its magic smoke.

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