Sick of watching movies on your small laptop screen? Our latest guide explains how to stream your laptop to your TV with minimal cost and fuss.
Previously, we explained how to stream your tablet to your TV and in this week’s Helpdesk Challenge, we show you how to stream your laptop to your TV.
Our guide explains the cheapest ways to get your laptop’s contents on the big screen both wirelessly and via cables. Read on to find out how.
Best laptops to buy – the top three laptops Which? has tested
Connecting via a cable
Newer laptops – HDMI
Newer laptops and TVs use a connection called HDMI, and this is our recommended connection type to use. It carries high definition video and audio over one cable, so you won’t need to mess around with multiple cables.
Also worth mentioning, you don’t need to buy a fancy, gold-plated expensive HDMI cable either. A basic cable should suffice and should only cost about £2.50 online. For longer cables over ten metres, differences in performance may possibly be an issue if there is interference between the video source and the TV.
Older laptops – DVI/VGA
Older laptops may use a DVI output, but DVI and HDMI are compatible. You can spend a couple of pounds on a DVI-to-HDMI cable or adaptor to connect to your TV.
VGA tends to be on older laptops or desktop PCs and it’s still fairly common even on newer laptops. Check the back of your TV for a socket labelled PC, RGB or D-sub. Vga cables cost around £3 online. If your TV doesn’t have a VGA socket, then you’ll need to buy an adaptor, such as Kanaan’s VGA-to-HDMI converter, which costs about £32 online.
If you have an older big-box TV, rather than a newer flatscreen, it’s usually much harder to connect to a laptop. TVs of this era lack both HDMI and DVI/VGA and there are no cheap or easy ways to connect your laptop to the Scart or Composite video inputs on older TVs.
Wired for sound
Neither DVI nor VGA carry audio to your TV, so you’ll need to use additional cables. The best solution is to connect your laptop’s audio-out or headphone socket to the auxiliary input (Aux in) on your hi-fi and listen to sound through your stereo speakers. You’ll need to use a 3.5mm minijack cable or minijack-to-phono (red and white) for this. If that’s not possible, a secondary solution is to just use your laptop speakers.
Most mac computers can be connected to a TV via HDMI, but not all come with a HDMI socket built-in. Those that don’t can instead be connected via DisplayPort. DisplayPort is similar to HDMI, where it carries HD video and audio over one cable, but fewer devices support this connection type. However, you can buy a DisplayPort-to-HDMI cable (costs less than £10 online), but make sure you get one that carries audio as well as video.
To get it up and running, click Displays in System Preferences, click Arrangements and place a tick next to where it says Mirror Displays.
If connecting multiple cables sounds like too much work, another option is to connect a dedicated wireless network media player into your TV. This effectively cuts out the middle man and plugs your TV directly into the web.
Western Digital’s WD TV Play Media Player (around £70 on Amazon) is a small box that plugs into your TV and can connect to your home network wirelessly or via an Ethernet cable. As well as letting you play files that are on your laptop, the WD TV box has a range of its own apps for streaming entertainment. For example, access to online services such as NetFlix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter and more. Quite simply, for around £30 this little box can turn your TV into a smart TV.
Laptop streaming – what solution do you use?
Needless to say there are more ways than we mention here to connect your laptop to your TV, but we’ve tried to keep it to the simplest and cheapest methods. If you have a better way, please let us know in the comments section. Just be sure to reference the name of the laptop or TV you use.
Laptop reviews – find the best laptop for you
Do I need a laptop or a tablet? – our choosing tool will help you find out
Best cheap laptops for under £500 – we pick the five best laptops with a budget price