If you have a laptop computer and want to watch BBC’s iPlayer, Channel 4’s On Demand service, Hulu, Youtube videos or even Skype video-chats on your TV instead, there are a few ways you can do this. Everything depends on what connectivity options you have on your laptop and TV.
The most recent and reliable method is to connect your computer and TV via what’s known as an HDMI cable but this can only be done if you have a fairly new laptop and a High-Definition TV. So all you need to do here is purchase an HDMI (stands for ‘High Definition Multimedia Interface’) connecting cable. However, if you don’t have HDMI on both ends, you’re going to have to find alternatives. They’re more fiddly to setup and also, the quality is obviously not the same as HDMI.
So if you find yourself with older gear, here’s the best way to do this:
1. First you should check whether the graphics card in your laptop has a “TV-mode” or not. In XP or Vista goto “Control Panel”, then “Display” which allows you to change the resolution of your screen. If you’re using Windows 7, it’s highly likely that your laptop has an HDMI port (back to this in a minute). Once there, click on the”Advanced” button and this is where you’ll see several tabs of different options related to your graphics card including an ‘information’ tab. In this ‘information’ tab, it should tell you whether your card can send signals to a TV or not.
2. Now you need to connect the laptop to the TV with either cables or via a converter box. If you laptop is really that old, the best you’ll be able to manage is via the “VGA” port which normally allows you to connect your laptop to an external monitor. But VGA and TV signals are not compatible so you need a converter box to do this for you as well as having the various possible cables. The best package I’ve found that has both the box and most of the likely cables that you’ll need can be FOUND HERE (if you’re in the UK / Europe) or here if you live in the US. This box will work for both common TV systems used around the world. In the US & Japan, they use NTSC and in most of Europe, they use the PAL system. The only exception is France and other franco-phone countries which use the SECAM system. However, you don’t need to worry about this. In any case, if you ever buy a TV in France, they almost all come with PAL integrated (as well as SECAM), so you won’t need yet another box to convert PAL to SECAM (phew!). So this converter box will take your VGA signal from the computer and output it to a PAL or NTSC “audio-visual” signal (or AV for short). The resolution (or quality of image) on this box can be set to maximum of 1024 x 768 pixels which is fairly reasonable on older TV’s (would be pretty horrible on large, new HD flat-screens), and it’s also compatible with PC’s or Mac’s so you don’t have to worry about that either. By the way, if you decide to take this option make sure you switch everything off (TV, PC, DVD, whatever) before installing the box and cables.
3. So far so good? Well, not quite. This converter box only converts the video signal. So yes, you’ll have picture on the TV but the sound will come out of the laptop! So now we need to get the sound across too. Thankfully, this is a little simpler. Your laptop should have a small headphone socket or jack which, yes you guessed it, allows you to listen to stuff on your laptop with headphones. So all you need to do is buy a cable that takes sound from this socket and plug the other end into the TV or, via an ‘input’ of your Video or DVD Player / Recorder. The typical cable consists of this small ‘headphone’ plug on one end (plugs into computer) and two ‘phono’ or ‘RCA’ male plugs on the other end, which are normally coded in two colours: red (right stereo) and white (left stereo). These two RCA cables plug into either your ‘input’ sockets on your TV directly or the ‘input’ sockets of your DVD / Video recorder.
4. Remember that your cables have to plug into the same place. You can’t have the video stuff going direct to your TV and the sound via your Video / DVD recorder or, vice-versa. Both sets of cables have to go either to the ‘input’ sockets or jacks of your TV or to the ‘input’ connections of your DVD or Video recorder.
Now, if you find yourself with a newer laptop, you may find a round “S-Video” connector which many newer TV’s accept. Again, however, this only transmits video. Another possibility is that your laptop will have a DVI (Digital Video Interface) socket but confusingly, there are several different types of DVI. So these combinations complicate things when it comes to purchasing cables. But don’t worry, I’ve found something to help you out! The best thing I’ve found on the web is a site that asks you for your PC and TV (or DVD / Video) connectors and, it gives you list of what you need to purchase. You can click on each item and the site then takes you to a well-known UK electronics store (Maplin). For folks in the US, just take a note of the cables and you’ll find them on Amazon. The site is very easy to use and extremely useful: http://www.plugpctotv.com .
If you’ve purchased a laptop that’s one or even upto two years old, then it should have an HDMI port. And, as long as you have one of those rather nice High Definition TV’s, it will also have one or probably several HDMI ports so all you need to do is buy a male-to-male HDMI cable which you can get pretty much anywhere. When you connect the cable, both Mac’s and PC’s automatically “sync” your computer with the TV so everything is done for you (well, make sure you choose the right HDMI ‘channel’ on your TV!).
If you have any questions, just post a comment. Thanks for reading!