Help and advice

Inputs and outputs: a guide to TV connectivity

You might think you’re just buying a TV, but it’s more complex than turning up at a showroom and picking up your favourite model. Think of all the things a television is used for - gaming, DVDs or Blu-rays, maybe even the internet - and it’s clear that your set is one component in a broader network of connected devices in your home.

When it comes to replacing your television, you need to know which inputs and outputs the new model should have to meet your needs. Of course, look at the other items you already have at home too, so you can make sure the set you choose is compatible with other appliances at home.

HDMI

This type of interface is a compact channel for transferring uncompressed video and audio data from a source device to a display device such as a TV, computer monitor or video projector. In practice, this is most likely to be used for watching video located on a laptop or other device through a television set. It’s a very useful thing to have and likely to grow in importance as the way we watch films and TV evolves. Some TVs may come with the cable too, though this can be bought separately.

Anything purchased in the past few years with a HDMI connector probably uses version 1.4. But as high and ultra-high definition graphics have become more popular, a version 2.0 has been announced which is designed to cope with higher quality images and better bandwidth. It’s not yet clear whether the update will be downloadable or upgrades will be required, but do your homework on your manufacturer of choice to see exactly what you’ll need.

There is also a similar input known as a DVI cable, which is almost exactly like HDMI but is only capable of handling video. The results can be good, but you will need a separate audio cable.

Component and composite video

The traditional choice for carrying analogue video signals from DVD, computers or gaming consoles. Component video requires three cables, one each for red, blue and green, which are amalgamated into a single cable in a composite video system. It’s generally thought that component provides the better picture quality of the two, though a lot of models will come with the option to use both. Significantly, neither carries audio and so both will need to be coupled with an audio cable, but this should come as standard on all televisions.

USB

A wide range of devices can connect to a TV using a USB cable. As well as the familiar USB stick and or portable hard drive, it can also be used to connect to laptops, computers and even mobile phones. Some of the more current models also require occasional firmware updates to keep them performing at their best or improving, which can be downloaded from the Internet and uploaded to the TV set via USB.

Ethernet

A growing number of new models are WiFi enabled, meaning information can be transmitted to them wirelessly and you can access the internet with your TV. However, if your internet connection is unreliable or you’re expecting to transfer a large amount of data - online gaming or streaming video, for example - you might consider using an ethernet cable which runs directly into the set.


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