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To connect your laptop computer to your TV, all you need is the right cable. Check both components for the connections shown below. If your TV and laptop don't share a connection, adapters are available to make the types match and work together.
These are the connections you will find, with picture quality ranging from highest to lowest. HDTVs offer multiple connections, with HDMI and DVI being the most common and highest quality options for connecting a laptop to an HDTV. Most standard-definition TVs support an S-Video connection, which delivers a less sharp picture.
High-Definition Multimedia Interface or HDMI is currently the highest quality connection available. All HDTVs — not standard-definition TVs — will have this connection. However, your laptop might not. So you may need an adapter to convert the HDMI cable to DVI, a more typical computer connection.
HDMI cable costs a bit more than the other cable options, but its superior picture quality might make the cost worth it, depending on your needs.
Shop for HDMI connections and adapters.
For laptops with a Mini DisplayPort, special adapters are available to connect to the DisplayPort. This adapter is then attached to one end of an HDMI cable, while the other end of the HDMI cable connects with your HDTV. It delivers 1080p resolution. Initially developed by Apple for use in all of their Mac products, Mini DisplayPorts are also now included in various new PC laptops.
Shop for Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapters.
Digital Video Interface or DVI is a common connection, so your computer and an HDTV should have it. Again, a standard-definition TV likely won't support a DVI connection.
If you want sound with a DVI connection, you will need a separate audio cable. Connect the audio cable from the headphones output of your laptop to the red and white audio input of your TV.
Shop for DVI connections and adapters.
VGA, or Video Graphics Array, is another commonly found connection on both computers and HDTVs. Just like DVI, VGA does not carry an audio signal. Use the same method above for connecting a 3.5mm stereo audio cable.
Shop for VGA cables.
Some laptops and most TVs have an S-Video port. An S-Video cable is fairly inexpensive and provides moderate picture quality. As with DVI, you will need a separate audio cable if you want sound.
S-Video is generally not suitable for high-definition video signals. HDMI or DVI cables are better options for hooking up to an HDTV.
Shop for S-Video cables.
Make sure you connect the cable to the TV before turning on the computer because sometimes it may fail to recognize the external display.
Once your cable is connected, select the correct input on your TV — just as you would when using your DVD or Blu-ray player. If the picture appears distorted, you can change the screen aspect ratio and resolution with the Display Settings in the Control Panel of a PC laptop. Mac laptops automatically adjust these picture settings.
Now you can share content from your laptop on the largest screen in your home without the limits of cable length. Emerging wireless technology extends your laptop to a TV using a specialized receiver hooked up to the TV. These receivers have different connections, so you need to know what your TV supports (i.e. HDMI, DVI, etc.). The receiver is paired with either a USB device to plug into your laptop or a laptop with built-in software to create the wireless connection.
One of the new wireless kits, including the Rocketfish 4-port WirelessHD kit, makes setup simple (requires HDMI inputs on both devices). Hook your computer up to the transmitter and your HDTV to the receiver, and you can send full HD signals — with support for 1080p and 3D video resolution. You'll also get less than 4m latency for lag-free interactive content and fast-action video gaming.
A similar product is the IOGEAR wireless HD computer-to-TV kit which also allows you to wirelessly stream HD video (up to 720p) from your computer to your HDTV using special USB devices.
If you want to use your TV to view content from Web sites such as YouTube and Netflix, upgrading to one of the latest home theater products that links directly to your home Internet signal is a great solution. A smart TV, smart Blu-ray player or other smart device will allow you to access Internet content via apps designed to work specifically and smoothly with your television experience. Keep in mind, not all of these products offer a full Web browser, which you would have by connecting your laptop to your TV.
Learn more about smart products:
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