HDMI and Component Video are both video cable standards that can support similar video resolutions, but deliver the signal from the source in a much different method. The main difference between the two is that an HDMI cable delivers the signal digitally, and component delivers the signal in an analog format. In other words, HDMI delivers the signal as a data stream and component delivers the signal as varying voltages corresponding to the red, green, and blue components of the signal.
Both signal types fundamentally achieve the same result by breaking up the images in similar ways and they end up delivering the same type of information to the display, but in different forms. The difference will greatly depend on the particulars of the source and the display.
I usually test out both cables for each of my High Def sources and decide for myself which looks better. BTW don’t get your cables at retail stores since they are a ripoff!
Long HDMI Cable
While it is difficult to say which video standard has the edge without judging them with your own eyes, most people would unquestionably declare HDMI the better video signal standard.
HDMI does gain a slight edge by having both digital video and surround sound audio in only 1 cable (Component is video only). HDMI handles everything digitally and component is analog. However, just because component video is analog does not mean it can’t handle Hi Def resolutions. Component supports 720p resolutions and 1080i. That being said, HDMI can support 1080p resolutions which is something component cannot do.
So if you’re planning on viewing 1080p content, HDMI will be the best option for you. For 720p and 1080i resolutions, you should try both and see which looks the best to you.
As for audio, you can’t really go wrong with HDMIs Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio capabilities. However, if you go the component video route you can always combo it with a Optical Toslink Cable which will work just as well as HDMI.
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Video doesn’t translate exactly from source material to displays. In other words, if you are viewing material in 720p, 1080i, or 1080p, there is some scaling occurring. Very few displays operate at the native resolutions of the source material.
The argument that is often made for the DVI or HDMI signal formats is the “purely digital” one – Meaning that there is a perfect no loss of information signal chain with HDMI signals. However, this is not true since these signals have to be scaled and processed in order to be displayed. There are always conversions going on, and they aren’t always easy going. It’s hard to say which is better between the HDMI and component video formats unless you physically view each one for your own eyes to see which looks best for your equipment.
Also, before making any judgments, make sure the display settings for the different inputs (HDMI or Component Video) are the same. They often have different brightness, black levels, etc. and need to be recalibrated.