From live TV to on-demand movies, your mobile device or laptop has the potential to replace your HDTV as your main source of entertainment. There's just one problem: The screen is too small.
But there's a solution to that problem: You have a number of options for sending video from your small screen to your big screen. If you have a relatively recent device, you can connect it to your HDTV with an inexpensive cable and, in some cases, an adapter.
It may sound sexier to connect your device and TV wirelessly, instead. However, wireless streaming isn't always the best option — for instance, when your wireless network doesn't offer a strong signal. Plus, there's the cost of buying a wireless receiver, such as the $35 Google Chromecast. And for older mobile devices and computers, wireless streaming may not be an option at all.
(If you'd like to try going wireless, see our guide, How to Stream Video from a Mobile Device or Computer to a TV.)
Here are some tips on how to connect various gadgets to your television.
How do I connect an Android smartphone or tablet to my TV?
You can push video from most Android devices to an HDTV through Mobile High Definition Link, or MHL. If you have an HDTV with MHL built in, in most cases, all you need is a microUSB-to-HDMI cable, like Cable Matters' $13 version that goes from the port on your mobile device to the MHL-enabled HDMI input on the TV. (Samsung Galaxy devices require a special cable to make this work.)
The MHL Consortium publishes a partial list of MHL-supported devices on its website. If you don't see your mobile device listed, check with the manufacturer.
Older TV HDMI ports don't include MHL, so you'll need an MHL-to-HDMI adapter to supply the power, such as Monoprice's $10.30 microUSB-to-HDMI MHL adapter. You may need to plug your device's charger into the adapter to provide extra power.
Select Google Nexus and LG G series phones and tablets make use of a competing technology called SlimPort, as do all Amazon Fire devices. To hook up a SlimPort system to a TV, simply purchase a SlimPort-to-HDMI adapter. Then, attach the SlimPort cable to your phone and the HDMI cable to your TV, just as you would an MHL device. MHL and SlimPort adapters are not cross-compatible, so be sure to get the proper adapter for your device.
Even better news for people with SlimPort gadgets is the SlimPort Nano-Console: a small and simple box that essentially turns your SlimPort device into a TV-ready streaming device or Android gaming console. The SlimPort Nano-Console will launch later in 2015, although SlimPort has not announced a price yet.
How do I connect an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to my TV?
Apple sells a Lightning Digital AV Adapter that accomplishes the same thing. (A 30-pin version of the adapter is also available if you have an older iOS device.) This is essentially an HDMI adapter for your iOS device: On one end, there's a Lightning plug (or 30-pin adapter for older devices) and on the other is an HDMI port. Use any HDMI cable to go from the adapter to your TV's HDMI port. The TV doesn't need to support MHL.
The $49 Lightning adapters work with all iPhones, iPads and iPod touches with the Lightning port. The $39 30-pin digital AV adapter requires an iPhone 4, iPad 2 second generation, or iPod touch fourth generation or later.
How do I connect a PC or Mac to my TV?
The cable you'll use to connect a PC or Mac to a larger display will depend on the display output on your computer. Many newer PCs and Macs have an HDMI port, so a regular HDMI cable might do the trick.
In other cases, you'll need an adapter. For example, for PCs with a DVI video output, you can use Monoprice's $4.60 DVI-to-HDMI adapter cable. However, this won't bring audio to your TV. You'll have to either listen through your PC's speakers (or headphones) or run a cable from the headphone jack on the PC to an audio input on the TV (if it has one).
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For some Macs, a Monoprice Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter, which runs about $7, will do the trick. Macs built after late 2009 can use the HDMI cable for both audio and video. Older models will need to use the computer speakers, headphones or a separate cable from the headphone jack to the TV for audio.
If your computer has only a blue, analog VGA port, hooking it up to your TV requires a bunch of hardware, making the process more trouble than it's worth. And if it's that old, it may be time to upgrade, anyway.
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