What Cables Do I Need For My TV?
If you are purchasing a new TV, new piece of AV equipment or have just looked behind your existing TV and are wondering what cables that you need for everything to work as it should. Read this blog for all the info that you require. There are loads of different types of TV leads and cables, each serving different purposes so let’s get started discussing what these do.
I have tried my best to arrange this in the most logical order but you may still have to scroll through to get the information you require. In this blog I discuss all different types of video, audio and other types of TV connections. There is still some debate on what whether digital or analogue audio gives the best sound, but I don’t think that there is a person alive that would suggest that analogue video offers a better picture than a digital signal. Apart from the black colour as many old analogue TV’s do give a better black. So,where you have the choice I would say pick a digital connection over an analogue one, certainly if you want to get all the benefits of HD, 4K etc then you will need to be using a digital connection.
Please don’t be put off by the amount of different TV leads mentioned here as I have done my best to name and describe all the leads that you’re likely to ever need to connect to your TV, with a short description of what they do.
Audio & Video Cables For TV’s
All of these leads below can provide both video and sound down the cable. I have listed them in order of preference starting with the best. The connection you opt for depends on the compatibility between your equipment.
HDMI cables are the most common TV lead of them all. HDMI,which stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface provides high definition digital video & audio connections between your AV equipment like Bluray disc players and Sky boxes all over a single cable. As HDMI is a digital connection is offers a much better picture quality than older type SCART, component & RCA composite connections.
The good thing about HDMI cables in that the technology can be expanded over time as has been the case. The current latest standard for HDMI is HDMI 2.0 which supports 4K video and Ultra HD but this will be sure to change at a later date to be able to provide higher quality video resolutions like 8K.
HDMI cables can also be used to connect to surround sound systems and soundbar. HDMI can feed a 7.1 speaker system and with ‘HDMI ARC’compatible a single cable can be installed between your TV and sound system/soundbar.
SCART leads used to be the lead of choice here in Europe but these have been superseded by the HDMI cable but there may some instances where you still require them, like for connections to DVD players and old VCR’s. SCART which stands for Syndicat des Constructeurs d’Appareils Radiorecepteurset Televiseurs, apart from obviously being French and otherwise known as the“Euro connector” in the USA is perhaps the most versatile AV cable of them all.
Before HD video and audio became a reality a single SCART cable could replace multiple other cables, inc RCA cable, component video/audio cables. S-Video cables and supported PAL, S-Video & RGB video as well as stereo sound.
SCART cables are easily recognisable with the big bulky connectors which are prone to falling loose and can be difficult to fit behind wall mounted TV’s and to route through walls. A fully wired SCART cable has 20 pins, each serving different purposes. One unique feature to the SCART lead was the source switching on pin 8 which meant that as soon as you turned on your AV equipment it would automatically override what ever was on the TV making them popular for people who want the TV to be as simple as possible.
Component Cable – Phono Cables
The next best cable or cables to connect your AV equipment to your TV would be via the component connection. This is actually 5 cables and already wired inside a SCART lead with provide separate analogue connections for the Red, Green and Blue colours and stereo sound which is a second red and white connections. By separating the red, green and blue colour streams gives a better picture quality than if these are delivered altogether. If you have a yellow connector instead of the red, green and blue this is a composite/ RCA connection which I will come to shortly.
RCA Cable – Phono Cables
The final type of connection we come to is the RCA cable. The RCA/ phono/ composite video is and is an analogue connection with the yellow for video, red and white phono connectors for stereo sound. Phono cables were not really that popular in Europe due to the popularity of the SCART connection,but they have recently seen a recent surge in popularity for equipment that does not have a HDMI connection. This is because nearly all new TV’s no longer have SCART connections on them. I’m sure that this is to do with the fact that they are very difficult to fit behind wall mounted TV’s and to route through walls so RCA and components leads would be more suited to this task.
Audio Only Cables
All of the following are audio only cables which can be used to connect your TV or AV equipment to sound systems like AV receivers, surround sounds, amplifiers and soundbars which are becoming very common.
