Monday, April 29, 2013

Connect a Mac to a TV

8:03 AM

HDMI is really the best way to connect a MacBook Air, Pro, iMac, or Mini to an HDTV screen, whatever your intended usage purpose is. Yes, the AirPlay feature can also export a screen to show up on a TV through an Apple TV box, but the HDMI method has several distinct advantages; it’s cheaper, resource usage is considerably less, there are no slowdowns, the video quality does not depend on network latency, and it’s just generally much more versatile, making the only real downside to the HDMI approach being the physical cable connectivity. Lets get started and cover the basic requirements first.


Virtually every semi-modern Mac will fit the bill, but you will need the following:
  • Mac with Mini-DisplayPort, Mini-DVI*, or Thunderbolt port
  • Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt to HDMI Adapter with Audio Support ($10-$15)
  • HDMI cable ($5-$20 depending on length)
  • HDTV with HDMI input, just about any modern HDTV
Note about HDMI adapters and audio support: there are many options available on Amazon and some are very cheap, many of which will not actually carry audio despite advertising that they do. Generally, the adapters that cost a little bit more tend to be more reliable, so be sure to read the reviews and make sure that audio does indeed work for the adapter you are ordering. I’ve had the best experience with the Monoprice brand, but your mileage may vary. Also note that for 2010 and older Macs, the Mini-DVI to HDMI adapters do not carry audio at all, thus you will need a separate audio output option that we won’t cover here (external speakers, separate audio cable, etc).

Connect the Mac to the TV

Establishing the initial connection is remarkably straightforward and is just a matter of physically connecting the cables to one another from the Mac to the TV.

The location of the video output port varies per Mac model, but it’s usually on the right-side of the MacBook Air, the left side on the MacBook Pro, and it’s always on the back of the iMac and Mac Mini.

With everything ready, it’s time to hook everything up and get the connection going:
  • Connect that HDMI adapter to the video output port on the Mac
  • Connect the HDMI cable to the adapter, and the other end of the HDMI cable needs to go into an available HDMI source port on the back or side of a TV
  • Turn the Mac on if it isn’t already
  • Flip the TV’s video input source over to HDMI (often through a “Video Source” button on the TV’s remote control)
The Mac should instantly recognize the TV and extend the desktop over to the HDTV’s screen. If that doesn’t happen, you are probably on the wrong video source of the TV, so try another HDMI source. Some modern HDTV’s have up to 6 HDMI ports, meaning you’ll have to flip through each of them to find the proper one carrying the Macs video and audio output signal.

Configure the TV Screen for Optimal Video Display

By default the Mac will attempt to use the TV as an external display, extending the desktop to the TV screen. That’s great if you intend on using the TV as a large external monitor, but if you’re aiming to watch video or a movie, or play games, you’re better off using Display Mirroring in many case. Option A describes how to do this easily:

A: Set Up Mirroring

  1. With the Mac connected to the TV, open System Preferences
  2. Choose “Displays” and then click the “Arrangements” tab
  3. Check the box for “Mirror displays”

B: Set the TV Display as the Primary Display

  1. Open System Preferences from the  Apple menu after the Mac & TV are connected to one another
  2. Choose “Displays” and then go to the “Arrangements” tab
  3. Drag the white menubar from the smaller built-in display to the external TV display, thereby turning the TV into the primary screen

Change Sound Output from the Mac to TV via HDMI

Unless the Mac is hooked up to some great external speakers, you’ll almost certainly want to set audio output to go through the TV’s speakers rather than the tiny ones built into the computer. For just about every HDMI based Mac-to-TV connection, these audio settings must be adjusted manually after the two have been attached to one another and video is already displaying on the TV screen:
  • Open System Preferences from the  Apple menu and choose “Sound”
  • Click the “Output” tab and look under the “Type” list to find the “HDMI” option and select it

Get a Good Video Playback App

If the entire reason you’re doing this is to watch videos on a bigger screen, be sure you get a good video playback app. Here are four great free apps:
  • XBMC – media center and much more, plays almost any video you can throw at it
  • Plex – media center app that also plays virtually every video format
  • VLC – barebones but powerful video playback app that works with nearly all video formats
  • MplayerX – more full-featured video player that is compatible with the majority of video formats

First, let’s enable screen zoom if you haven’t done so yet:

  • Open System Preferences from the  Apple menu and choose “Accessibility”
  • Choose “Zoom” and enable the zoom features, choose either the keyboard shortcut or zoom gesture option
Note: If this tutorial worked for you (and it should work), please leave a comment below. Thanks.

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