TV Connectors and Cables
There are lots of things to consider when buying a TV, from brand to screen size. The subject of connectivity doesn’t come up all that often. But it should.
Many devices now use HDMI, but some TVs only come with two slots. By counting how many you’ll need before you buy, you can save yourself a lot of hassle and cable swapping later on.
Below, we highlight some of the most common TV connectors you’ll encounter, so you’ll know exactly what you can plug into your new device.
HDMI is the most common connection you’ll find on modern TVs.
Standing for High Definition Multimedia Interface, these connectors are capable of transmitting uncompressed video and audio data. This means you can enjoy high quality visuals and sound, with just one cable.
HDMI is capable of receiving 3D video as well. Some cables even have an Ethernet channel so you can use them to connect devices to the internet via your TV or another device.
HDMI sockets are thin flat slots with angled edges to signify top and bottom. Many TVs come with two, three or even more of these, and they’re great for connecting DVD and Blu-ray players, set-top boxes and games consoles.
When buying a new TV, it’s worth thinking about how many devices will be plugged into it at any one time. If swapping cables over would be a hassle for you, it’s worth looking at TVs that offer more HDMI ports.
HDMI has gone through several editions over the last ten years, but thankfully the cables and slots have not changed physically. All your old cables and devices will still work with the new connections, although you may need a high speed cable for some features.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you need an expensive HDMI cable for a better picture. As the signal is digital, the cable will either work or it won’t. High speed cables are available online for only a few pounds. Don’t pay more unless you need a particularly long cable.
Coaxial RF Connector (TV Aerial)
The RF connector or TV aerial cable allows you to access most free-to-view TV channels.
Usually you’ll use a cable to connect this to a TV socket in your wall, which in turn runs up to your TV aerial.
This connector is a small, circular plug with a pin hole in the centre.
If you have Freeview built in, the cable can go straight from the TV to your wall socket. Or if you’re using a Freeview box, connect the TV to that first.
When buying a new TV, it’s worth thinking about how many devices will be plugged into it at any one time.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you need an expensive HDMI cable for a better picture. As the signal is digital, the cable will either work or it won’t.
SCART connections used to be common, but have largely been replaced these days by HDMI.
However, some TVs still come with a SCART socket, which takes a large, flat connector with 21 pins.
In most cases you won’t need to worry about whether you have a SCART connection or not, as the devices that use them are fairly outdated. VHS players are a good example. However, if you like retro gaming or want to watch old home movies, you may need a TV that can take a SCART lead.
Luckily, you can obtain adaptors that let you connect a SCART device to your TV using RCA connectors (see below).
Also known as phono or cinch connectors, these were very common before the rise of HD media, and you’ll still find many devices that use this connection.
As these cables can only transmit standard definition video, they’re becoming less common.
Usually comprising of three cables coloured yellow, red and white – one for video, two for audio – you’ll still find these connections on many TVs today, in spite of their age. Many older games consoles and media devices use these connections, and even newer ones like the Xbox 360 give you the choice of RCA or HDMI.
If you have a choice, use HDMI – this will give you a better picture.
Smart TVs are becoming more and more common, but you need an internet connection to access their online features.
As most people have Wi-Fi at home, a lot of TVs are designed to connect to your home network wirelessly.
If you decide to buy a new, wireless-capable TV, you should be prompted to connect it to your network during setup. This is usually detected automatically – all you need to do is pop in your wireless key.
If you don’t have Wi-Fi at home, many Smart TVs allow you to connect an Ethernet cable instead.
These look a little like a telephone cable and often come in bright colours. All you have to do is ensure you have a long enough cable to connect the TV to your internet router.
Even if you have a wireless network, you may choose to connect via Ethernet as the connection can be more reliable and less susceptible to dropouts.
Many modern TVs come with a couple of USB slots like ones found on a computer.
If you have some holiday snaps that you want to show everyone, pop them on a memory stick and plug it into your TV. Many TVs will also play video and music files from a USB stick or hard drive.
You can even use USB devices like Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick to bring you a range of great smart features like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. This is perfect for TVs that don’t have built-in smart capabilities.
Bluetooth allows devices to communicate wirelessly, without the internet.
You’ll often see this connection used when hooking up audio devices to a TV. If you have a Bluetooth sound system or headphones, you’ll have to make sure that the new TV also has this feature.
Using Bluetooth gives you greater flexibility for device connectivity and can keep your home looking tidier, as you don’t have so many trailing wires. However, it’s worth noting that Bluetooth has a fairly short range, usually up to 10 metres.
A VGA connector is a flat plug with curved edges to signify top and bottom.
It has 15 pins and screw holes to the left and right, and the cables are often blue.
The most common use of a VGA connection is to hook up a computer and a monitor. However, any TV that has a VGA connection can easily have a computer connected to it as well.
This type of connection is not overly common on TVs, especially as the same effect can be achieved using HDMI. However, if you have a lot of HDMI devices connected to your new TV, or your laptop doesn’t have HDMI, this option gives you greater flexibility.