What do I need to physically connect my laptop to my flat-screen TV?
If you'd prefer to go down the cabled route, all flat-screen TVs offer at least one HDMI port, as do practically all non-Apple laptops that have been manufactured in the last eight years – HDMI is the best solution as it supports both audio and video (HD and beyond). All you need therefore is an HDMI cable to connect the two.
You could spend a small fortune on expensive HDMI cables, but the truth of the matter is that for HD video transmitted from your laptop, any HDMI cable will do. You can buy perfectly functioning, gold-plated cables for under £5 (and as little as £2) from the likes of Screwfix, Maplin or Amazon.
How do I connect my MacBook to my flat-screen TV?
The latest MacBook models require a USB Type-C adapter to connect them to your TV. Apple provides a Digital AV Multiport Adapter for £65, but if you want a simple USB-C to HDMI connection at HD quality, you can get away with Camac's HDMI-only adapter, which is much more affordable at £26.
MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros ship with Thunderbolt ports that double up as Mini DisplayPorts. There are plenty of third-party cables and adapters available, but they're not all equal. Future-proof your cable by making sure it supports 4K resolutions as well as audio – one such adapter is StarTech's 2m cablefor around £21.
What cables do I need for older laptops and TVs?
If you don't need HD video – you're connecting up to an older CRT television, for example – then the best option is to use the S-Video port. It doesn't provide High Definition (HD) quality, and only carries the video signal, so you'll also need to hook up a separate audio cable – typically from your laptop's 3.5mm headphone jack – to the audio inputs on your TV.
Your TV will need one of two things: either separate S-Video and phono audio ports, typically found on the front of the TV, or a SCART socket found on the back. You'll then need to purchase an S-Video cable of suitable length such as this 2m cable, along with a suitable audio cable. If necessary, purchase a SCART adapter to connect both sets of cables to your TV.
What's the alternative to S-Video?
As analogue technologies become depreciated, modern laptops increasingly ship without an available S-Video port. If this is the case, you'll need to use the laptop's VGA port instead. This is a practical solution if your flat-screen TV has a VGA port included – a standard VGA cable coupled with an audio cable (see above) will be sufficient. You may even be able to view HD content this way.
If you're trying to hook up to an older analogue TV, however, then it becomes less feasible. You'll need an expensive VGA to TV Converter box that costs almost as much as a budget HD Ready 19-inch TV with the required VGA port built into it.
How do I connect my laptop to my TV?
Connecting your laptop to your TV with the right cable is often only half the battle. You also need to switch your TV to the correct input, plus configure your laptop or MacBook to re-route its display through the TV. This may happen automatically, but if it doesn't – or you want to configure the display differently – read on.
PC laptop users should be able to cycle through the available display options using a special function key in conjunction with the [Fn] button. Keep pressing this to cycle between laptop display only, TV only, and laptop and TV together. Alternatively, right-click the desktop in Windows 7 or 8 to select screen resolution; from here you'll be able to manually detect and select your TV's display.
MacBook users can configure the display via System Preferences: select Displays followed by the Arrangement tab (click Detect Displays if it's not present). Tick Mirror Displays to put your TV perfectly in sync with your MacBook's display as opposed to acting as an extension of it.