Inside Apple's iPad: VGA video output

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple's new iPad debuts a new VGA-style video output option, a first for the company's mobile device lineup.



Like the existing iPhone and iPod touch, the iPad can output video via the same composite or component video cables to present standard definition, analog video with roughly 480 lines of resolution.



The iPad's new VGA-connector option delivers PC style video at the device's native 1024x768 resolution. Existing iPhone and iPod models won't work with the new VGA cable, as they aren't designed to support higher resolution outputs than they can display.



The iPad gets the new VGA output option primarily to support video projectors, which will allow business users to present Keynote presentations directly from the device.



The ancient VGA standard



Apple's iPad announcement caused some to wonder why the company is using an ancient standard for video output rather than a more modern protocol such as HDMI or DisplayPort output.



After all, the VGA video connector has been around since IBM launched the standard in the mid 1980s as part of its PS/2 line of computers. While those machines didn't turn out to be very successful, they did popularize IBM's PS/2-style mouse and keyboard ports and the VGA video connector among PC clones.



Apple had already invented its own keyboard and mouse connector (called Apple Desktop Bus) that was more sophisticated than the PS/2 ports, but the company eventually adopted IBM's VGA port on its Macs in order to take advantage of the low cost VGA-style monitors that the market for generic PCs had helped to create.



VGA can refer specifically to the specification's original 640x480 resolution, but is also used in general to distinguish its 15-pin DB analog video port. Higher video resolutions related to the VGA connector have specific names; for example, 1024x768 is called XGA resolution, but it's still delivered via a VGA connector.



About a decade ago, Apple migrated its Macs from VGA to the DVI output standard, which supported even higher resolution displays with improved digital accuracy. This happened to coincide with the migration from ADB to USB for keyboards and peripherals.



More recently, Apple shifted video output again from DVI to DisplayPort, a new standard that supports even higher resolutions and other features such as simplified internal video busses and video input (a feature that debuted on the 27" iMac).







Why VGA on the iPad?



So why is Apple reverting back in time to VGA output on the iPad? For starters, most video projectors support the iPad's XGA resolution of 1024x768 over a VGA port, while only a few support HDTV-style resolutions such as 720p (1280x720) over an HDMI or DVI port.



Additionally, its cheaper and simpler to include VGA style signaling, and few of the features of DVI or DisplayPort would offer any benefit to iPad users. VGA is plenty sufficient to handle the iPad's native 1024x768 resolution. Other low cost mobile devices also use VGA for video outputs, including most netbooks and even many mainstream PC laptops.



The iPad isn't really clamoring for HDTV video output because it presents a page format suited to a computing workspace rather than a wide screen display preferred for widescreen movies. Users who want to deliver HD content on their TV would be better suited to using an appliance such as Apple TV, which delivers 720p video via and HDMI connector, rather than trying to cable the iPad.



A more practical way to use the iPad in conjunction with an HDTV would be to use Apple's existing Remote app for iPhone to control a directly connected Apple TV via WiFi. The company is likely to deliver an extended version of its Remote app that brings even more sophisticated multitouch controls for interacting with and navigating through iTunes LP and iTunes Extras content.







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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 165
    there is no such thing as a "HDMI-style resolution". HDMI is essentially the same as DVI and supports all resolutions.
  • Reply 2 of 165
    Just wanted to relay a bit of information one of Apple's Systems Engineers gave to us during his monthly presentation at our school:



    VGA output on the iPad is application specific.



    It won't be the same as what Jobs and company showed on stage where seemingly everything was projected on screen (that was something custom for the stage as with other past products).



    Each developer will need to [optionally] include a system call to output video for their specific app.



    In the case of the iPad, Keynote is a video output ready app.
  • Reply 3 of 165
    foo2foo2 Posts: 1,077member
    Zune HD can deliver 720p output. and it's enabled.
  • Reply 4 of 165
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by normis View Post


    there is no such thing as a "HDMI-style resolution". HDMI is essentially the same as DVI and supports all resolutions.



    He wrote ""HDTV-style resolution", referring to 720p+ witn a 16x9 ratio.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Fernando View Post


    VGA output on the iPad is application specific.



    It won't be the same as what Jobs and company showed on stage where seemingly everything was projected on screen (that was something custom for the stage as with other past products).



    Even though people should assume that from every iPhone presentation they've ever had that is a good point. I'm sure some will think that everything will be pushed through mirrored.
  • Reply 5 of 165
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Foo2 View Post


    Zune HD can deliver 720p output.



