Why VGA Ports Still Exist

Daring Fireball called out three laptop manufacturers (Toshiba, Sony, and Dell) this morning for releasing brand-new laptops with VGA ports on the side, saying they were “skating to where the puck was in 1987.”

As far as technology goes, I agree. VGA is hopelessly outdated by HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, and even DVI. There’s doesn’t seem to be much point in hanging on to the huge VGA socket, especially now that it’s thicker than many high-quality laptops.

Unfortunately though, laptops don’t exist in a vacuum. They have to connect to things, and VGA is still overwhelmingly the way to go. External monitors use mainly HDMI now, but projectors are a problem. Visit any school or office and I guarantee they will provide you with a VGA projector. Schools especially don’t have the cash to upgrade their projectors, nor do they see a need when VGA still works fine.

So let’s be honest – I appreciate Apple’s quest for ever-thinner laptops and new display technologies, but it’s a pain to lug around a VGA adaptor cable whenever I need to run a presentation. You can’t bring your own projector to class or the office, and they sure aren’t using Mini DisplayPort. In fact, nothing ever uses Mini DisplayPort aside from Apple’s own monitor. The tiny ports are nice, but the compulsory dongles are not. I’ve heard it said recently that Apple likes to produce 90% of the product for 90% of the population so they don’t have to cater to niche markets. Maybe that’s true if every student or business worker falls into the remaining 10%.

There’s no easy solution – VGA ports are old and ugly, but laptop makers can’t just disregard the massive built-in projector base. Dongles are pretty much the only way to go (assuming you don’t want hideous laptops like the Dell mentioned above), but they’re far from an elegant solution. Just try explaining that “it looks better this way” when someone asks you why a MacBook can’t connect to a simple classroom projector.

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