Connect any video device, even computer, to your HDTV
One of the more frequent questions I see is in regards of connecting your laptop or desktop to your new HDTV. This guide will include other video devices such as DVD players or VHS players as well just to make it more complete. First let’s identify the steps that will go into connecting your device to your TV:
1a. Identify the video output on your device
All video devices; laptops, desktops, PC’s, MAC’s, DVD players and VHS players; have at least one video output. The key is to identify the best video output port for you. Look at the picture below to identify the best video output on your device. They are listed from best to worst output in terms of quality and compatibility.
HDMI: can support video up to 1080p at 60fps and better, as well as up to 8 channels of audio in many cases.
1b. No video outputs on your PC? Alternate solution:
Recently (July, 2010) there was a device (AT-HDPiX2) released by company called Atlona that claims to support 1080p (up to 1600x1200) video and audio via USB cable and their powered converter box. Their previous version was successful, but the current version is pricier. It is up to you to figure out if the extra money is worth the extra resolution.
If you want to go wireless there is a similar device that will transmit video and audio over 30 feet to your TV connecting via VGA, DVI and HDMI. All you need is to plug is a simple USB dongle into you PC. It will not do 1080p and it cost relatively a lot but it is wireless. You decide if it is worth it.
2. Identify the video input on your HDTV
Next step is to identify the input on your TV. The most common one and the best one to use is HDMI. Look at the pictures below to identify available video input on your TV. They are listed from best to worst input in terms of quality and compatibility. Keep in mind that just because you have selected HDMI input it does not mean you will get 1080p video and HD audio. The quality will be only as good as to source of the video, in other words only as good as the output you have selected.
3a. Chose the best connection method using cable(s) and/or adapter(s)
Now you will have to figure out the best possible combination of output on your computer, and best possible input on your HDTV. Instead of writing all the combinations out and telling you what cables and adapters to use, I have decided to animate this section. Below you will find virtually all practical combination of connections and where to get the cable or adapter for it.
3b. Beware of "fake" wires.
If you do a Google search on some connection methods you might stumble upon a wire that has exactly the connections you need on both ends. Well, they are almost never working. Such cables, amongst others, include: HDMI to component, VGA to component, VGA to S-Video, VGA to HDMI, VGA to Composite, Component to S-Video and all vice versa. You are welcomed to try them, but they will not work desirably.
4a. Connect the devices and turn them on (non computers)
Some video output devices such as combo DVD/VHS players require user to select correct output. There usually is a button that specifies if the video source is VHD cassette or DVD disk. Most TV's have more that one input on them thus it is necessary for user to tell the TV what input to obtain the video signal from. On you remote locate the "input" or "source" button and select the input (or source) which you have plugged the wire(s) into. They are usually designated by numbers in correspondence to the labels on the TV set or by their name (HDMI-1, HDMI-2, Component-1,..)
4b. Connect the devices and turn them on (for computers)
As mentioned in step 4a TV will have to be on correct input or source in order for you to see anything. It does not happen automatically. If you use HDMI the source will probably be named HD-# or HDMI-#. You will have to see what # port you have the cable plugged into. All TV inputs should be numbered or named accordingly.
If you have correct source (input) selected on TV you will need to tell your laptop to display image on your TV. Most laptops have a keyboard shortcut to enable the additional display or monitor. Different manufacturers have different shortcut keys assigned, but they tend to be and <Fn> key in combination with one the <F#> keys. So, Fn+F#. Once you find the correct F# key you will be prompted to select an option of how you want to connect to your external monitor (HDTV). If you have Windows 7 you can hit the <windows key> with letter P, which should provide you with similar options.
Most of the standard desktop keyboards do not have the Fn key option so you will have to enable the external monitor manually. To do that right click on your desktop and select properties (if XP) or screen resolution (if Win7). If you PC recognizes new monitor you should see it as number 2. Click on it and select expand windows to make the TV act as second monitor in XP. In Win7 you will get an option to select how your multiple displays act. By default they will be cloned meaning what your PC screen shows TV shows as well.
5a. Sound not working through HDMI cable?
Some manufacturer’s hardware does not support running audio through HDMI cable. To find out if that is true in your case consult your user manual, check manufacturer’s website or contact customer service. If your system does support audio through HDMI all you probably need to do is enable it. Go to your control panel and double click on sound icon. Select HDMI audio source right click and set it as default. In windows XP you will need to go to audio tab and select HDMI audio under sound playback as default device.
5b. Connecting sound to TV
Only HDMI to HDMI and HDMI to DVI cables support surround or stereo audio over single cable. For rest of the combinations you will have to run the audio separately. There are only three general audio outputs and inputs you can be faced with. They are SPDIF (or optical) which will carry surround sound, 3.5mm jack and RCA, both of which are stereo only. So if you do not have SPDIF output and corresponding input on your HDTV do not bother buying SPDIF to stereo adapter, it will cost a lot. Just choose any other stereo to stereo connection from the list.
UPDATED TABLE WITH LINKS COMING SOON
If some links do not go to proper components please let me know as well as if you have a video device with any other audio input or output that is not listed.
Every laptop and desktop, PC or MAC should have at least one 3.5mm stereo jack. It looks like a headphone jack and that is what it really is. On top of that most portable video devices have the same jack as well. The "not so portable" video devices tend to have the RCA audio connections. All new and older TV’s will still have RCA input connections for sound. Some have 3.5mm jacks as well, but that is only common in combinations with VGA or DVI video inputs.
As with video connections, make sure you have plugged it into a correct port. If video and audio inputs on TV are related to each other they are usually located in same outlined box under same input name. If you choose to connect the video to TV and audio to your surround sound or stereo system (not TV speakers) you will have to make sure that you select correct audio input on your machine as well.
I did my best to make this guide as comprehensive as possible. If you have a question or are not sure about connecting or would like to have a certain point cleared out, please contact us and tell us about it.
* Audio through HDMI or DVI cable is only possible if your computer video card supports such feature. You will have to look in your manual or contact your manufacturer to find this out.