Optical Cable – Toslink Cable
The most common audio connection today is the optical audio cable, which is often referred to as Toslink cable. If you’re not using HDMI to connect your audio equipment you should use an optical audio cable. The optical audio connection is a fibre optic cable which sends it’s signal down light. It is capable of 5.1 surround sound making it perfect also for most surround sound systems.
Coaxial Audio Cable
A coaxial audio cable is kind of a cross between an optical audio cable and a phono cable used for analogue mono or stereo sound. It is a digital connection which has an RCA connection on the end. The cable itself is usually thicker than most RCA cables to accommodate an extra protective cable screen to protect interference on the digital signals. A digital audio cable can support 5/7.1 surround sound.
Phono audio cables are the two red and white leads that can be used to connect analogue audio systems. The red and white phono cables can be used for stereo sound, which is two separate wound channels so left and right speakers for example.
An auxiliary cable fits into the headphone jack on your TV. It can be used to connect to sound systems and soundbars, but it is limited as it only offers and single sound channel. Another downside of using the auxiliary connection is that some TV’s will automatically mute the TV sound when the lead is inserted. This usually causes problems when people want to install wireless headphones and keep the TV volume working at the same time.
Video Only TV Cables
The following connections are video only connections that require separate audio cables to be installed if you want to be able to hear your TV.
The DVI cable is a digital video connection that is capable of high definition (HD) video. DVI stands for Digital Video Interface is compatible with HDMI connections on your TV with the correct adapter and vice versa. Most TV’s don’t have DVI connections anymore but some of the early ones do which makes them perfect for an extra HDMI input if you need it.
S-Video is another connection which never really took off in terms of popularity but there may be a chance that you might need it. S-Video is an analogue connection and works by separating the brightness (luminance) and colour (Chrominance) and combining them to give a bit of a bitter picture quality than composite video which sends all the signals in a single stream. The problem being that RGB gave a better picture than this so if you wanted to improve the picture you would be better off by installing a component video or SCART lead which both support this.
Other Leads For TV’s
The following section is other types of leads that you may require for TV connections that do not necessarily fall into the above categories.
RF Leads – TV/ Sat Cable
If you wish to watch a live TV service through your TV like Freeview or Freesat you will need a coaxial cable connecting into your TV. If you have a TV aerial socket plate or satellite socket a coaxial flylead will be required to connect between this and your TV. Pretty much all new digital TV’s have a connection for a TV aerial which requires a lead with a coaxial IEC plug connection, some of the latest larger TV’s are also equipped with Freesat tuners so you will need a lead with F connections to be able to connect this.
TV aerial and satellite leads can be purchased online or high quality ones can be prepared using a piece of good quality coax cable,some hand tools and a few plugs.
It’s also common to use RF leads with a male connection one end and female on the other for looping connections between equipment, like between a Freeview+/ BT Vision box, VCR and the TV tuner.
Most new TV’s have multiple USB ports to connect USB leads into. These can be used for a variety of purposes like viewing family photos or videos/ music on the TV. They can also be used for software/ firmware upgrades where the TV is not “Smart” or not connected to the internet. Portable hard disk drives can even be connected to many TVs for PVR functions like recording and live pause facilities.
Pretty much all new SMART TV’s or TV’s that can stream content from the internet, like for iPlayer or Netflix will require a connection to the internet for this to work. Although more and more new TV’s are now WIFI compatible it is still far better where possible to connect your TV with an Ethernet cable. This will maximise the speed and reliability of the connection which will make download speeds far faster and reduce buffering.
TV Cable Questions – Post Them In The Blog Comment Section
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Until next time,
The 6 Most Important TV Connections Explained
Ever looked at the back of a television and wondered what on Earth all those connection ports are for? It can be pretty confusing to navigate each and every port and to know which port does what. So, here are some of the most common television cables out there, their variations, and what they do.
Image Credit: NicoJenner/Wikimedia Commons
HDMI is one of the most well-known connection cables across the board and comes in a range of variations. The most common variation, Type-A, is typically used to connect source devices, such as a laptop or gaming console. Video inputs such as DVD or BluRay players can also be connected to your television via an HDMI cord. It’s a pretty versatile connection, and most input devices have such a port.
There also comes the Micro HDMI cord. This can be used to connect your television to smaller devices, such as a DSLR camera or tablet. Keep in mind that with HDMI variations, only one end of the cord differs, with the other end being the standard Type-A size (as that suits the majority of devices).
Related: The Best 4K HDMI Cables
Beyond the Mini HDMI, there is an even smaller Micro HDMI cable. You may have seen this before, given how commonly used it is for connecting to phones or wireless speakers for charging.
You can also get a right-angled HDMI cable for easier connection to your television, as well as a gripping cable to avoid unstable connection. There really are HDMI cables out there for each and every purpose.
If you have an older television that doesn’t have an HDMI port, it is possible to also use a composite connection for similar purposes. This connection type will be discussed later on here.
Image Credit: Evan-Amos/Wikimedia Commons
As the name suggests, S-Video is a funky-looking cord responsible for transmitting video-only signals into your television. This is done by splitting the video data into a color and brightness signal in order to improve the display quality of less modern televisions. It is also known as a signaling standard for standard definition video.
The most common type of S-Video cable on televisions has four pins. However, there is a secondary type that has seven pins, though this is more commonly seen on PCs. Regardless of the pin quantity, you can still use the standard four-pinned cable, so don’t buy yourself an additional seven-pinned cable if you want to hook up your PC.
Image Credit: Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons
This multicolored set of cables is called a component connection. Each three of the cables are different RCA connectors, and their colors match the ports present at the back of televisions. You have the green Y cable, the blue Pb cable, and the red Pr cable. These are used to connect televisions to DVD players, allowing for higher picture quality via an analog signal.
There are three key kinds of signals that can be transmitted into televisions via a composite connection: scan, chrominance, and luminance. These relate to display brightness, color, and the video frame boundaries.
Keep in mind that you probably won’t need to use a component cable if your television has a HDMI port (which, if it’s relatively modern, it will). So make sure you know what ports your TV has so that you know which cables are required.
Image Credit: nrkbeta/Flickr
Ethernet cables are hugely important for internet connections. Your Wi-Fi router will have a hardwire Ethernet connection, and your television should have such a port, too. If you want your television to receive a quicker, more stable internet connection, it’s definitely worth hooking it up to an Ethernet cable.
Related: How to Set Up Ethernet and Wireless Powerline Adapters
This, however, will depend on the cable ecosystem of your home. You’ll need an Ethernet wall outlet near your television to hook up your television to the internet via a hardwire connection. You can, alternatively, feed an Ethernet cable in from another room through your wall, but you’ll probably need to call out an engineer to get this done. However, this might drastically improve your television’s internet connection, so it’s worth considering.
It’s also worth noting that if your television is pretty old, it may not have an Ethernet connection, given that such a television may rely on an external antenna to provide channels. In this case, you may have to rely on a wireless connection instead.
Image Credit: Dmitry Makeev/Wikimedia Commons
Another multicolored, multifaceted cable, which can sometimes be confused with the component connection previously discussed here. A composite connection can be used to transfer a video signal into your television.
This type of connection is typically used for older external devices, such as a Nintendo Wii or VCR player. They do not support HD picture quality, which is the standard for many modern televisions. This connection type is also vulnerable to radio frequency interference, and this can lower the picture quality provided by the cable.
It’s probably better to use a composite connection over a component connection (if your TV has composite ports). This is because a composite connection can offer better picture quality, and can support higher resolution televisions. Component connections are essentially the next step up from composite and are far better suited to newer televisions. However, most newer televisions still support composite connections via the single, yellow cable, so that older devices can be connected if desired.
You could also use the previously mentioned S-Video connection as a replacement for composite, given its ability to offer a higher quality transmission signal.
The USB connection is truly one of the most common in the world. So many devices have a USB port, including laptops, computers, and televisions. A USB connection can be used to hook up streaming devices, such as a NOWTV or Amazon Fire TV Stick.
USB cables also allow for the connection of external hard drives or flash drives. You could even charge your phone via this connection. A TV antenna can also be supported via a USB connection.
Know Which Ports Do What Before Buying Any Cables
While each and every television connection port has its own function, you probably won’t need a cable for every single port. It is, therefore, worth noting what external devices you need to connect in order to determine which cables you do and don’t need. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be set to enjoy movies, games, or TV shows to your heart’s content.
