How VGA monitor detects video resolution. I'm asking this because with different VSYNC, HSYNC intervals it's possible to have different dot clock.

  • \$\begingroup\$ They usually don't. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2014 at 0:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ If they are CRT's and thus fundamentally analog. Analog interfaced LCD's are another story. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2014 at 0:55

2 Answers 2


VGA monitors have a small serial EEPROM embedded into their circuit boards. The chip (known in the business as an "EDID" (electronic device ID)) connects to two pins on the HD15 connector. These two pins operate as an I2C bus that permits the driver software to query the monitor and find out what range of VGA picture resolution that the monitor supports.

The intended scheme is that the driver software on the host computer side will allow selection of a video resolution that is supported by the monitor. Once the monitor gets a video signal it has the capability of inferring the operating resolution by counting dot clocks per HSync and number of HSyncs per VSync. Once the operating resolution is inferred the monitor will switch itself to the best known method for itself to display that video mode.

Older monitors, back in the days of "MultiSync" CRT style monitors, may have only supported a couple of video resolutions. In some cases the video mode detect may have even been a simple R/C filter that could detect changes in the HSYNC frequency.

Newer monitors, including the plethora of LCD screens in use now, all have digital controllers in them that have built in circuits to detect video resolution. Most assuredly done by counting the pixels per line and/or lines per frame.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Back before the days of multisync monitors. I remember sending some pretty strange resolutions to my multisync monitor... \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2014 at 1:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ It actually takes a fair amount of finesse to infer the pixel rate in a VGA interface, since there's no actual digital "dot clock" in it. It requires analyzing the frequency content and/or edge spacing of the analog video channels. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave Tweed
    Oct 17, 2014 at 1:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaveTweed - Yeah it takes nice circuitry to do it but is is done all the time. Analog VGA to virtually every LCD monitor has to be digitized to be able to successfully map the incoming content to the fixed pixels of a panel display. Remote KVM units which can re-direct the video output of a computer with a VGA output routinely digitize the analogue video signals and are able to turn it into compressed ethernet packets for transmission to a remote site. Such equipment often utilizes single chip devices which are able to both decimate the video signals and digitize it in real time. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2014 at 3:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re "counting dot clocks per HSync" this doesn't make sense to me as there is no dot clock. And black screen would be a signal with nothing more than the hsync and vsync signals. So I assume resolution detection can be based on nothing more than the sync signals alone. Where can I find a definitive source on how the detection is achieved. Presumably something to do with Intervals between syncs and sync width. Links please thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 11, 2023 at 21:12

The latest CRT monitors had microcontrollers which were detecting the resolution based on the sync timings. All that mattered there was to have those frequencies in the ranges that were supported by the monitor. This was a physical limit of the crt deflection coils and the electronics that drove them. The image was ok on the screen if the deflection could work at the given frequencies.

The LCD monitors need more precision because they need a pixel clock and a "display enable" signal. These come from the sync signals as well, the microcontroller would measure the sync signals and then setup and maintain some PLL circuits running in sync with them. EDID was implemented to let the PC know what are the supported resolutions the monitor can work with, it does not help the monitor know what resolution it gets from the PC.

You can learn a lot about these by studying the VESA VGA standard, some analog frontend chips' datasheet (such as the analog devices AD988x series), maybe even LCD panels datasheet, as you get to know what is required for an LCD monitor to work, then see how it is implemented. Datasheets of some of the lcd controllers used in monitors also can be found and be useful.


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