How to: Connect a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro to a TV

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by ziggyonice, Sep 24, 2009.

  1. macrumors 68020


    Mar 12, 2006
    Rural America
    Looking to connect your Mac notebook to a TV, projector, or sound system? Here’s a quick guide that outlines all the things you need to make it happen -- from adapters to cables to ports. Just follow the simple instructions to verify that you're getting exactly what you need. And remember, just because you setup the video side of things correctly doesn't mean you're going to get audio. If you want both video AND audio, make sure to also follow the directions indicated in the "Audio" portion of this post.


    Check the ports on the back of your TV or sound system to see which of the following options are available to you. Find the port that matches below, and you're set! Remember, if you also want audio, check the "Audio" section at the bottom of the post.

    For standard video quality:

    You can use [​IMG] -- or -- [​IMG] for a slight improvement in quality.

    If you want to use composite video and you're using a...

    If you want to use S-Video and you're using a...

    For better video quality:

    You can use [​IMG] -- or -- [​IMG].

    If you want to use VGA and you're using a...
    If you want to use component video and you're using a...

    For the best video quality:

    You can use [​IMG] -- or -- [​IMG]

    If you want to use DVI and you're using a...

    If you want to use HDMI* and you're using a...
    *The HDMI warning: If using HDMI on any Mac, keep in mind that without the proper adapter, audio from your Mac will not be transmitted though the HDMI cable. Because of this, you may need a separate audio cable (as outlined at the bottom of this post). However, some television sets will not allow audio to come from an outside source when using HDMI only for video. Therefore, you may want to check with your television's manufacturer to determine if the setup is possible.


    Check the ports on the back of your TV or sound system to see which of the following options are available to you.

    For standard audio quality:

    You can use analog [​IMG].

    If you're using any Mac notebook, you need a 3.5mm to stereo audio (aka "headphone to RCA").

    For the best audio quality:

    You can use digital [​IMG] sound.

    If you're using any model of MacBook or MacBook Pro, you need a mini Optical to Optical cable (aka "mini Toslink to Toslink").

    Hope this helps! :)
  2. macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2008
    You should add that with HDMI you can also use a DVI -> HDMI cable because that way you can buy the mini-DP -> DVI adapter, which is more multipurpose than the HDMI adapter.
  3. macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2009
  4. thread starter macrumors 68020


    Mar 12, 2006
    Rural America
    Done. :) There are probably several other alternate configurations out there. Whether or not I'd post all the possibilities I don't know, as I don't want it to be too cluttered. But in this case, your suggestion made sense so I went ahead and added it.
  5. macrumors 6502

    Jun 2, 2009
  6. macrumors 6502a


    Apr 2, 2009
    Nottingham, UK
    Nice guide, don't understand why you have VGA with S Video and component with DVI and HDMI though.

    Component and VGA are both analogue and capable of outputing to 720p (something that standard S Video isn't capable of), so would have them 2 together. DVI and HDMI are digital and can output to 1080p so would rate them as better than Component.
  7. macrumors newbie


    Sep 16, 2009
  8. thread starter macrumors 68020


    Mar 12, 2006
    Rural America
    Hmm, I was under a different impression. I did some research on the topic and it seems that there are a lot of people who go back and forth between the two. It makes sense though, so I went ahead and put VGA and Component on the same tier.

    S-Video isn't as good, however, although it is slightly better than composite. Perhaps I'll just put it under "standard" quality with a note that it is slightly higher quality than standard composite.
  9. macrumors 68000

    Jan 8, 2009
    Thank you for taking the time to compile and contribute this.

    It needs to be a sticky.
  10. macrumors 6502a


    Apr 2, 2009
    Nottingham, UK
    Fair enough, composite is definitely the lowest quality signal out of them all. I work as a trainer and deliver courses on PCs and Digital products (flat panel TVs and connections), and the most common used component is cable is YPbPr: Which is Y - Luma (brightness), Pb - difference between blue and luma and Pr difference between red and luma. So red, blue and green (the two signals combined), are transmitted and brightness.

    VGA or RGBHV (Red Green Blue Horizontal sync Vertical sync), has separate cables for red, blue and green so is an un-compressed version with other wires to control a monitor. The difference between the 2 is marginal.

    HDMI and DVI are certainly the top end, for example if you want to watch a Blu-Ray film (yes I know, not possible on a Mac), then you need to use either of those cables to get the best possible picture.

    Hope this helps, again really good guide and hope you don't find my points to be needless criticism, it's not intended as such.
  11. macrumors 6502

    Feb 21, 2007
  12. macrumors member


    Feb 9, 2009
  13. macrumors 68040


    Sep 28, 2008
    OP, this thread deserves a sticky in all three of the portable mac forums.

    Nicely done!!
  14. macrumors 6502a


    Dec 26, 2008
    Calgary, AB
    As someone who knows a lot about hooking up a home theatre including my Macbook, I found this post useful as I was unaware of the DVI vs. VGA discrepancy. Thanks for this.
  15. macrumors 68000


    Nov 14, 2008
    it would be a good sticky, but there would still be people posting questions answered by this
  16. macrumors 6502

    Sep 2, 2009
    Birmingham, UK
    Great post!
    i now know how to watch HD vids from my MBP on my TV with audio!
  17. macrumors member

    Oct 18, 2008
    Thanks for the info, too bad the adapters are all so expensive...
  18. macrumors 6502a

    Captain Planet

    Mar 24, 2007
  19. macrumors member

    Jan 17, 2009
  20. macrumors 6502a

    Nov 4, 2007
  21. macrumors newbie

    Oct 8, 2009
  22. macrumors regular


    Jul 31, 2009
    Rancho Cucamonga, CA
    Actually now for the new MBPs with the mini displayports you do not need to go the DVI to HDMI route for video. I just purchased a mini displayport to HDMI from here.

    This device works perfectly for me. :) Just plug in your surround sound speakers for (i.e. for me is harmon kardon sound sticks 2) to your MBP for the audio. There you go!
  23. macrumors 65816


    Sep 9, 2008
    Below sea level
    I have another question (you want have to add this, you could) what is the resolution off the screen when using s-video or an RCA jack. Cause when I worked with windows you'd always get that the entire resolution doesn't fit on the screen so the screen moved when you moved your mouse higher. So you can't see the top or bottom at the same time cause the minimum resolution is 800X600. My question is, is it still like this, does this still happen with the macbook. Would you need to place your mouse in the middle, when you want to see a movie in the middle of the screen. I think I could really be annoyed if it isn't really in the middle. :D
  24. macrumors 6502a


    Sep 26, 2004

    The Unibody MBP's does not output an analog DVI signal therefore a DVI to component cable will not work. To get component out of a unibody MBP, the only route you can take is to us a mini-display port to VGA adapter and then a VGA to component cable.
  25. macrumors member

    Jul 13, 2007
    Great Thread. I am sure this will be useful to all new mac users.

    Just thought I would let you know, that if you have a 'newer' machine with a mini display port, you can now purchase a third party adapter -> Mini Display Port to HDMI that carries audio too. It was released about 3 days ago.

    Here is the link: Mini Displayport Male and USB Male Audio to HDMI Female Converting Adapter

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