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How do you play Blu-rays on an older model HDTV?

Joe Blumenthal has an older HDTV without HDMI inputs. How can he connect a Blu-ray player?

Joe Blumenthal has an older HDTV without HDMI inputs. How can he connect a Blu-ray player?

[Email your tech questions to answer@pcworld.com or post them on the PCW Answer Line forum.]

You need is an old Blu-ray player to work with an old HDTV. But don't worry; it doesn't have to be that old. It just has to be old enough to have component video outputs. As recently as two years ago, that was pretty much all Blu-ray players.

Component video is an analog, high-definition video connection that pre-dates HDMI. It uses three old-fashioned RCA connectors--one for each primary color (red, green, and blue). It's theoretically capable of carrying a 1080p video, but can only do 1080i with Blu-rays, because the Blu-ray standard's copy protection doesn't support an analog connection.

You can still buy some of these older models. Here are three Internet-streaming, 2010-model Blu-ray players, all with component output, that you can still buy online--at least on eBay. The links are to my reviews:

How well does this work? Before writing this article, I unplugged my Blu-ray player's HDMI connection, and connected it to my HDTV via component. It worked fine, and gave me a 1080i image.

And if your HDTV is too old to have HDMI, it probably doesn't offer 1080p, anyway, so the connection won't actually lose you anything.

Except audio.

Those three component cables only carry a video signal. You'll need another two RCA cables for the audio connection, which will be two-track analog stereo--all Blu-ray players can convert 5.1 and 7.1 soundtracks to two-track. Since your TV almost certainly has only two speakers, you can't do better, anyway.

Unless, of course, you have a separate audio system with 5.1 support and digital input. If this is the case, you can connect the Blu-ray player to that receiver via either HDMI or optical. The optical cannot give you the full power of the best Blu-ray soundtracks, but it will give you sound as good as you'd get from a DVD, and as good as you'd get in a movie theater that still uses film.

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