How To Output Video From A PC Or A Laptop To A TV
Monday, July 9, 2012 2:54:39 PM
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How To Output Video From A PC Or A Laptop To A TV
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by Matt Smith
The computer is one of the most versatile video players ever
invented. It can play discs, various files or stream video from the
web. There's little that isn't available on a PC, and if something
is off limits its usually due to DRM and not the hardware.
Yet the PC has always felt strangely isolated from other devices,
including those that are designed to display video. Almost all
computers have the ability to output video but the connections used
can be confusing to the uninitiated.
This article will help you resolve any unfamiliarity by explaining
all of the different output options, how they're used and their
advantages. After that we'll briefly touch on how to resolve a
couple common issues that arise when trying to display PC video on
VGA is an old video output that was first introduced back in 1987
and became the standard PC video output during the 1990s. It is a
15-pin connection that that is often colored blue to distinguish it
from other ports with pins.
You will still find VGA connections on many desktop PCs and on many
HDTVs. Televisions sometimes refer to the VGA connection as a "PC
input." Though developed during a time when resolutions were much
lower this connection has the ability to display resolutions up to
Quality depends significantly on signal output, cable quality and
cable length. Many people report that a newer digital connection
offers better quality, but others notice no
VGA output from your desktop or PC will often require that you
enable an additional display connected this way by using Windows
display properties. Some laptops include a button or keyboard
function key that toggles VGA on or off.
Introduced in 1999, DVI took over for VGA as the PC video output of
choice at the turn of the century. It was built to carry digital
signals but it also had the ability to handle analog signals.
DVI was and still is incredibly common on desktop computers but
it's not as common on laptops. It's also not that common on HDTVs,
which tend to just offer a single VGA input instead of both VGA and
DVI. Still, you can find it on some models. 1080p output is no
problem unless you are attempting to connection a PC to an HDTV
with a cable 15 feet long or shorter. Degradation of the signal can
create problems with longer runs.
This usually acts as a plug-and-play connection, so all you'll
likely need to do is plug one end of the DVI cable into your PC and
the other into your TV.
If you own a modern HDTV you almost certainly have HDMI inputs, and
if you own a fairly recent desktop or laptop you probably have an
HDMI output. This has become an incredibly popular standard for all
sorts of devices capable of video input or output.
HDMI is a digital connection that can handle resolutions up to
1920×1200 (with versions earlier than 1.3) or up to 2560×1600 (with
versions 1.3 and later). It is very much a plug-and-play solution.
Your PC should be able to automatically detect and configure any
display plugged in via HDMI.
Unlike earlier PC compatible outputs, HDMI also bundles in audio.
For a few years this was problematic because PCs were built on the
assumption that video and audio output would be handled separately
by separate chips.
However, Intel's integrated graphics has supported audio over HDMI
since 2006. Nvidia and AMD also support audio over HDMI with
current video cards, but cards that are more than a few years old
may not offer this support. Some Nvidia cards in the 200 series
included audio over HDMI but it would only work if you connected a
S/PDIF wire between your internal computer's internal sound card
and an input on the Nvidia video card.
DisplayPort / Thunderbolt
This digital video connection was thought up in 2006 as a
replacement for DVI. Unlike HDMI, DisplayPort was built with
computers in mind. It can output a resolution of up to 3840×2160
and also has the unusual ability to connect to multiple displays
from one output with a daisy-chain connection.
DisplayPort is common on some computers. AMD video cards often
include it and Apple MacBooks rely on it entirely. Its not a common
input for televisions, however, so you will usually need to acquire
a DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter.
Thunderbolt, a recently introduced connection, supports
DisplayPort. It is an unusual connection because it bundes a video
connection (DisplayPort) with a general data connection (PCI
Mini-DisplayPort and Thunderbolt connections are compatible out of
the box. That's a good thing, because not many devices offer
Thunderbolt support at this time. No televisions support
Thunderbolt at this time.
Fixing Overscan / Underscan
You'll find that 99% of the connections between a computer and a TV
are basically plug-and-play. The television and computer will
automatically communicate (provided the TV has the right input
source selected, of course!) and a picture will be display.
Even the optimal resolution will automatically be detected and
configured in many cases, and if it's not, you can fix this easily
using Window's display properties. You may find, however, that the
image is either too large or too small even when you properly
adjust the resolution.
This issue is called overscan (if the image is too large for your
television) or underscan (if the image is too small). You can't fix
it with Windows display properties but you can usually fix it using
your computer's display drivers.
Right-click on an empty portion of your desktop and look for AMD
Catalyst Control Center, Nvidia Control Panel or Intel Graphics
Properties. Once you've opened the driver control panel look for
the HDTV settings panel and then find the image scaling options.
You might also be able to fix the issue using your TV's settings,
but since various TVs have very different menus, I can only refer
you to your manual.
Other Common Display Output Problems
Though an HDTV should work with a modern computer automatically you
may occasionally receive only a black screen or a message that
tells you no input was detected.
Such problems are usually the result of an incompatibility between
a setting on your computer and a setting on your TV. Refresh rate
is a common culprit. Most TVs only support a few specific modes and
won't display an image if the refresh rate is incorrect.
You can fix this by opening your Display Properties, selecting
Adjust Resolution and then clicking Advanced Settings. You will
find the refresh rate under the "monitors" tab. Most every TV
supports 60 Hz.
Resolution can also trip up a TV in some cases. For example, if you
have a 720p television but your computer tries to output 1600×900
or 1920×1200 the signal may be rejected. You can usually fix this
by opening Display Properties and going to Adjust Resolution and
then selecting an appropriate resolution for the second display
Misuse of video output can also sometimes be a problem. On desktop
computers with a video card you will usually have two sets of video
outputs, one for the integrated video solution (which is inactive)
and one for the video card. If you try to use the outputs connected
to integrated video while the video card is installed you will not
receive a signal.
This means that a computer that physically offers numerous video
outputs may only be able to output to one or two TV displays
because the outputs are split between the active video card and the
inactive integrated video.
A Note About Standard Definition
You may have noticed that I spent this article talking about
connecting to an HDTV.
It is not impossible to connect a computer to a standard definition
television. Your best bet will be to output via VGA and convert the
signal to composite or component. Heck, maybe you'll even find a
fancy standard definition TV with a native VGA input.
That's not likely, however. And even if you manage it, don't expect
much for your trouble. Computer output is notoriously terrible on
standard definition TV. The resolution of older televisions can't
properly handle the fine text used by a computer's user interface.
I hope that this article will help you better understand PC video
output to a television. If you have any questions or suggestions
feel free to leave them in the comments.
Image Credit: Yum9me , Manfred Wassman , Samcatchsides.com ,
Aurelien Yarrow , Marc Comeau , Dan Brickley , Johnathan O'Donnell
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