Here's you how to use an HDMI cable to connect your Windows laptop to an HDTV so you can watch anything you can view on your laptop on your big HD screen. We'll also show you how to control your HD TV from your PC.
There are two approaches to this taks: you can either mirror what is on your laptop's desktop so that it appears on the TV, or set up the TV as a second monitor, by extending your desktop onto a second display. Here, we're going to explain how to undertake the latter task, as it is straightforward, and allows you to use your laptop as a great big remote control. (Mirroring the content of your computer on your TV screen, is a little harder to set up because you need to match the best resolution for the TV with a workable resolution on the computer itself.)
You'll need a laptop with an HDMI port and a TV with an HDMI input - pretty much any HDTV will have one, but not all laptops have HDMI. Finally, you'll need an HDMI cable.
Any HDMI cable will do, so don't be upsold by a salesman telling you that you need a 'special' cord (digital is digital, it either works or it doesn't). One thing to consider, however, is that TVs have full-size HDMI inputs but not all laptops do. Make sure you buy a cable with the correct type of HDMI connector - there are both mini and micro. See also: 3DTVs group test: what's the best 3D TV?
Connect a laptop to a TV via HDMI
1. Plug in the HDMI cable to the HDMI port on the back of the TV, taking note of which port you have plugged in to. Then using your TV remote or the buttons on the chassis scroll through the 'Inputs' until you get to that port. The screen should be blank.
2. Now you have to tell your laptop to send a signal down the HDMI port. In Windows, head into Control Panel and select 'Adjust screen resolution' from the list beneath 'Appearance and Personalization'. In the next screen you should see two different displays. (If not, check that everything is physically connected properly.)
If all is well, you will be able to see two displays, one of which will be disabled. This is why there is nothing on your TV screen. Using the laptop, click on the icon for the second monitor and choose 'Extend the desktop onto this monitor'. Hit 'Apply'. If it works you should now see a Windows desktop background photograph on the TV. If not, don't panic - try again. I couldn't tell you why, but for some reason this process doesn't always work the first time.
Obviously if it continues not to work, you have a physical problem. At this stage you have my permission to panic. But then check that the cable and both ports work by using them for other HD tasks.
3. Now you need to set the screen resolution of your second display on your PC so that it looks good on the TV. To do this simply select the second display within 'Adjust screen resolution', and using the 'Resolution:' drop-down, adjust the resolution until the desktop background photo fits across the whole TV screen. What works best will depend on the aspect ratio and size of your HDTV, but you are aiming for 'high-definition', so start from the top and work down. You want a resolution no lower than 1280x720 to make this exercise worthwhile.
In theory, you should be able to drive your TV at its native resolution, but this isn't always possible. It will depend on your exact TV and laptop's capabilities. A common problem is that the Windows desktop doesn't fit properly on your screen, either with black borders or too large and missing portions. Look in your TV's picture or image menu to find the scaling or aspect ratio setting and try and find an 'unscaled', 'pixel by pixel' or 'dot by dot' setting. It's also worth turning off any sharpening or image processing effects for the best quality.
4. Now you have to make sure that audio makes it from your PC to your TV's speakers.Most of the time, audio will continue to play from your laptop's speakers. To fix this, open the Control Panel and click on Sound. On the playback tab, you should see more than one device. If not, right-click in the white space and choose Show Disabled Devices. Hopefully your TV or at least HDMI speakers will appear in the list and you can select them instead of the laptop's.
If you still hear no audio, check that the sound isn't muted, and that the volume is set at a reasonable level both on your computer and on the TV. You may need to adjust both to get something appropriate - and if you want to control volume from your TV remote remember to set the PC volume at a level from which turning the TV volume up and down is meaningful.
5. Finally, you want to actually watch something! Because we have in effect set up the TV as an extension of our desktop, this couldn't be simpler. To watch something on iPlayer or YouTube, or from a DVD, for instance, you simply browse to and set up your chosen content on your laptop screen as you normally would. Then click and drag that window off to the right of your PC's desktop. As it goes over the edge of your computer screen, you should see it appear on the TV. You can then enable to full screen option so that the content fills the whole of your TV, and use the controls on your laptop to dictate playback just as you normally would.