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How Do I Hook Up... my High Definition TV? Newsletter Signup
December 5th, 2009 by Joe Chianese Page 1Page 2Page 3

Learning the Inputs of an HDTV

Just bought a high definition TV? Own one already, but don't know how to get the best picture and sound out of it? You've come to the right place.

Let's dive right in by looking at the inputs on a high definition TV:

Go ahead and click on the image for a much-enlarged version. Give it a good look and see if it looks familiar to your TV (you should have similar options, but they will probably be laid out differently).

If it seems overwhleming or complicated, I'll start with each type of input (and output, since there are a few). Feel free to refer back to this image when you need to.

Basic HDTV Inputs

Your TV will have at least one composite video input (matched with composite audio). Some HDTV sets also have an s-video input, such as this one Here we find our basic audio/video inputs: S-video up top and composite video (yellow) beneath it. At the bottom are composite audio inputs (red and white). There are two of these sets of inputs next to each other, both with s-video and composite video. You couldn't actually plug in both s-video and both composite video inputs, though; you can only use s-video or composite video once per vertical set. Meaning, for each of these two columns of inputs, you've got to choose s-video or composite video, but not both at once. What I really mean in this specific example is that both the s-video and composite video connections shown here are included under a single video input (video 1). You could connect the s-video under video 1 and the composite video under video 2 if you'd like; you just can't use the s-video and composite video for the same input (ex., both s-video and composite video for video 1).

Both columns have composite audio in line with the video inputs. This makes it obvious which audio input goes with which video input. Some TVs are not as clear, but most should place them together as seen here (and labeled: note this is Video 1).

You only need to use the antenna inputs (used with coaxial cable) when you don't have a cable box or are actually using an antenna. You would also use it if you had a CableCard Antenna inputs use coaxial cable (that's the one going into your cable or satellite box from the wall). You'd use this if you were in fact not using a cable (or satellite) box to get the signal to your TV. Other uses for this include antennas (like HDTV antennas or plain old analog TV antennas). You could also connect the coaxial or ANT out of your cable box to this input for a very basic connection. Note that even composite video would be higher quality than a plain old coaxial cable.

The only other time you'd be using this is if you had a CableCard.

Advanced HDTV Inputs

CableCard allows you to get most of the channels and features that a cable box offers without actually having a cable box. You still pay for the service (and often, additional monthly fees for using a CableCard) but you no longer require a box. You just plug the cable line directly into the TV and your cable provider installs the CableCard. The image below shows you where the CableCard would go.

CableCard lets you get the same standard and high definition channels and features as your cable box. You still have to pay for cable, and usually there is an additional charge for using a CableCard

Not every cable provider offers a CableCard or all of their channels/services through a CableCard. You'll have to take it up with Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, or whoever provides your cable TV service.

G-Link is a proprietary connection used for controlling other devices from your TV

Something you may have never seen before: The G-Link on this TV is unique to Mitsubishi televisions. Most TVs will have something similar, though, usually with "IR" referenced somewhere in the name.

In most cases, these inputs allow you to connect IR transmitters to the TV and your other home theater devices, like a surround sound receiver. Then, from the television, you're able to change settings on your other devices without switching remotes or getting up to manually change something. Its very similar to just buying a universal remote control. Most of us can just overlook this type of connection as it isn't of much use to your typical home theater enthusiast.

Digital coaxial is an all-digital audio connection used for 5.1 surround sound What you're seeing here is called digital coaxial. The connectors on these look like RCA connectors (as found on composite and component cables). You'd usually find something like this on a DVD player or surround sound receiver as they allow for digital, 5.1 surround sound to pass through. This makes digital coaxial wildly separate from composite audio, which is only stereo sound. Having digital coax on your TV is only necessary when using a CableCard so that you can connect it to a surround sound receiver and get 5.1 sound from your high definition channels.

