How to Plug a Laptop into a Flatscreen TV

By Douglas Hassell

Owning a High Definition TV is becoming more common every day. With sharper picture and a wider viewing-area, it's more like a movie screen rather than just a television.The technology that goes into "flatscreen" (plasma, LCD or LED) TVs is very similar to desktop LCD monitors. Sometimes, it just isn't obvious how to connect a flatscreen TV---rather than a desktop LCD monitor---to your laptop or notebook. This guide will give you the basics to determine if- and how it may connect.

Step 1

Flatscreen TVs are the best way to watch video at home, and they can be an improvement over the small LCD display on your laptop (or notebook) as well.The first thing we do is find out whether the laptop supports external video. Look on the back edge (below the hinge) to find an external video port.Possible ports may be labeled as:- VGA- DVI- HDMI- Yv/Pr/Pb- S-VIDEO- TVWhen you've found such a port, make a note of where it is and what kind of connector it is.

Step 2

Now, take a look at the back of the flatscreen TV. There are usually a bunch of different ports, and usually have clear labels on them. If you find a port that is identical to the port on the laptop, skip to Step 4.If you can't find anything that matches the port on the laptop, continue to Step 3.

Step 3

If the TV doesn't match the port coming from the laptop, it's time to get an adapter. Fortunately, there are many different cables available that can adapt from one type of video connector to another.Try to prioritize your search in terms of quality, look to "Tips & Warnings" for details on HDTV quality.Pick the highest-quality connector on the TV, then write it down next to the note about the video port on the laptop.

Step 4

Go shopping! Find an adapter or cable that can connect the laptop port to the best-quality port on the TV.If you found an identical port on the TV and the laptop, shop for that cable as a "male-to-male" type. (but not an "extension cable") Adapter-type cables will work, but a cable that has matching ends will always be the best quality.

Step 5

On your laptop, verify that you have the very-latest drivers for your video hardware. In some cases, the laptop manufacturer will have the most-stable drivers.In other cases, you can look up the video-hardware (or "chipset") manufacturer to get the very-latest drivers. More often than not, a driver from the chipset manufacturer will have more advanced support for flatscreen TVs.Contact the Technical Support line for your laptop manufacturer if you're unsure.

Step 6

Once you have the cable that matches both your laptop and the flatscreen, it's time to put it to the test.The best approach is to turn off the flatscreen TV with the laptop running.

Step 7

Connect the new cable to the laptop external-video port and connect the other end to the back of the flatscreen TV.If the laptop has a special-function key for activating the external video port, activate it now.

Step 8

Power-on the flatscreen TV and cycle the "input" until you see your laptop screen appear.It's OK if the screen doesn't look 100% sharp right away. Sometimes, the flatscreen TV will not have the exact-same resolution as the laptop LCD display.

Step 9

On the laptop, explore the video settings to find a resolution that looks best on the TV.Some drivers allow you a different group of settings, or a "profile," just for when the flatscreen TV is connected.In other cases, you may have to find a setting that is acceptable on both the laptop LCD and the flatscreen at the same time.Consult with Technical Support from your laptop manufacturer for details.Enjoy computing on the "big screen."

Tips & Warnings

  • HDTV quality --- These are the types of connectors that are commonly used with HDTV signals, in order of quality:1. Top-notch quality: HDMI2. Best quality: DVI3. Excellent quality: VGA4. Better quality: Yv/Pb/Pr (also known as "component" or "RGB")5. Improved quality, but with minimal HD: S-VIDEO6. Good quality, but no HD: "composite" or "RCA"
  • Connecting any type of PC to a flatscreen or HD-capable television does not guarantee that you will see content in "high-definition". Only content played from a high-definition source would appear on HD-capable equipment as a "high-defninition" picture. Lower-resolution content can be shown, but not at the same sharpness, color vibrance or detail as an equivalent "high-definition" picture.Results will vary, based on the exact combination of laptop, adapter cable, video hardware and the make/model or flatscreen TV.