For many years presenters have walked into a room and connected their laptop to the projector using a VGA cable. All that will change in the next two years. The VGA port is being phased out by computer manufacturers. Here’s what you can do now to prepare for this change.
Why are computer manufacturers making the change? It was announced in December 2010, so it is not breaking news. VGA is an analog technology which was good in its time, but better technology is now available. Digital technology provides a better quality image and supports higher resolutions. If you have a flat screen TV, you are likely using an HDMI cable to attach your devices. HDMI is a digital format and it is the primary way that video is transferred between devices and TVs today.
I started to notice the changes that presenters need to be aware of more in the last six months. One of my clients in the media business only has flat screen TVs in its meeting rooms. There are no projectors around. The TVs have HDMI inputs as well as VGA. When I used the VGA connection in one room in San Francisco, it reset the input every two minutes, causing a momentary blackout of the screen. This was very annoying to the audience.
When I switched to the HDMI input (my computer has both), the image was higher resolution and rock solid. The first lesson for presenters is that the native digital connection for flat screen TVs will usually work better than the VGA connection, which has to be converted by the TV. With more and more organizations moving away from projectors to TVs in meeting rooms, presenters will want to make sure they can connect using digital connections.
When organizations still use projectors, the new ones they are installing are set up to use HDMI connections. I have had this happen twice in the last six months. One client installed a new boardroom projector, and the primary connection is HDMI. Another client has a portable projector that gives a higher resolution image when connected via HDMI.
So even if your room has a projector, chances are that when the old one is replaced, the new one will expect digital connections to give the best image and performance.
Steps to Take
So what do presenters need to do? Be prepared to move from a VGA connection to a digital connection. Look at your laptop. Does it have an HDMI or Mini DisplayPort connection? If so, you can output a digital signal that connects to the HDMI input on a TV or projector.
If you don’t have a full sized HDMI port, you will likely need an adapter to convert from a mini or micro HDMI to full sized HDMI or an adapter that converts from Mini DisplayPort to HDMI. I have found reliable adapters for a good price at www.monoprice.com. The Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter that I bought works very well.
Get the correct adapters now and make room in your laptop bag to carry them so you have them when needed. For those using Mac laptops who have been using the Mini DisplayPort adapter to connect to VGA cables, it is time to get the adapter to connect to HDMI cables. The Monoprice adapter I got for my MacBook Air works perfectly and it cost one-third of the price of the adapter Apple sells.
If you don’t have one of these digital ports on your laptop, you will want to start looking at a future laptop that does. While there are USB to HDMI adapters, the USB speed will likely make any videos in your presentation not run smoothly. Any time you convert from analog to digital or digital to analog you will reduce the quality of the signal due to the processing that must be done on the fly. A much better solution is to plan now for a laptop that has a digital connection built in.
Once you do have a newer laptop, how can you connect to an older projector if the laptop no longer has a VGA port? You will need an adapter to convert from Mini DisplayPort to VGA to bridge the years that projectors will still be using VGA connections.
The transition from VGA to HDMI connections will take place over the next few years. Presenters need to start preparing now to be able to connect to both during the transition. Get your adapters or cables now so you don’t run into any connection problems in your next presentation.
About the Author:
Dave Paradi runs Think Outside the Slide web site, is a consultant on high-stakes presentations, the author of seven books and is a PowerPoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP).