Want to show off your latest vacation photos, play video games or browse the web on a huge screen? How about accessing all of the “smart” features of the latest and greatest TVs without spending money on a new TV? You could buy one of the many media streaming boxes that have flooded the market in recent years. But what if you could use something that is more powerful and has less limitations? What if I told you you’ve probably have one already? Connecting a PC to a TV is easy, and there are a ton of good reasons to do so.
Traditional PCs have a number of advantages over the little streaming boxes people normally plug into their TVs. While they may not have the sleek interfaces that the streaming boxes have, they more than make up for it in functionality.
- Use any service – Unfortunately, some streaming services are only available for certain platforms. For example, iTunes content can only be accessed on an Apple TV. A PC connected to your TV can circumvent these limitations by accessing services via web browsers and desktop apps.
- Play video games – Sure, your Roku can play some popular mobile games. A Chromecast can mirror Angry Birds from your phone. What about the games that require the sort of horsepower only your PC can provide? Connect your PC to your TV for a big-screen PC-gaming experience.
- File compatibility – Media boxes often only support certain video files types. Download a player like VLC that can handle virtually any file format thrown at it onto your PC and connect it to your TV.
- Do anything – Imagine everything you do with your computer. Now imagine doing all that on your big-screen TV.
Ready to connect your PC to your TV? Read on to find out how to do it.
Connect via HDMI
Hands down the easiest way to connect your PC to your HDTV is via an HDMI cable. HDMI carries both video and audio at the same time, eliminating the need for more than one cable. In addition to less wire clutter, HDMI supports 1080p resolution, otherwise known as high definition, allowing you to take full advantage of your TV. Connecting your PC to your TV with an HDMI cable is easy. Simply run the cable from the HDMI output port on your PC to a free HDMI input on your TV, and you’re in business.
Connect via VGA + 3.5mm Audio
HDMI support is common on most modern computers, but if you’re stuck using older hardware, there’s a good chance HDMI is nowhere to be found. Don’t fret, you’ll still be able to connect your PC to your TV, although you’ll need to use two cables instead of just one. Before you get started (or buy the cables), check to make sure that both your PC and your TV have a VGA port. They look like trapezoids with fifteen little holes in them. VGA ports are most commonly blue, but they can be black or grey in color. On your TV, a VGA port is sometimes labelled as “PC In.” If you have VGA ports on your TV and computer, you’re ready to roll.
Run a VGA cable from your PC to your TV and you’re halfway there. Since VGA can only transmit the video, you’re going to need a 3.5mm audio cable to handle the audio. Plug one end of the audio cable into your computer’s headphone jack and the other end into the audio-in jack of your TV.
How to Display Your PC’s Screen on Your TV
Whether you are using an HDMI cable or a VGA cable in conjunction with a 3.5mm audio cable, the following steps will walk you through how to get your PC on your TV.
- Connect the HDMI cable or the VGA/3.5mm cable to your PC and your TV.
- Switch on your PC and your TV.
- Select the input (HDMI/VGA) that corresponds to your PC through your TV’s AV menu.
- Your PC’s screen should now be displayed on your TV.
Most modern operating systems will be able to detect your TV as a display and automatically adjust the display settings to whatever is best for your TV. However, sometimes things can look a bit off. To tweak the display settings manually, head to the “Control Panel” for Windows, “System Preferences” for Mac, or “Display Settings” for Linux.
Note: There are other ways of connecting your PC to your TV, such as connecting with component cables or through USB. However these methods often require expensive adapters or additional software to work properly. If you can, stick to the above methods as the cables are cheap, there is little to no configuration, and the end result is the same. You should also be aware that connecting a Macbook via VGA or HDMI can require a relatively inexpensive display adapter.
It’s a fact that everyone hates wires. Surely there has to be some way that users can connect their PCs to their TVs without wires. While it is possible, there are some significant limitations that go along with this method. There are four main players in the wireless PC-to-TV space: AirPlay, Miracast, WiDi and Chromecast.
- AirPlay is Apple’s wireless display standard. With an Apple TV hooked up to your TV, you can mirror the display of an iPad, Mac or iPhone. The good news is that it works very well. The downside is that you have to invest wholeheartedly into Apple’s ecosystem. AirPlay does work on non-Apple machines that have iTunes, but only to stream iTunes content.
- Miracast was hailed as a universal standard for wirelessly mirroring a display on a TV. To do so, one only needs a Miracast-supported device connected to their TV and an Android device or Windows PC. However, support for the protocol is spotty, and the results are a bit hit or miss.
- WiDi is Intel’s effort to compete with Apple’s AirPlay. The idea behind it is essentially the same; however, it was never embraced by users or manufacturers. WiDi has pretty much disappeared.
- Google’s Chromecast is an inexpensive way to “cast” content from your PC or smartphone to your TV. It has the ability to mirror your entire desktop and is quite stable. Be aware that the Chromecast’s stability and performance relies on the strength of the WiFi network it is operating on.
While wireless display options are nice, the best results are going to come from good old-fashioned cables. Do you connect your PC to your TV? How do you do it? What, in your opinion, are the biggest advantages in doing so? Let us know in the comments!
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