Firewire started on computers (Macs, specifically). It is a high speed transfer connection that can be used to control other devices in your home theater If you've seen FireWire before, it was probably on computer or camcorder. FireWire is a high speed transfer connection commonly used for video editing (or transferring video from a camera) on the computer. In this picture, there is merely an outline of a pair of FireWire ports, indicating FireWire was an option available on certain models of these TVs. You'll also find FireWire on many cable and satellite boxes.

One use of FireWire on a cable/satellite box is to connect it to your computer. With special software and settings, you can get standard and high definition TV on your computer with a TV tuner capture card. Additionally, FireWire ports on televisions can do the same thing when used with CableCard. The other option for FireWire is similar (and in conjunction with) the IR emitter port. There are proprietary devices that use FireWire ports on your TV to control the rest of your home theater. Again, as with the G-Link port above, this isn't something you need to be concerned with. These types of connections are for the high end market and special use.

All-Digital High Definition Video Inputs

HDMI is an all-digital connection capable of transferring both high definition video and surround sound audio in a single cable HDMI inputs are included with this TV; two of them, in fact. HDMI is all-digital and lets you pass high definition video and surround sound audio through just one HDMI cable. It really doesn't get any better than that! HDMI is the highest quality audio/video cable available, and it stands to reduce cable clutter dramatically. High definition DVD players, HD cable boxes, and HD satellite boxes are all coming standard with HDMI now. If you plan on buying an HDTV, make sure it has at least two HDMI inputs.

HDMI supports audio and video, but not all devices support the inclusion of audio through HDMI. In this instance, there are separate HDMI composite audio inputs in case the source device does not support audio and video through HDMI

HDMI audio inputs are seen in the top center of this TV's input array. You're probably wondering why, seeing as how HDMI can handle audio and video in the same cable. Well, the thing is, not all devices support this - some only support video through HDMI, not audio. In that case, you would need to plug the audio in separately, and there's where these composite inputs come in handy. This diagram is labeled HDMI/DVI Audio because some TVs group them together. You'll read about DVI next.

DVI is used for high definition video and for connecting computers to TVs Here's DVI, HDMI's "big" brother. DVI is also all digital, but it cannot process audio signals. That and its wide connectors make DVI less desirable then HDMI. Even then, if you don't have HDMI but do have DVI, its an equal connection to HDMI in terms of picture quality. Since they are both digital cables, there would be no difference between the picture quality.

DVI can't transfer audio and video together, so separate audio inputs are needed

As with HDMI (but absolutely necessary for DVI), there is a set of composite audio inputs for DVI. You may have noticed "PC" being mentioned in the DVI input labels. This is because computers commonly use DVI ports on their video cards to connect to monitors (mostly LCDs). By the same token, you could connect a computer to a TV using a DVI cable.

Component Video and Monitor Out

Our last set of inputs include component video and an output (monitor out).

Component video is a very common but still analog video connection. It separates the colors better than other analog cables by using three separate channels Component video is a very common video connection. It may still be analog, but it is capable of up to 1080p high definition. HDMI and DVI will provide a slightly increased picture quality over component when viewing high def video. They will not, however, for standard definition channels. Standard def channels will be a little more "edgy", or overly sharp, because of HDMI and DVI. Component isn't a whole lot better, but it may be noticeable to you. Either way, you need to connect composite audio in addition to component video since it can't handle audio and video together. The three separate cables (or channels) of component video are actually splitting up the colors so that the picture quality is as good as analog gets.

The monitor out allows you to send a video signal from the TV to another device. This isn't very useful for most people, but it can be used for sending the video signal to another TV, display device, computer, or receiver. In the case of the receiver, the video signal could be sent to various other displays. You could also use it to record the signal from a VCR or DVD recorder, but image quality would be minimal since it is composite video.

Getting to Know HDTV Inputs

Its important to become comfortable with the various inputs and (sometimes) outputs of your television. Knowing which does what will allow you to make the best decisions on hooking up your components or buying a new TV. You need to be aware of what inputs you're going to be using when buying a new TV, but it doesn't do you any good if you have no idea what they are.

Once you're comfortable with all the inputs on your TV, feel free to move on to the next page via the link below.
>>Next: High Def TVs Continued (2)

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