Hook Your Laptop to Your TV or HDTV
Learn how to watch movies on your television using your laptopPublished Jun 5, 2006 by lobo235
Last updated on Oct 20, 2008
There are many things you can do with a laptop computer that you can't easily do with a desktop computer. Because a laptop is smaller and lighter it is well suited for many tasks. One of my favorite things to do is to hook my laptop up to my TV for playing games or watching a movie. Many laptop owners I have spoken with do not realize that you can easily hook most laptops up to a TV or HDTV. This guide will help you get your laptop connected to your TV or HDTV.
First you will need to purchase a few cables. If you have a lot of audio/video equipment already then you may already have some or all of the cables needed to connect your laptop to your TV. But before you run to the closest Radio Shack or go scrounging through that box of cables your wife keeps nagging you to get rid of you need to know exactly what cables to get.
Plain old TV
Most newer laptops have an S-video output built-in. You have probably guessed already that these video outputs send the video signal to your TV. You guessed right. The cable you need depends on your TV and your laptop. Newer TVs usually have an S-video input so if you have an S-video output on your laptop and an S-video input on your TV then you will need an S-video cable. These can be found in varying lengths and qualities at Wal-Mart, Radio Shack, or any other electronics store.
Some older laptops may have the older video output that is typically yellow. If you have an older laptop and an older TV you will probably need a standard video cable which usually has yellow connectors at each end.
You may have a newer laptop that has the S-video output and an old TV that doesn't have an S-video input. In this case, you will need to buy a connector that connects to the S-video output of the laptop allowing you to attach a standard video cable from the connector to your TV. Depending on the converter cable you may be able to hook it directly to your TV if it is long enough, otherwise you will need a standard video cable to make up the additional distance from the converter cable to your TV.
If you are the lucky owner of a TV that is capable of displaying high definition content or HDTV you may have some options that will give you a higher quality image than you would get with an S-video cable or a yellow composite video cable. To get the highest quality video from your laptop/computer to your HDTV your computer/laptop needs a video card that has a DVI output terminal and an HDTV that has either a DVI input terminal or an HDMI input. If both devices have DVI capabilities then you just need a DVI cable to connect the laptop and the TV. If the TV only has an HDMI input then you will need a DVI to HDMI converter cable. Again, this option gives you the best quality. Another option you might have is SVGA or RGB. If your computer/laptop does not have a DVI port then it probably has the blue SVGA output used to connect an external monitor. Some HDTVs have an SVGA input so you could just use an SVGA cable to connect your devices. Most HDTVs will have a component input and if this is the case, buy an SVGA to RGB component converter cable. This option still gives great image quality but trails behind DVI and HDMI somewhat.
There are now some laptops/computers that come with an HDMI output port built-in. If your HDTV has an HDMI input then all you would need to connect the two devices would be an HDMI cable. Although HDMI can send audio and video signals in the same cable, few laptops that have HDMI connection can actually do this. For connecting the audio from your computer to your TV/receiver see the information at the end of this page.
If you need a VGA to Component cable adapter Amazon has a number of them like the following:
Dayton HD15-RGB-15 VGA To Component Video Cable
If your laptop has a DVI output (usually white) you can get a DVI to HDMI cable which will give you better image quality. Again, Amazon has a number of them available such as the following:
Cables To Go - 40320 - 2M (6.5ft) Velocity HDMI to DVI Digital Video Cable
Audio from Laptop to the TV
The above information will help you get the video signal from your laptop to show up on your TV, but in order to get the audio over to the TV you will need to use a different cable. Pretty much every laptop has a headphone jack which can be used to send the audio to your TV or receiver. Some HDTVs actually have a mini-headphone jack input so you can just buy a long 3.5mm mini-headphone cable with male connections on both ends. If your TV or HDTV does not have a mini-headphone jack input you can still buy the same cable but then you'll need the following 3.5mm headphone to RCA Y-splitter adapter to get the audio to your TV or receiver. Make sure you turn the volume all the way up on your laptop and make sure the audio is not muted on the laptop. You will more than likely have to tweak the audio to get it at the right level. Here is some additional information on laptop volume.
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