How to connect a MacBook to a TV

TechRadar website AirPlay mirrored from MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Future)

You can connect your MacBook to a TV and make it a computer display. The easiest way to do this is through AirPlay. However, you can also use a video cable that connects to your computer’s display port. 

With the former, you can mirror or extend your MacBook display onto the TV. With cables, you can use the TV as your Mac display only.

Whether you have a MacBook Pro or an Air, here's how to connect a MacBook to a TV.

AirPlay settings on macOS Big Sur

(Image credit: Future)

How to connect a MacBook to a TV using AirPlay

With AirPlay 2-compatible smart TVs, you can stream or share content from your Apple devices. In the case of an Apple laptop, you can mirror or extend your Mac display. 

To get started, make sure both your compatible smart TV and MacBook are on the same Wi-Fi network. On your Mac, click the 'Control Center' icon on the menu bar, then choose 'Screen Mirroring'. If you don’t see the option, go into the Apple menu bar, then click System Preferences > Displays. Check the box that says, ‘Show mirroring options in the menu bar when available’.

Using the AirPlay/Screen Mirroring pull-down menu in either location, select your television from the list to begin mirroring.

Extending display on MacBook Pro using AirPlay

(Image credit: Future)

While mirroring, you may want to extend your MacBook display on your smart TV. To do so, go back into the Display settings. Choose the 'Arrangement' tab. Uncheck 'Mirror displays'. Arrange the display boxes, putting your TV display before or after the MacBook display in the on-screen example. 

When finished, select 'Off' from the AirPlay/Screen Mirror pull-down menu.

How to connect a MacBook to a TV using cables

If you have a TV without AirPlay 2-compatibility, you can connect it to your MacBook using physical cables. Your video cable must be able to connect to your MacBook’s Thunderbolt port, HDMI port, or DVI port. The other end should connect to the television’s video input port. Check your TV manual for more port information. 

Recent-generation MacBook models only come with Thunderbolt ports. With these models, you’ll need an adapter or hub to get the job done.

Once both machines are connected, you can adjust the resolution on your TV by choosing the Apple menu on your computer, then selecting System Preferences > Displays. On the 'Display' tab, select 'Default for display' to automatically use the best resolution or 'Scaled' to manually select a resolution.

If you want your television also to play audio from your Mac, choose the Apple menu, then select System Preferences > Sound. Click 'Output' and choose your TV from the list of choices.

When finished using your TV as a Mac display, unhook the cables.

As you can see, AirPlay provides more options (e.g. extending a monitor) when connecting your MacBook to a capable TV. However, the cable option is compatible with more television models since it only requires a video input port.

Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe is a staff writer at TechRadar, iMore, and wherever Future can use him. Though his passion is Apple-based products, he doesn't have a problem using Windows and Android. Bryan's a single father of a 15-year-old daughter and a puppy, Isabelle. Thanks for reading!