Modern TVs come equipped with a plethora of ports and sockets for connecting audio, video and other components. This guide will tell you what each port does and when to use it. Note that not every port is included on every television.
Get the Picture: Connecting Video
Though every TV is outfitted with a variety of inputs for Blu-ray players and other video components, these connection types are not all created equal. Familiarizing yourself with the differences will help you get the best image quality out of your TV.
1. HDMI Flat and thin; keyed with notches to indicate which way is up. HDMI is the most common, highest quality, and easiest way to connect components to your TV. This digital connection ensures zero data loss or distortion and is widely supported across a wide range of consumer electronics. It also delivers audio along with the video, all via a single cable. 2. Component A set of five round ports—three for video, two for audio. Component connections offer the highest-quality analog connection available (and it’s the only way to get HD over an analog connector). Component is a good choice if HDMI is not available, but because component requires five cables, some devices don’t support it. 3. Composite A set of three round ports—one for video, two for audio. Also called RCA connectors, composite is the lowest-quality analog connection (and it can only handle standard-definition video), but is ubiquitous on virtually every consumer electronics device. Use only if using a low-resolution source such as a VHS player. 4. RF Input A round, threaded socket. Used to connect your TV to a standard cable input or an antenna source.
Sound Stuff: Getting Audio In and Out of Your TV
In addition to video component ports, TVs also boast a selection of dedicated connectors for audio components such as AV receivers or MP3 players.
5. Optical Digital Audio Input A roughly square-shaped port, keyed with a top and bottom. Used to connect via fiber-optic cable to another audio component, such as an AV receiver, in order to transmit high-quality audio to that device (usually for listening to it on external speakers). 6. Audio Output Similar in appearance to a headphone jack. This port is used to transfer audio to or from simpler devices, like your cell phone or MP3 player. Contrary to the name, this jack supports both audio input and output. Beyond the Basics: Connecting Your PC and the Web Thanks to its excellent picture quality and wider dimensions, there will be times you’ll want to take advantage of your TV for viewing digital media on your PC or the Internet. These connections make that possible. 7. PC Input A trapezoidal port with 15 small holes in it. Also called VGA or D-Sub. This is an analog port used to connect to a computer’s video output port. Functionally you would use this port only if you wanted to use your television as a computer monitor. 8. PC Audio Input A single, small round port, similar to a headphone jack. Used in conjunction with the PC Input jack, this port is designed to connect your computer’s audio output to your television via its speaker port. 9. Ethernet A keyed, rectangular jack with eight small wires inside; looks like a large telephone jack. This port is used to connect your TV to the Internet. Useful for models with built-in Internet features and apps, like the Samsung 8000 Series 1080p Plasma HDTV. 10. USB Identical to the USB port on your PC, a small rectangular port with a flat piece of plastic visible inside. Used to connect portable media to your television, such as hooking up a thumb drive to your TV so you can view pictures stored on it.
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