How to connect a computer to a TV
Methods for current equipment and obsolete models.
How to connect a computer to a TV using a cable
1. Find out what signal ports are available on your computer
To do this, inspect the connectors available on the device. If you cannot determine the types of ports by eye, find their description in the documentation for your computer. Depending on the model, you can see the following connectors:
- HDMI is a digital interface found on most modern computers. It transmits both audio and video, and therefore is optimally suited for outputting a multimedia signal to a TV.
- DVI is also a digital port still common on the market.
- VGA is a popular analog connector in the past. Outputs only video signal.
- Mini DisplayPort, USB‑C, and Thunderbolt 4 (USB 4) are current digital interfaces that carry video and audio.
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Ports from left to right: HDMI, VGA and DVI. Image: driashkin/Freepik
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Ports from left to right: Mini DisplayPort, USB-C 3 and Thunderbolt/USB 4. Image: Apple
There are other types of connectors. But we have listed the most popular ones. Your device is probably equipped with one or more of them.
2. Determine which signal inputs are on the TV
Inspect the ports on the TV. Most modern models have HDMI connectors. Older ones are equipped with VGA and RCA ports.
RCA format ports. Image: greentellect/123RF
3. Choose a cable according to the available connectors
If you have an HDMI TV
If both your TV and computer have an HDMI connector, then everything is elementary: you can connect devices using an HDMI cable . This option will be the best.
To connect an old computer that does not have a suitable port to an HDMI TV, you will also need a special signal converter along with an HDMI cable. Which one depends on the connector available on the PC. It can be DVI → HDMI, VGA → HDMI or other similar adapters.
In addition to the HDMI cable, these converters can often be used with an additional audio cable, the other end of which is plugged into the computer. Such a cord is usually sold complete with a converter.
To connect to a Mac HDMI TV with Thunderbolt or Mini DisplayPort, you will need a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter along with the HDMI cable. For it to transmit sound, look in the store for such an adapter with audio support.
However, some older Macs do not support audio output to HDMI TVs via Mini DisplayPort. In this case, the laptop will have to be supplemented with audio speakers.
Apple adapter with USB‑C connector and three outputs: USB‑C, HDMI, USB‑A. Image: Yandex Market
To connect one of Apple’s new Thunderbolt 4 (USB‑C) computers to an HDMI TV, you’ll need an HDMI cable and a USB‑C Digital AV Multiport Adapter. But if you have an older model with a regular USB-C port that doesn’t support Thunderbolt 4, then a simple USB-C → HDMI adapter will do.
If you have a VGA TV
For a VGA TV, the procedure is similar. Only you will need an HDMI → VGA, DVI → VGA or other converter, depending on the computer port. The main thing is that it converts the signal to VGA.
If you have a TV with an RCA connector
If you have a very old TV model with “tulips”, then converters like HDMI → RCA, VGA → RCA and others that output an RCA signal are suitable.
In order not to make a mistake when buying a cable or converter, you can tell the seller the types of connectors on your TV and computer. The specialist will find a suitable option for you or check the compatibility of your choice.
4. Connect devices via cable
Turn off your computer and TV beforehand for safety reasons. Connect the devices with a cable (and a converter if necessary). Only then turn on the devices. If the TV does not automatically detect the computer as the signal source, then do it yourself in the TV settings.
5. Adjust the image on the TV using the computer
If the image is blurry, open the system settings on the PC and find the section responsible for the monitor. Here you can set the resolution that matches your TV and, if necessary, change the video display mode.
How to connect a computer to a TV via Wi‑Fi
Modern smart TVs can be connected to computers wirelessly via a local Wi‑Fi network. Technologies like DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct allow you to stream video, music and other content to a TV screen or completely duplicate the image from a computer on a TV, turning the latter into a wireless monitor. And in the case of Wi‑Fi Direct, you don’t even need a router for this.
For example, LG devices have a Smart Share service for such functions. Televisions from other manufacturers offer similar features.
Wireless connection settings may vary depending on the TV manufacturer and model. Some devices establish a connection in a semi-automatic mode. Others require the installation of additional software on the connected computer.
