Your laptop screen is not the best medium for watching movies on, unless you enjoy squinting at a cramped display, of course. Thankfully, piping digital media - online and off - to your TV has never been easier, so whether you're looking for the right cable to physically connect your laptop and TV, or you want to investigate wirelessly streaming content to your television, you've come to the right place.
What do I need to connect my laptop to my flat-screen TV?
All flat-screen TVs offer at least one HDMI port on the back for connecting to external devices, and the same is true for practically all laptops manufactured in the last five or six years. HDMI is by far the best cabled solution available because not only does it support Full HD (and beyond) signals, but you only need one cable to carry both video and audio from your laptop to your TV.
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. Lindy is just one company that manufactures a wide range of cables of varying lengths at affordable prices.
How do I connect my MacBook to my flat-screen TV?
MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros ship with Thunderbolt ports that double up as Mini DisplayPorts. If you want to connect this to your TV you'll need a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter. If you'd like greater flexibility, then try Lindy's Mini DisplayPort to HDMI/DVI/DisplayPort Adapter instead. In either case you'll also need a separate HDMI cable (see above).
What cables do I need for older laptops and TVs?
If you don't need HD video - if 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 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. 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 flatscreen 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, and 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.
Can I connect my laptop to my TV without wires?
There are plenty of options for wirelessly beaming video from your laptop to your TV. The most expensive options involve purchasing a Wireless HDMI sender and receiver kit such as ZyXEL's Whd6215 four-port Wireless HDMI Kit, but this is more aimed at wirelessly transmitting between different rooms.
It's actually more cost-effective to investigate streaming media wirelessly over your network to your TV via DLNA/UPNP. Most modern Smart TVs are capable of directly accessing media in this fashion - all you need to do is turn your laptop into a media server following our advice in this article - but even if your TV doesn't sport Smart capabilities, the cost of buying a suitable set-top media player like the WDTV Live Streaming Media Player is much less than going down the wireless HDMI route. It also allows you to add other smart features to your TV like BBC iPlayer and YouTube.
Apple aficionados may prefer to go with the Apple TV, but while it works flawlessly with iTunes and your Apple mobile devices, it's less flexible with non-Apple equipment. Unless you're wedded to all things Apple, we'd suggest investigating the UPNP/DLNA solution instead.