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Tech Matters: How to connect your laptop to your TV and why

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Aug 23, 2023

Photo supplied

Leslie Meredith

You may want to connect your laptop to a bigger screen for a variety of reasons such as sharing photos and videos with the family. Gathering around your laptop, even if it's connected to a monitor, can be awkward if more than two people are involved. Have you thought about using your TV?

Your TV is likely in a central location with seating for your audience. It's easy to connect your laptop. There are two basic ways: wired and wireless. How you do it will depend on your laptop and your TV.

For a wired connection, you'll need an HDMI cable. These cables come in different capacities to support the bandwidth of the content you want to send from your laptop to the TV. For most people, an 18 gigabits per second that transmits 4K video at 60 hertz (resolution and refresh rate) will be fine. What you do need to think about is the length of the cable because most HDMI cables are made for connecting a laptop and a second monitor, which are typically close together.

HDMI cables are available up to 100 feet in length, but no more than 20 feet is recommended by home theater experts. Why? Because the longer the signal has to travel, the more it degrades. Shorter is better, but you don't want to be the "AV guy" standing near the screen. Also, make sure the cable is not a tripping hazard for your guests -- a little bit of electrical tape to affix the cable to the floor will prevent accidents.

Plug one end of the cable into the HDMI port on your TV and the other end into your laptop. If your laptop does not have an HDMI port like some Apple products, you can get an adapter that will have a USB-C connection for the laptop and then an HDMI port for the cable. To avoid the hassle of a cable, you may be able to use a wireless connection.

Some TVs have built-in wireless support for external displays (your laptop, a phone or a tablet) while others may require you to use an extra device, such as a Google Chromecast. Chromecasts are small devices that plug into your TV's HDMI port and a wall outlet. They are controlled through an app on your phone or via the Chrome browser on your laptop.

For TVs that support casting from a PC without an extra device, setup is pretty easy. On a Windows 10 laptop, click on the Action Center at the bottom right of your screen and select "Project." Then click on "Connect to a wireless display." If your TV is supported, it will show up in the list and you can then click on it to establish a wireless connection.

For Windows 11 users, the process is similar but you'll right-click on your desktop to bring up a menu and then choose "Display settings." A new window will open and you will select Multiple displays to bring up a new drop-down menu. Click on "Connect a wireless display." Like with Windows 10, if your TV is supported it will show up here.

Apple products work differently. If you have a Macbook or similar Apple laptop, you'll use AirPlay, which is supported by most newer TVs. If your TV doesn't have this built-in, you can add an AppleTV device to get AirPlay.

Turn on your TV and your AppleTV if you're using one. On your MacBook, navigate to Control Center by clicking the slider bar icon next to the date at the top of your computer or by using the Finder. Click "Screen Mirroring," and then select your TV model or Apple TV when it appears as an option. If a four-digit code appears on your TV, enter it on your MacBook. You can choose whether you want the TV to mirror your MacBook's screen or act like a second monitor.

You may be tempted to use a TV as a second monitor for your everyday work if you're looking at buying a second screen. It's true that TVs are generally cheaper than monitors of the same size, but you will not experience the clarity of type on a TV as you will on a monitor. In other words, websites, spreadsheets and other documents are likely to appear blurry on a TV when you are sitting close to it. You're better off with a hi-res monitor built for the task.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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