Most commonly used inputs and outputs
What TV’s have a lot of are input and output ports. But what are they used for? Do I need them? If so how many? Those are all good questions and we will go over them in this article.
All the TV’s will have the analog or digital coaxial cable input. That is where you get your TV programs from. There is virtually no deviation from TV to TV. They are all pretty much to same. All you need is the cable and somewhere to plug it into.
Probably the most important port in today’s TV’s is the HDMI port (High Definition Multimedia Interface.) Released to mass production only in 2003, most of us have heard of them before but what are they used for? HDMI is capable of transferring large amounts of data over single cable. By data I mean HD video and up to 8 channel audio. If you have Playstation, Xbox or any other newer gaming console you will most likely have HDMI output on it. If you want to play your games in highest possible quality you will want to use HDMI cable to connect your game console to your TV. If you are also thinking of getting a Blu-Ray player you will need another HDMI port to connect it to your TV. It is not worth of connecting Blu-Ray player to your HDTV with anything else but HDMI, because only HDMI is cable of transmitting highest quality 1080p video and up to 8 channels of surround sound audio. PC’s can be connected to TV’s via HDMI port as well, but you PC will need to have correct outputs. In conclusion you will need as many HDMI ports on your TV as you have devices capable of transmitting 1080p, that you want connected at one time. Most TV’s come with 3 HDMI ports or more, so you should be fine. They either have two in back and one on side (2+1) or three in back and one on side (3+1) or any other combination.
Next closest thing to HDMI quality video are the RGB (Red-Green-Blue) ports also known as component connections. You will not be able to get 1080p video via RGB only 1080i (read 720i vs. 720p vs. 1080i vs. 1080p article to know the difference) and they do not transmit audio. RGB ports are rarely used in any devices. You might use them if you want to connect your PC to your HDTV, but it is not a popular or practical choice.
Next even lower quality video and audio transmission is the A/V (audio/video) port, also known as RCA or composite. A/V ports are not capable of transmitting HD video in any shape of form, however they do transmit audio, but only in stereo. You can use these ports on older DVD players, or if you still use, the VHS players. Another possible use for A/V port(s) is for older cameras and camcorders that do not have HDMI outputs. Even though A/V is old technology it will linger around for sake of compatibility issues as a lot of devices still need those ports to connect you your TV.
Another port that is becoming standard on TV’s is the optical port aka the toslink. This port is used to transmit HD audio at literally speed of light. The technology is becoming more widely accepted among devices as it is becoming cheaper and cheaper to integrate. Not all devices will have optical input/output, but give it some time. You should find them on any recently released TV’s and Blu-Ray players.
Few other ports are starting to appear on TV’s. One of them is the VGA (video graphic array) also called D-Sub, or another being DVI (Digital Visual Interface). They are excellent for quickly connecting your PC to your TV. DVI will also carry audio assuming you have the right video card in your PC and right cable. VGA will also work but it does not carry audio and the resolution will not reach 1080p. Only DVI will give you HD quality video and sound.
USB (universal serial bus) is also making its way to TV’s. And it is a great idea that it is, because you can just plug in your flash drive or hard drive and stream you audio and video content straight to your TV with no need to convert to a different format and burn them on DVD. Be careful when buying a TV for its USB port, some will only support pictures and music. Only the latest TV’s will do video files in certain formats. Make sure you know what they are and if you will be able to use as you want it. Read more about USB capabilities on HDTV's.
A network or a LAN port is also becoming increasingly integrated into TV’s offering many features. There are few media providers that operate primarily, or mostly, from internet. Pandora and Netflix are probably the most known. You can also stream movies or audio via your home network if the TV has such capabilities. The possibilities are endless. Read more about Network capabilities on HDTV's.
The above listed ports are the most common used amongst TV’s however that is not the complete list. There are other les popular ports that can be found on the TV’s but they are not worth the mention.