    The hardware in the iPhone and Touch can, too, but Apple doesn't enable it. The use of VGA makes since for projectors, especially with the 4:3 ratio, but Apple may very well allow for HD video to be synced to the device and for it to be pushed through the component video iPod Dock Connector, which can push 720p and higher resolutions.
  • Reply 6 of 165
    foobarfoobar Posts: 107member
    Well, obviously that thing is designed primarily for Keynote presentations. VGA is the only thing guaranteed to be on every business projector. So there you go. No need to write a lengthy article about how picking VGA is weird...



    If app support for it takes off, they might add an HDMI or DisplayPort version, but I currently don't see a real use case for it. Hooking it up to a cable kinda negates the entire experience. Maybe they'll merge it with the Apple TV, who knows...



    Now, if they'd start transmitting video to a big screen wirelessly, then that would really be something I could get excited about. It could serve my streaming and video game needs... Maybe in a few years.
  • Reply 7 of 165
    ~ufo~~ufo~ Posts: 245member
    just a few days ago I was engineering sound in one of the country's top theaters.



    Someone came in to do a lecture on a balcony type foyer and had brought her asus netbook.

    The thing accidentally started doing updates, got unresponsive and neither her or my supervising engineer were able to get it to output video on its VGA output.



    When it was clear the netbook was not gonna work and no replacement was available from our technical staff, we started brainstorming. Her husband asked whether her iPod touch couldn't run the powerpoint presentation.



    I said that my guess was it wouldn't, but that the upcoming iPad would have been perfectly suited for the task.



    In the end, her husband took a taxi home to get his ancient laptop to run the presentation from.

    Upon his return it we noticed that he had forgotten to take his power adapter, so we were at god's mercy. Luckily it had been fully charged and it all worked out fine.



    Now she obviously didn't routinely do these kinds of public presentations, but as someone who's engineered quite a few lectures in my life, I can say that the iPad has a lot of appeal for the many people who do lecture a lot.



    - a wonderful interface to run your powerpoint presentations off.

    either in your hands or, more commonly, on a lecture table



    - "it just works" plug and play vga video output (providing you remember to bring the dongle)



    - the ability to intuitively modify or even create your presentations en route



    - ample battery life to do so.
  • Reply 8 of 165
    ivan.rnn01ivan.rnn01 Posts: 1,822member
    Apple's official tech specs say "with Dock Connector to VGA Adapter", which explains pretty much everything meaningful.



  • Reply 9 of 165
    pxtpxt Posts: 683member
    Hopefully this is a sign that Apple is learning that there is a whole world out there that many of us need to connect with.
  • Reply 10 of 165
    I have a cheap component to VGA adapter for connecting my iphone to a projector. A VGA to component adapter would work for the ipad to connect to HDTV. Just buy the VGA for the ipad. Maybe save some cash.\
  • Reply 11 of 165
    brucepbrucep Posts: 2,823member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Foo2 View Post


    Zune HD can deliver 720p output. and it's enabled.



    enabled



    really



    exactly
  • Reply 12 of 165
    brucepbrucep Posts: 2,823member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ivan.rnn01 View Post


    Apple's official tech specs say "with Dock Connector to VGA Adapter", which explains pretty much everything meaningful.







    i have about 9 of this things

    i never knew whar they were for



    the ipad is crippled on purpose



    SJ wants us to buy all his products



    the ATV >> IPAD .. DREAM JUST died
  • Reply 13 of 165
    ivan.rnn01ivan.rnn01 Posts: 1,822member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by brucep View Post


    i have about9 of this things

    i never knew whar they were for



    the ipad is crippled on purpose



    SJ wants us to buy all his products



    the ATV >> IPAD .. DREAM JUST died



    SJ knows the crowd, sonny.
  • Reply 14 of 165
    brucepbrucep Posts: 2,823member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ~ufo~ View Post


    just a few days ago I was engineering sound in one of the country's top theaters.



    Someone came in to do a lecture on a balcony type foyer and had brought her asus netbook.

    The thing accidentally started doing updates, got unresponsive and neither her or my supervising engineer were able to get it to output video on its VGA output.



    When it was clear the netbook was not gonna work and no replacement was available from our technical staff, we started brainstorming. Her husband asked whether her iPod touch couldn't run the powerpoint presentation.



