Whether as a gift or taking advantage of a sale, many of us stumble across new home electronics, not understanding how to set them up.
With that in mind, we took a minute to speak with Agent Derek Meister at Geek Squad to get some answers and solve the tangle of cables behind the TV.
Doityourself.com (DIY): I have a new flat screen TV, and it has inputs / outputs that include AV1 and 2 (with the red, white, and yellow plugs), Comp 1 and 2 (with red, white, green, blue, and another red) and HDMI. What does all this really mean?
Derek Meister (DM): The way we transmit audio and video from a device to our televisions has changed and improved over the years.
To be compatible with a wide range of home entertainment devices, you will probably notice many of those different inputs available on the back of your new HDTV.
The hierarchy of inputs versus their image and audio quality is:
Coaxial Cable – This single cable will be familiar to most cable TV users. This single cable provides basic audio and video from a cable TV, cable box, or wireless antenna wall port.
In most cases, this is used for older standard definition devices.
Composite Cables – This set of three cables also provides basic standard definition video through a yellow cable and audio through a red and white cable.
We may mark these inputs as AV1, AV2, etc., and they do not have high definition image quality.
S-Video – This cable replaces the yellow composite video cable. It is still standard definition, but it often produces a better picture than composite video inputs.
Component Cables : This set of five cables can play high definition video.
Red and white audio cables have sound, while video is divided into red, green, and blue channels for better picture quality. I often marked these entries as COMP1, COMP2, and so on. On the TV.
HDMI – For most home theater setups, an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cable will provide the best high definition video and audio quality over a single cable.
DIY: So for the highest quality picture, what is the best way to connect a cable box to this TV?
DM: If your cable or satellite box supports it, an HDMI cable provides the best video and audio quality over a single cable. If your box doesn’t support HDMI, then cables will be your next option.
DIY: Where does the optical cable fit in all of this?
DM: Originally designed for high quality CD and audio systems, many televisions and home theater receivers with a Toslink port or “optical audio cable.
These ports send digital audio through light signals over fiber optic cables.
Because of the design of the cable, it can be damaged if it is bent or pinched in confined spaces.
For newer home theater equipment, HDMI cables are a better option, as they reduce the number of cables used, are stronger, and can send 7.1 multi-channel audio (if supported by the equipment) vs. 5.1 channels via Toslink.
DIY: How about an Xbox 360 or PS3?
DM: Both Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 support a variety of outputs, but recommend HDMI on your HDTV or receive.
DIY: Now that I have my TV connected properly, I want to use it. My son is in college and is on the soccer team.
I streamed their games live over the internet. Can I connect my laptop to my TV so I can watch on the big screen?
DM: It will depend on the video output ports that your laptop has. Many newer laptops have an HDMI output to send audio and video to your HDTV.
If your laptop doesn’t support HDMI, it likely has a VGA port.
If you need to use a VGA port, you will want to verify that your HDTV has a VGA input (sometimes it appears as a PC VIDEO port).
The VGA connection only carries video, so you will need an audio cable to plug into the 3.5mm headphone jack on the laptop and into a compatible port on the TV.
A select number of Intel laptops support WiDi (or wireless display). This hardware can send video wirelessly to a box that connects to your HDTV.
If you have an Apple MacBook that has a mini-Display port or a mini-DVI port, you can often find adapters to link to your TV via an HDMI cable.
If your Mac is new enough to have a Thunderbolt port, you can use a mini-port to show an HDMI adapter.
If you’re not sure what ports your PC, Mac, or HDTV has, visit your local Best Buy for help from our Geek Squad agents.
DIY: I will. On a similar note, my daughter is in the school choir. I record their performances on a camcorder.
You know what I’m going to ask. How do I watch the video on the TV?
DM: Many current camcorders may have an HDMI port or a mini-HDMI port that a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable may connect to the TV.
Older camcorders vary adapters for composite or component cables.
DIY: What about the audio? If I have HDTV, could we invest in 5.1 surround sound, or might the TV speakers need it?
DM: While a magnificent picture definitely needs a viewing experience, you need room-filling multi-channel audio to really get that cinema experience in your living room. 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound systems use several speakers strategically to separate sounds and create audio that immerses you in place of being projected from two small speakers on the front of a television.
If cables are a concern, our Geek Squad agents can help you with your cable management skills to hide cables or run them through walls for the best sound with the cleanest cable design.
There are also options for wireless speakers for designs that may require them.
If space is tight, you can upgrade those TV speakers to a soundbar system.
These compact devices can deliver enhanced audio with a range of speakers built into a unit compatible with a wide range of home theater systems.
DIY: do I connect the surround sound receiver to HDMI?
DM: Your home theater receiver functions as the heart of your home theater setup.
Devices like cable boxes, Blu-ray players, and game systems send both audio and video to the receiver, which sends multichannel sound to separate speakers and high-definition video to your HDTV.
Many receivers select more inputs than your TV, so they can act as an easy way to expand and select between your devices without having to change cables.
DIY: I now have all these components. Can I merge my remotes? Do universal remotes really work with cable, TV, surround sound, and a CD player?
DM: A universal remote is the best investment you can make in your home entertainment sanity.
They take over the remote controls that come with your devices and allow you to control several functions in one device.
The most advanced universal remote controls will allow you to program ‘macro sequences.
With a macro, you press a single button, such as “Watch Blu-Ray Movie,” and the remote automatically turns on the Blu-ray player, selects the correct audio and video inputs on your TV or receiver, along with any other settings. Of the device that may be needed.
DIY: That sounds perfect. One last question. So, I have this new flat screen HDTV, but it is not 3D. Is my new TV about to go out of date or is 3DTV just a fad?
DM: With an increasing number of 3D TV channels and 3D Blu-ray titles available every year, 3DTV is unlikely to go the way of the red and blue 3D paper cups of the 1950s.
An important consideration when watching 3D TV is that they often support other advanced features, such as improved picture handling and SmartTV functions that allow you to connect to the Internet for more streaming content.