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Hook Your Mac Up to Your HDTV

A Little Adapter May Be All You Need

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Mac to HDTV

A PC port should be considered if you have over or under scan issues.

Courtesy of Vizio

One of the first things you may notice about your new big-screen HDTV is that it has more connections for video than your old TV ever dreamed about. It probably has two or three HDMI connections, maybe a DVI connector, a VGA connector, and at least one component video connection. And those are just the connections most commonly used for high definition.

It’s shame to let all those connections go to waste. Your Mac just happens to be sitting nearby; why not hook it up to your new HDTV? It's actually a pretty easy task. A few lucky souls won't even need an adapter; for the rest of us, at least one adapter will be necessary.

Note: A newer version of this article is now available Macs and Home Theater: Connect Your Mac to Your HDTV

Pick the Right HDTV Port

For best quality, your HDTV's HDMI or DVI ports are the preferred connection method. Both are capable of the same digital quality. The only practical differences are the style of the connector and the fact that HDMI supports video and audio in a single connection.

If it has one, another option is to use your HDTV’s VGA port. The VGA connection isn't as good as the HDMI or DVI method, but as long as your TV supports full resolution via the VGA port, you'll be hard pressed to notice the difference.

Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini

Mac Pros, MacBook Pros, and Mac Minis have standard DVI connectors. Mac Minis and MacBook Pros have a single DVI port; Mac Pros have at least two DVI ports.

If your HDTV has a free DVI port, then all you need is a standard DVD cable; no adapter is necessary. But in all likelihood, you'll need to connect your Mac to your HDTV using either an HDMI or VGA connection; both options require an adapter. If you choose VGA, you can use the adapter that came with your Mac.

If you choose HDMI, you'll need a simple adapter, which is available from multiple sources. The adapter may be a cable with a DVI connector on one end and an HDMI connector on the other, or it may be a small adapter that has both types of connectors, but no cable. Either type will work fine.

iMac, MacBook

iMacs and MacBooks have a mini DVI connector for hooking up external monitors or TVs. You'll need at least one adapter, maybe even two. At a minimum, you'll need a mini DVI-to-DVI adapter. You may also need a DVI-to-HDMI or DVI-to-VGA adapter, depending on which port on the HDTV you choose for the connection.

Make the Connection

Once you determine which, if any, adapters you need, and have the necessary cable to reach from your Mac to the HDTV, turn off both the HDTV and the Mac. Connect the cable between the Mac and the HDTV.

Turn the HDTV back on first. It doesn't need to be set to the connection the Mac is on, but it must be powered up first, so that when it boots, your Mac can recognize the TV and the resolution it needs. Once the HDTV is powered up, turn on the Mac.

Your Mac should recognize the format and resolution of the TV, and automatically select the native resolution of the TV for running the video. In a few seconds, you should see the Mac desktop on the HDTV.

Over or Underscan

You may notice that the Mac's desktop appears to be slightly larger than the HDTV's screen (its edges are cut off); this is called overscan. Or, you may notice that the desktop doesn't occupy all of the HDTV's screen real estate (there are dark areas around the edges); this is called underscan.

You can usually correct either issue by making adjustments on the HDTV. Check the HDTV's manual for information on making scan-related adjustments. They may be called overscan, underscan, dot-by-dot, or pixel-by-pixel. If your HDTV has a dot-by-dot or pixel-by-pixel capability, give this a try; it should eliminate any over or underscan issues. Some HDTVs only offer these special scan controls on specific inputs, so be sure to connect to the corresponding input on your HDTV.

Time to Watch a Movie

Once you have your Mac and HDTV working together, it's time to kick back and watch a video from your Mac. Be sure to check out the QuickTime HD trailers for a sense of what HD and your Mac is capable of.

Enjoy!

Note: A newer version of this article is now available Macs and Home Theater: Connect Your Mac to Your HDTV

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