What Is the Purpose of S Video Cable?

by Michael Francisco

S-video cables, which were introduced along with S-VHS cassettes in the late '80s, did not have widespread use until the mid-to-late '90s when home theater systems, video game systems and DVD players began to make use of the technology. S-video cables offered superior video quality until the introduction of component video.

Horizontal Lines of Resolution

S-video cables offer 120 horizontal lines of resolution, which was an improvement over ordinary VCRs. Though they never became widespread, S-VHS cassettes were sought after by some because they offered higher picture and color quality than a VHS cassette's 30 lines of resolution.

Gray Scale and Color Separation

Close-up of 4-pin S-video cable.

S-video cables allow for higher bandwidth and better picture quality because they separate the gray scale and color information into two grounded pairs. This 4-pin S-video cable is the most common and is still widely available.

S-video vs. RGB Component Video

RGB component video output.

The emergence of RGB (red, green, blue) component video at the beginning of the 21st century offered a higher quality alternative to S-video. RGB component video separates color information into three channels and though it is more complex, it produces a higher quality image.

Compatibility with Laptops and Computer Video Cards

4-pin S-video will fit in the 7-pin sockets (called mini-DIN) used on laptops and certain video cards on computers. However, a 7-pin connector is optimal as it utilizes one of the pins to carry a component signal.

Compatibility with VIVO

High-end computer video cards known as VIVO (video in, video out) support standard S-video, along with composite and component signals. If you own an older TV with nothing of higher quality than an S-video input, you can use the VIVO card to display your computer's multimedia files on the TV.

About the Author

Michael Francisco is a former high school and college newspaper writer, a diehard Atlanta Braves fan, and an avid music and film buff. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in film and television from the Savannah College of Art & Design, where he wrote for the student newspaper and was assistant program director of SCAD Radio.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera www.usbvideoadapter.com, Wikimedia Commons