A larger display for working on the computer and the expansion of the TV with apps and programs – the reasons for connecting laptop and TV speak for themselves. In this practical guide, we will explain how do you cast your laptop screen to TV and use it optimally.
As small and mobile devices, laptops have replaced desktop computers in many homes. One disadvantage, is that they have a relatively small display. If you want to view vacation photos or movies, work or play games on a large screen, you can easily do that with your TV screen. There are several ways to make a connection.
Cast laptop screen to TV via HDMI cable
HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is one of the standard connections for video as well as audio transmission on current laptops. The HDMI connection with the TV works like this:
- Connect the laptop and TV via HDMI by plugging one end into the laptop’s HDMI input and the other end into the TV’s HDMI input.
- Then select the correct HDMI input in the TV’s settings.
- Set the desired format in the screen resolution on the computer or TV.
If you have a MacBook, you may need an HDMI adapter to connect it to the TV, depending on its age and model.
Which cable you choose depends on your TV and your desired quality. If you want to enjoy 4K quality, you should read the following section.
The right HDMI cable for 4K TVs
HDMI comes in different versions, all of which can transmit audio and video, but not at the exact resolution. Thus, an HDMI connection up to version 1.4 can only achieve UHD resolution at 30 Hz. This strongly affects the usability of a 4K TV on the laptop.
This is recognizable by a “lagging” picture or a “faltering” mouse on the desktop. This makes the TV unusable for gaming or as a work monitor. For this reason, many new TV manufacturers equip their devices with at least an HDMI 2.0 port that can handle a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, including 60 Hz.
If you want to use your 4K TV as a monitor for working, surfing, or gaming, get an HDMI 2.0 port or higher. You’ll also need the appropriate HDMI cable. The alternative would be to lower the maximum resolution so that the TV would work with lower pixel counts.
HDMI 2.0 and copy protection
Whether copy-protected content finds its way from the laptop, receiver, or Blu-ray player to the 4K TV depends on the HDMI 2.0 interface and the supported HDCP standard (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection). Suppose a 4K movie is encrypted with HDCP 2.2. In that case, it can only be played in 4K resolution with 3,840 x 2,160 pixels on the UHD TV if all devices in the playback chain meet the HDMI 2.0 specifications and support the HDCP 2.2 encryption system.
If not, the 4K movies will be played at the best possible Full HD resolution (1,920 × 1,080 pixels) instead of the maximum possible UHD resolution, according to the Blu-ray Association’s specifications for 4K Blu-rays.
If you want to watch copy-protected 4K content on your UHD TV, your TV should have the following features and characteristics:
- 3,840 x 2,160-pixel resolution
- Support for 50 and 60 Hz frame rates
- Internet connection
Cast laptop screen to TV without cable
A wireless connection is more elegant because the notebook doesn’t have to be right next to the TV.
Connect laptop via Miracast or Chromecast.
If you have a smart TV or a network-compatible TV, you can easily connect it to your laptop via Miracast without cables. First, you need to connect the TV to your Wi-Fi network to do this. The user manual of the respective device will show you how to do this. Then establish the connection between the notebook and the TV as follows:
- Depending on the TV model, go to your smart TV’s settings or network services.
- Look for the item “Screen Mirroring” or “Miracast” and activate the setting.
- On your laptop with Windows 10 or 11, enter the “Windows key + K” key to search for devices to connect to.
- The name of your smart TV should appear on the list. Select it.
- You should then see your laptop’s picture on the external screen.
Tip: Devices without the Miracast function can be upgraded using a wireless display adapter. Then the connection should work as described above. Another option is the Google Chromecast. Once you have set it up on your TV, open the Chrome browser on your laptop and select the “Stream” option in “Settings.”
Cast laptop screen to TV via WLAN or Bluetooth
Here you have two options to cast the laptop to the TV: via Bluetooth or via WLAN.
The prerequisite is having a smart TV with WLAN or Bluetooth capability. Smart TVs without this functionality can be upgraded. You only have to activate the connection if the technical requirements are met.
For Windows 10 and higher, proceed as follows:
- Click the Windows icon in the taskbar with the mouse and select “Settings.”
