How To Connect Your Laptop To Your TV

This should serve as the ultimate guide on how to connect your laptop to your TV.  This guide will actually work for hooking up any computer to any TV since we are going to go over the connections you’ll find on any PC, Laptop, TV or HDTV, and how to get them all to work together to get the most out of both the audio and video.

The easiest way to do this is wirelessly using an EZAir, or even eliminating the computer and doing it wirelessly with a streaming content box like the Roku.  However, this article is going to cover wired connections.

Digital HD Laptop to TV Connections That Carry Both Audio and Video

First, let’s start out with the source which will be either your laptop or computer.  Since this is where your signal originates, it’s important that we start here so we know what our limitations might be.  These connections carry a digital audio and video signal.  This is the ideal connection as you will get both HD video and Surround Sound audio.  These are:

  • HDMI
  • DisplayPort
  • mini DisplayPort
  • Thunderbolt

Many TVs have an HDMI input, but most don’t have DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, or Thunderbolt inputs.  They are comptable with each other though, so you won’t need a signal converter or anything crazy.  You’ll only need an adapter if you don’t have an HDMI out on your computer.

Basically, if your laptop has HDMI and so does your TV, then you’ll only need an HDMI cable to connect them.  If your laptop has DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, or Thunderbolt, then you will need the appropriate adapter.

Side note: Some of these connections might not actually support audio out through these ports, despite the fact that the technology is technically capable of it.  If this is the case, you will have to use an alternative method to get audio to your TV as described below.

Digitally Connect Your Laptop and TV Without Audio

There are digital video outputs that do not carry audio signals.  These connections are:

  • DVI (Digital Video Interface)
  • Mini-DVI
  • Micro-DVI

with DVI being the oldest, Micro-DVI being the newest, and all of them being replaced with the above digital/audio connections.  Either way, these are still found on many laptops out there.  In order to connect these to your HDTV’s HDMI port, you’ll need the appropriate adapter.  For example, a DVI to HDMI adapter cable if you have DVI and so on.  Some older HDTVs do also have DVI inputs, but you won’t find a television with mini or micro DVI inputs.

How to Get Sound From Your Laptop To Your TV

If your digital video connection doesn’t support audio, you’re going to need to use the computer’s audio output, which is usually the same 3.5mm jack you’d plug your headphones or speakers into.  It won’t be Surround Sound, but it will still do the trick.

If your TV or receiver has a 3.5mm input, then the connection is a simple 3.5-3.5 TRS audio cable.  If your TV doesn’t have this input, then it will likely have an RCA input.  This is the yellow, red, and white connection.  You will need  a 3.5 mm to RCA cable that splits your audio into left and right (white and red) channels for your TV.

Analog PC to TV Connections

You’ll find the following connections on many computers, some of which are capable of carrying high resolution (HD) signals.  These are the least preferred way to hook your laptop up to your TV, but they’ll work just fine.  In order from highest resolution to lowest, these connections are:

  • VGA
  • Mini VGA
  • S-Video
  • RCA

These will all require that you use the audio connection method mentioned above.  These are also all compatible with each other, so in order to go from say VGA to RCA, you’d simply need a VGA to RCA adapter cable.  You can not connect these to high definition digital inputs on your TV, because the signals are incompatible.  You will have to stick with inputs in your TV that are in this analog family.

Also note that the inability to connect these analog sources to the digital sources mentioned above has nothing to do with signal quality.  They are just two different and incompatible signal types, so you can’t go the other way around by connecting a digital source to an analog input either.

That should just about cover everything you need to know about your laptop to TV connection.  Most of the time only a cable or two is required, and these cables don’t have to cost a lot.  A cheap HDMI cable is just as good as an expensive one for the purpose of connecting your laptop to your TV.

I’ve left quite a bit of very technical information out here in favor of brevity and clarity.  However, as always, if you have any questions regarding the specifics of your connection feel free to ask in the comments.

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