Therefore, it is difficult to formulate a universal instruction that will suit all users. If you want to connect your TV to a computer via Wi‑Fi, you will find the necessary information in the paper manual or on the official website of the manufacturer along with the software needed for this.
This article was first published in October 2017. In December 2022, we updated the text.
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How to connect a computer to a TV via a cable
Each of us at least once thought about connecting a computer and a TV, displaying an image from a monitor on a big screen using HDMI technology or a router. This is not so difficult to do, there are quite a few ways to connect: using cables of several formats – HDMI, DVI or VGA, via a Wi-Fi connection with a computer or directly to the Internet.
We’ll look at each one and learn how to adjust the picture when it’s displayed on a TV.
There are several connectors that connect the PC and TV. DVI and HDMI cables provide a high quality signal, while using VGA format will only allow you to get an analog image.
The subsequent choice of cable depends on what sockets are on the equipment – it is important that they match or that you can put an adapter on one of its ends.
If your computer does not have a built-in HDMI card, or if you intend to connect it to your TV with a different cable format, you will need to purchase an audio cable, otherwise you will only get the picture. It is connected via an audio jack – a green round hole with a diameter of 3.5 mm. and connects the input on the PC soundbar and the connector on the TV or external speakers. Without such a cable, the sound will have to be heard through computer speakers.
This connection format will allow you to see an analog image without sound, which will not be of too high resolution, therefore, of imperfect quality. However, if there are no other types of connectors, use this particular method to connect equipment.
To do this, follow these steps:
- Turn off the computer, connect the equipment to each other using audio and video cables.
- Turn on the TV and select the connection item in the settings (the section may be called Source or Input), stop at the VGA item.
- Turn on the computer – the desktop image should appear on the TV screen. Another monitor should appear on the computer in the desktop settings.
Video input via DVI cable
This connection method allows you to enjoy digital rather than analog picture, but still without sound.
Please note that there are different types of cables in this format, do not make a mistake when choosing and purchasing. In general, the connection between the PC and the TV is established in the same way as in the previous method, only select the DVI format in the video signal reception settings.
This method of video and audio signal delivery to TV is the most relevant and profitable today, because you will receive a high-quality digital signal with sound, provided that the computer has a built-in HDMI card. Modern video cards and laptops are usually equipped with such a connector.
Using this connection, you can display a picture on a screen with a large diagonal without loss of quality, which will especially appeal to fans of movies and various games.
When buying an HDMI cable, consider the location of the equipment in the room – if the screen is located on the wall, it will not be possible to simply insert a straight plug, since the cable is rather thick and rigid. There are various types of cables where the plug is turned 90 degrees or made in the form of a corner – it fits well between the back of the TV and the wall.
Connection is done like this:
- Turn off the equipment from the network, connect it with a cable through the HDMI connectors.
- Turn on the TV, in the connection parameters (Source or Input), select the required connection type.
It happens that one HDMI port on a TV is not enough, and to solve the problem, there are switches – “hubs” that allow you to connect several devices to it at the same time.
Connection via S-Video cable
Connecting a TV to a PC using this type of cable is currently not used often, due to its irrelevance, as well as the availability of more modern and efficient options. This analog output is found on old-style video cards and on video cards designed for video editing. Such a connection is capable of reproducing an image of not the best quality, however, in some cases this is the only available method.
The connection process is almost identical to those described above in this article. First of all, disconnect the TV and PC from the network, and then connect the necessary connectors. After that, turn on both devices and select the appropriate video input on the TV if it was not automatically detected. Upon completion of these manipulations, the picture should be broadcast on the screen.
RCA and Scart
Some cable options, in particular RCA and Scart, can only be used in conjunction with special converters. This is due to the fact that there are simply no such outputs on the PC.
Most older televisions are often only capable of receiving an RCA signal. This cable consists of three colored wires: two for audio, one for video. In the people they are also called “tulips”. But in order to make such a connection, you must additionally purchase a special adapter. It can be HDMI → RCA or VGA → RCA.
A relatively modern scart connector allows you to transmit high definition images. What’s more, it can play both video and audio format at the same time. Unfortunately, there is no such connector on the computer. Therefore, again, you will have to resort to buying adapters.
Connection setup follows the same principle as similar methods.
