Comparison of Video Input Types - HDMI, Component, Composite, S-Video

When buying a TV these days, the myriad of input options can be confusing.  Even if you are just hooking up your cable box, it can be tough to know what your best option is.



Video Options

You may see up to 4 primary input options on your TV - HDMI, Component (these are the Red, Green and Blue inputs), S-Video, and Composite (these are the Yellow, White and Red inputs).

Below is an explanation of each video option, in order of quality:


HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface.  HDMI cables carry both video and audio streams, and represent the best option for a high quality signal.  Most HDTVs sold these days have at least one HDMI input.  Ideally, you would like one for your cable box, blu ray player, and video game system.

If you are going to buy an HDMI cable, don’t pay the $70-$100 dollars a retail store will try to get out of you!  On you can get an HDMI cable for $10 or less!

Component Inputs

Component Inputs are the Red, Green, and Blue cables.  These carry video only, and are capable of carrying HD video signals.  They are close in quality to HDMI, and depending on the devices you are connecting, you might even find a better picture with the component cables.  

If you do use component cables, you will have to use a separate audio option as outlined below.

As with HDMI cables, has component cables for much less than a retail store will try to get you to pay.  You can find decent component cables on Newegg for under $10!


S-Video was considered a high quality connection in the 1990’s, before HD became popular.  You will still find this type of connection on a lot of TVs, and may VCRs and older cable boxes still have this option.  The S-Video is not capable of carrying an HD signal, but if the device you are using does not support HD (like a VCR), S-Video is a good option.

Keep in mind that S-Video does not carry an audio signal, so if you use S-Video, you will have to choose an audio option as well.  In the case of S-Video, most likely you will use composite audio.


Composite Video is the Yellow cable that is usually grouped with the Red and White audio cables.  Composite will give you a good connection, but isn’t HD-capable.  Many older devices use composite, and some newer ones still have the option to remain compatible with older TVs.  Composite is a good fall back option when no other inputs are available or supported.