- Go to “Devices” > “Add Bluetooth or another device” > “Wireless display or docking station.”
- Then the TV can be selected from the list of devices.
Even if you connect the laptop to the TV wirelessly, there is still one last step: you need to set the corresponding HDMI source on the TV.
Connect wirelessly on MacBook.
On the Mac, the wireless connection works with AirPlay. Some modern smart TVs have the AirPlay 2 interface for this or receive it through a software update. If you have an older TV, you can upgrade it via an Apple TV box. To transfer your MacBook screen in this way, select the icon for screen synchronization in the control center of your MacBook. Here you should now see your TV or Apple TV. If you select it, your screen will be transferred.
Connect laptop with analog connections.
Older laptops and TVs, in particular, still have a VGA port that handles an analog image signal.
Generally, a VGA port offers a maximum resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, an aspect ratio of 16:9, and a frame rate of 75 Hz. When connecting a laptop and TV, a digital signal is converted into an analog one and then digitized again in the display. Therefore, graphic losses are to be expected. For this reason, a connection via a VGA cable is only conditionally suitable for playing HD material or games.
An analog and digital alternative to VGA would be a DVI cable, but hardly any TVs have this connection. A remedy is an adapter, which you can get in electronics stores or online. However, the picture quality can vary greatly depending on the condition and length of the cable.
Cast laptop screen to TV: Tip for setting up
If you connect your laptop to a TV, your laptop screen is usually mirrored on the TV. However, mirroring is not the only option; extending the desktop is also an excellent way to use the TV from the computer.
In Windows 11, for example, you enter the key combination “Windows key + P” to open the display options. Here you have the option to expand the laptop’s desktop on the TV, which not only frees up space but also turns the TV into a huge entertainment monitor while you work on the laptop.
On your MacBook, you can find corresponding settings options by clicking on the apple icon in the upper left corner of the menu bar and further on “System Preferences” > “Displays” > “Arrange.”
Additional accessories for easier operation
Especially when using large TVs from 42 or 47 inches, you should keep a minimum distance of around 2 meters to protect your eyes. To keep the laptop safe on the table next to the TV, it’s best to use wireless accessories to work.
Some manufacturers offer Bluetooth-powered keyboards and mice for this purpose, which you can use to operate your laptop remotely. Even for gamers, gaming keyboards, and mice are now available for the sofa.
Cast laptop screen to the TV with little effort.
Plug the cable into the laptop and TV, and you’re ready to go. Or connect the TV to the WLAN and cast the laptop with just a few clicks. That’s how quickly you can transfer your computer desktop to the big TV. As a general rule, digital connections are better than analog connections for achieving a sensational image of your desktop on the TV.
The laptop does not connect to the TV via HDMI – what is the problem?
If no picture appears on the TV, you can try the following:
- Turn off all HDMI inputs on the TV. Possibly only the wrong one was done.
- Use the Windows key + “P” in the screen settings of the notebook to see if the TV is activated as an additional screen. Here “Duplicate” or “Advanced” should be selected.
- Restart the notebook – sometimes it works after that.
- Update the drivers if your notebook has a dedicated graphics card. You can find out what this is in our guide to notebook components.
- Shake the cable carefully. There might be a loose contact at the plug or the socket. A port could also be defective. To find out the problem, you can test the cable on another socket, another TV, or another notebook.
If all this doesn’t help, testing with another, shorter HDMI cable is worth testing. Sometimes the cable is simply defective or too long. If the signal is too weak, picture hangs can occur, or the picture remains completely absent. How long the cable can be depends on its quality and the signal strength of the notebook.
Can I use a TV as a second screen on my laptop?
Theoretically, yes. However, the pixel density of TVs is typically lower than that of monitors. In addition, the images on TVs are usually less sharp because the devices work internally with data compression. All of this argues against using them for longer, concentrated work. And what about gaming? Special gaming monitors are more recommendable for games because their response time is faster.
So, a TV as a monitor replacement only makes sense in certain cases. Video editing is one of them, to get a better impression of the subsequent effect on a large TV screen.