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HDMI vs S-Cable

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/30/2011

We take a look at which is the better solution for your home entertainment needs, HDMI or S-Video?

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    Battle of the Cables

    With HDMI quickly and efficiently becoming the standard for high-definition TV viewing, where does that leave older tech like the S-Cable? And I get this question quite often from friends wanting to hook up their laptops to their flat-screens – which is the better one to use, S-Cable or HDMI?

    First, let’s talk HDMI. This is the king of all the current cable technologies for the simple reason that it’s currently the only cable that can take you to that 1080p resolution you want to be at. 1080p represents the number of lines that are on the screen vertically, and p is for progressive, which means that the image is sent to the screen in a single burst, rather than interlaced as a sweeping signal in the case of 1080i. Another great reason to use HDMI over S-Cable is that it integrates audio and video, and the audio supports the latest and greatest in HD codecs for those receivers sporting 5.1 surround sound.

    An issue currently holding HDMI back – as 1080p is only now truly hitting its stride, is that a lot of TV sets still only support the 720p standard, which is good, but not GREAT. Furthermore, to equip your surround sound system with TrueHD sound, you’ll need two HDMI cables – one for the TV and the other for the receiver. If you’re wanting to connect your older laptop up to your screen, you’re out of luck in the HDMI department. Only now are laptops starting to come with an integrated HDMI port, and the HP ones are particularly adept at sending out a good 1080p image (as I’ve tested on a Panasonic Viera).

    So where does that leave S-Video or an S-Cable? To say that it’s on its way out would be like saying that the VHS is on its way out. S-Video hasn’t been a standard for anything since the 90s, when connecting computers to projectors and televisions required an S-video cable. Today, the modern HDTV not only supports HDMI as a standard, but the good models come complete with DVI-D ports for your computers, VGA for your older laptops and computers, and even the S-Video Cable.

    Do I recommend that you use the S-Video? Never. The resolution supported on that particular cable is never over 570i or so, which means that you’re going to be watching your shows or movies in Standard Definition, which looks no better than the old analog TV signals you used to receive before the DTV transition.

    Obviously, if you only have S-Video available to you, use it – it’s not half bad for PowerPoint presentations or even older photo viewing. However, if your objective is to use S-Video to watch videos and programming, I would recommend at the very least switching out to a component cable that can do 720p (or higher depending on your settings). However, even component cables don’t offer loss-less sound and video the same way the digital HDMI cables do.

    Your choice is simple – if your equipment uses HDMI and your TV supports it and you’re not using it, you need to get yourself a quick cable fix and you’ll notice a WORLD of difference when viewing your programs.

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