Adjusting the image
After connecting the equipment using one of the above methods, you need to adjust the image. Do the following:
- In the context menu of the desktop (it is enabled by the right mouse button), open the “Screen Resolution” item.
- In the Display section, “Multiple monitors” is selected if you have connected a TV and have not disconnected the computer screen.
When setting the resolution, stop at the highest setting for the sharpest picture, but keep in mind that the higher the value, the smaller the icons will be.
As you can see, not every cable transmits a sound signal together with the image. For this purpose, you need another one – with a Minijack connector on one end and with two audio tulips (RCA) on the other.
The minijack plug is plugged into the PC’s headphone jack (green). Usually there is a designation on the case. And the “tulips” (red and white) are connected to the corresponding ports on the TV.
You also need to make a small adjustment in the computer settings. This is done very simply. Right-click on the sound icon located in the notification area and select “Playback devices”. Next, in the list provided, find the name of your TV, right-click on it, and then click on the “Set as default” item. Save the changes with the “OK” button.
Working with multiple displays
You can use multiple monitors at the same time as follows:
- The duplication mode is a complete match of the image on both the PC and the TV – your actions are visible on all monitors connected to the system unit.
- “Extend” – a mode for combining two screens so that each of them is independent.
To change the resolution on an individual device, select it via the “Screen” item and make the necessary settings.
Using a network cable
In addition to the above methods, a computer and TV can be connected to view videos or photos on a large screen using a Wi-Fi router. This requires a LAN port on the equipment and a network cable, after which a special media server is installed.
It all happens like this:
- Connect the TV to the router with a network cable to the LAN socket and install a media server on it using the following steps.
- Download a program to stream content from a computer – most users choose the Home Media Server utility.
- After installing the program, select your TV in its settings menu, then mark the sections on the PC that you would like to view on it.
- Start the program.
- Turn on the TV, select the Source section in the settings, after which a program will appear in the list through which you can view files from your computer.
In a similar way, two devices are connected directly through the LAN ports – on the one hand, the cable is inserted into the TV socket, the other end is connected to the same port on the back of the system unit, creating a network connection.
To connect appliances using the above two methods, you need to set the DHCP network settings on the TV. If they are not enabled automatically, you must manually enter the following data:
- In the operating system: go to the Control Panel, open your network and view its properties – select Internet Protocol 4 and enter the IP address 192. 168.0.1, subnet mask – 255.255.255.0. The DNS server combination is the same as the IP value.
- Enter this data in the network settings of the TV.
If you followed the instructions, but the picture did not become duplicated, we recommend that you check the Ethernet cable (patch cord), which can be either “direct” or “reverse” (the so-called crossover). Modern network cards can often work with each of them without problems. However, for old samples, the “direct” option is not always suitable.
In order to avoid mistakes during the setup phase, we advise you to use the “Configuration Wizard”, which is present in most TV models, and simply follow the step-by-step guide.
There is also an alternative method for those who failed to start the broadcast using the above steps. After connecting both devices to the local network, select any file (or folder with media files) on the computer and right-click on it. In the list that opens, click “Transfer to device” (other similar names may be found) and click on the one you need. A prerequisite is that at this moment the TV is turned on and is on the network. So, without any settings and additional utilities, you can quickly set up a video stream.
Modern Smart TVs have a built-in Wi-Fi module, which is useful for connecting the device to your PC and displaying the image on the screen.
To do this, connect to a wireless network through the hardware settings, connect to this network on a personal computer. Now, through the Control Panel, go to the screen menu, turn on the search for monitors in the resolution settings window. When the computer detects all monitors, you can cast your desktop to the big screen. To do this, both the computer and the TV must support Wireless Display (WiDi) technology and it must be turned on.
If the TV supports Miracast technology or a special set-top box is used, then it is enough to install some application on the computer to cast to the TV via Wi-Fi, for example, the EZCast utility. After that, it is enough to connect the TV and the computer to the same Wi-Fi network so that they can work together, as if connected by a cable.
All described connection methods will allow you to transfer the image from the computer screen to the TV. In principle, combining equipment with an HDMI cable is one of the most attractive and logical options, since this signal transmission format will allow you to get a high quality picture with clear sound.