What cables do I need for my TV?

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By Mike Atherton 16 Jan 2018

If you've just bought a new TV and you're not sure what all the connectors are for, this guide will help you understand what cables to use and what they all do.

HDMI

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HDMI is the most common way to connect things like set-top boxes, games consoles, and DVD players. HDMI cables are able to carry high quality video and audio signals. All new TVs come with at least one HDMI connector with most of them offering multiple connectors so you can plug in a few different devices.

SCART

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Most modern kit doesn't use SCART at all because it's mostly been replaced by the HDMI cable, and some TV manufacturers have stopped offering SCART connectors altogether. If you do still have an older games console or video recorder, you might need to keep hold of your SCART cables but it's unlikely that you'll find a new device that needs to be connected in this way.

Ethernet (LAN)

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Most smart TVs come with Wi-Fi making it easy to connect to your home network, but lots of TVs also have an ethernet (or LAN) port included too. The only real benefit to using a wired connection is that it can sometimes be a bit more stable than Wi-Fi, buy your TV will need to be close to your router to be able to connect it.

Headphones

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All TVs come with a headphone jack and depending on the manufacturer it can sometimes be a bit tricky to find. If you're likely to use headphones with your TV a lot, we'd recommend leaving an audio extension lead plugged into the headphone jack so you don't need to fumble around at the back of the TV everytime you want to put your headphones on.

Antenna

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All modern TVs come with Freeview built in, which replaced the old analogue TV broadcasts in 2012 but you'll still need to connect your TV to an aerial to watch Freeview. You can plug an indoor or outdoor aerial into this socket but bear in mind that you might not get a strong signal with an indoor aerial.

If you use a service like Sky, Virgin Media, or Freesat, you don't need to use an aerial at all. Sky and Freesat need a satellite dish to work, and you just connect the box to your TV using an HDMI cable. Virgin Media uses a cable connection and also connects to your TV using HDMI.

USB

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Lots of TVs come with USB connectors these days, and they're great for sharing videos and photos. They're also really handy if you use a streaming stick, like a Chromecast, or Fire TV Stick because you can plug the streaming stick into the HDMI slot and use the USB connector on the TV to power it.

Component and composite video

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These work in a similar way to SCART leads and while they're not obsolete yet, there are very few reasons to choose a component cable over an HDMI. Component cables have five connectors - three for video and two for audio, and can be plugged into most TVs, but HDMI will usually give you much better video and audio quality.

Composite works in a similar way to component but only has three connectors - two for audio and one for video. These are sometimes also called 'RGB' cables and were mostly used on things like video recorders, and older games consoles.

Digital audio output (SPD/IF)

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Digital audio output (sometimes called 'SPD/IF' or Optical) is used to connect the TV to home cinema systems and soundbars. They work slightly differently to most cables because they use optical fibres instead of the more traditional electrical signals. They're able to carry a high quality digital signal to anything up to a 5.1 surround sound system, but if you have anything bigger than that, you'd need to use an HDMI cable.

DVI and VGA

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DVI and VGA connectors are mainly found on older computers and laptops, and can be used to connect them to your TV or monitor. Most newer computers use HDMI instead, which also has the advantage of sending both video and sound - whereas DVI and VGA can only send video. 

Hopefully, that's everything you need, but if you'd like help with anything else, you can get in touch with one of our Team Knowhow Experts here.

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