    I said that my guess was it wouldn't, but that the upcoming iPad would have been perfectly suited for the task.



    In the end, her husband took a taxi home to get his ancient laptop to run the presentation from.

    Upon his return it we noticed that he had forgotten to take his power adapter, so we were at god's mercy. Luckily it had been fully charged and it all worked out fine.



    Now she obviously didn't routinely do these kinds of public presentations, but as someone who's engineered quite a few lectures in my life, I can say that the iPad has a lot of appeal for the many people who do lecture a lot.



    - a wonderful interface to run your powerpoint presentations off.

    either in your hands or, more commonly, on a lecture table



    - "it just works" plug and play vga video output (providing you remember to bring the dongle)



    - the ability to intuitively modify or even create your presentations en route



    - ample battery life to do so.



    what was the lecture on ??
  • Reply 15 of 165
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RoughlyDrafted View Post


    its cheaper and simpler to include VGA style signaling, and few of the features of DVI or DisplayPort would offer any benefit to iPad users. VGA is plenty sufficient to handle the iPad's native 1024x768 resolution.



    That's about it. The iPhone/iPodTouch/iPad dock connector offers an analog signal, not digital. So that allows composite, component, and VGA to most easily be supported by the iPad. The iPad doesn't support digital out.



    That said - you're arguing against the whole digital TV industry, DVI displays and HDMI outputs when you say VGA is plenty sufficient. You're pretty well saying DVI and HDMI and DisplayPort are pointless. To my eye they don't make much difference - but if you're going to say what you've said, may as well make it clear that you see no point in the whole digital connector movement.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RoughlyDrafted View Post


    The iPad isn't really clamoring for HDTV video output because it presents a page format suited to a computing workspace rather than a wide screen display preferred for widescreen movies. Users who want to deliver HD content on their TV would be better suited to using an appliance such as Apple TV, which delivers 720p video via and HDMI connector, rather than trying to cable the iPad.



    I don't buy this. Yes VGA is for computing workspaces. But Composite and Component is for TV. For users who do want to watch video, it's a pity it doesn't output widescreen 720p (over component). Instead it downgrades it to widescreen 480p NTSC. So Apple offers widescreen but only lower resolutions.



    Why?
  • Reply 16 of 165
    igeniusigenius Posts: 1,240member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by normis View Post


    there is no such thing as a "HDMI-style resolution". HDMI is essentially the same as DVI and supports all resolutions.



    Yep. And that is not the only factual error in this article.



    It's one thing if the reporter is unfamiliar with the subject matter. It's quite another if the editor lets the reporter's errors get through.



    I expect better from Apple Insider.
  • Reply 17 of 165
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,989member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Foo2 View Post


    Zune HD can deliver 720p output. and it's enabled.



    Exactly! And that's one of the many reasons the Zune now dominates the handheld device market. Oh, wait...
  • Reply 18 of 165
    igeniusigenius Posts: 1,240member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Foo2 View Post


    Zune HD can deliver 720p output. and it's enabled.



    Yep. So can the Archos Tablet. And with the DVR dock, it can schedule and record 60 Gigs of HD TV.



    The more I learn about the 'Pad, the more disappointed I become.
  • Reply 19 of 165
    igeniusigenius Posts: 1,240member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by foobar View Post


    If app support for it takes off, they might add an HDMI or DisplayPort version, but I currently don't see a real use case for it.



    Hooking it up to a hotel TV or a friend's TV or your bedroom TV to watch videos. How's that?
  • Reply 20 of 165
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Users who want to deliver HD content on their TV would be better suited to using an appliance such as Apple TV, which delivers 720p video via and HDMI connector, rather than trying to cable the iPad.



    And what if I'm connecting it to a non-4:3 monitor? What resolutions and aspect ratios will it support? Perhaps the title "Inside Apple's iPad: VGA video output" should have been reserved for when there's actually some information about how it will work.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by foobar View Post


    If app support for it takes off, they might add an HDMI or DisplayPort version, but I currently don't see a real use case for it. Hooking it up to a cable kinda negates the entire experience. Maybe they'll merge it with the Apple TV, who knows...



    My use case would be one of the reasons I don't purchase video from iTunes: portability. I'll rent video when I'm going to watch it right then on my TV. But I won't purchase it because I can't take the HD video anyplace and play it on another TV (friend's house, hotel, etc). Why would I pay the same price as the DVD for something that's essentially tied to my one TV?
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