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Your Mac Loves Your New TV

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You finally purchased the TV you deserve thanks to this year’s Black Friday deals. I know I did. You may have also purchased a Blu-ray player. Congratulations on joining the high definition world. If your new Blu-ray player doesn’t offer Netflix instant streaming, though, your Mac can, along with Hulu.

For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming you are using a Macbook or Macbook Pro, but the process works with desktop Macs, too, just make sure you know what kind of port your computer has. Your goal is to get both the audio and video from your computer into your TV. Unfortunately, Macs don’t have HDMI (audio and video combined) yet so we have to use two cables. Your new TV definitely has HDMI so we’ll use an adapter to make the connection.


HDMI cables are very affordable on Monoprice: High Speed HDMI 1.3a Category 2 Certified Cable 28AWG – 6ft w/Ferrite Cores. You definitely need one of these.

First you must figure out if you have Mini DVI or Mini DisplayPort. If you have a unibody Macbook or Macbook Pro then you have Mini DisplaypPrt. If you have an aluminum Macbook or Macbook Pro then you have Mini DVI. If you’re not sure then take a look at these pictures.

Mini DisplayPort:

The adapter you need for is available here: Mini DisplayPort to HDMI. Connect the adapter to your computer and the HDMI cable, then connect the HDMI cable to an available input on your TV.

Mini DVI:

The adapter you need for Mini DVI is available here: Mini DVI to HDMI.

As for audio, you can use a basic stereo audio cable: 3.5mm Stereo Plug/Plug M/M Cable – 6ft. Connect it to your computer’s headphone port and your TV’s audio input. If your TV has an optical audio input then you can use this cable: Toslink to Mini M/M OD:5.0mm, Molded Type – 3ft. Your Macbook or Macbook Pro has a very unique audio output that offers both stereo and optical connections. Optical audio is not necessary, but if you can go digital then you should. (I was surprised to see my new TV only offers optical output and not input.)

One thing to note is on many TVs the one audio input is next to its corresponding video input.

As you can see, I purchased my HDMI cables from Amazon Basics.

Also, you are not required to use HDMI for video. You can also use DVI if your TV supports it. In that case you would need a DVI cable, and either a Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter or Mini DVI to DVI adapter.

If you want to get fancy and combine both audio and video into one simple solution then you should get this: Mini DisplayPort Male and USB Male Audio to HDMI Female Converting Adapter. It uses USB audio instead of the audio port. It’s more expensive but it’s definitely cleaner since you only need one cable going into your TV.


Netflix instant streaming requires a subscription. If you have one, you can use your web browser to start streaming a movie, click Full Screen, and you’re done.

Hulu Desktop is a free application you can use to access Hulu content. It’s designed to be controlled by the 6 button Apple (s aapl) remote which may take some time to figure out.

I recommend turning on Mirroring in Display’s System Preferences. Then you can dim the Macbook/Macbook Pro’s screen and focus on the TV.

There’s an amazing app for the iPhone (one that requires an entire review on this site) called TouchPad ($3.99, iTunes link). It replaces the need for a separate wireless keyboard and mouse. The app controls your computer over WiFi. Setup instructions are quick and are available inside the app itself, so you don’t have to go looking through an online support page.

I hope these products and services help you get the most of your Mac and your new TV. I know they’ve completely changed the way I consume media in my own home.

27 Responses to “Your Mac Loves Your New TV”

  1. The trouble with the Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adaptor is the HDMI end is female and the TV HDMI ports are also female,so you will also need an other adaptor that’s male at both ends to make it work.

    • That sentence doesn’t make much sense. There are no MacBooks that are made of aluminum but are not unibody. Only plastic MacBooks (and from what I know, even they are unibody now, but nobody calls them that).

    • Are you serious? Yes, there were aluminum MacBooks before unibody existed. As it is now, all MacBook Pros are aluminum ubibody, and the MacBook I’d polycarbonate. But there definitely was aluminum MacBook Pros before the unibody was made. Get your facts straight.

  2. Arnie Keller

    Another question about content from a HDTV to a Mac: If the content has been recorded on a PVR, can you bring it into a Mac? That is, if you play the recording on the PVR, can you capture that on the Mac?


  3. The resolution on the TV may look a bit iffy. This is due to the mirroring of the Macbook display. If you don’t mirror them and in the Arrangement tab drag the white menu bar to the second monitor, the TV will become the main screen, allowing you to run the software on the second monitor (TV) at full resolution. Another useful piece of software is InsomniaX (Google it), this will allow you to close the lid of the Macbook with it still running for a cooler effect (watch out for overheating though).

  4. Now the only problem is getting the picture on your TV to look right. I haven’t yet found a way to get the resolution right on the TV, either there’s black bars or part is cut off :(

  5. Good article – it’s inspired me to have another go at getting mine to work!

    Can anyone advise or comment on this problem? My MBP (early 2008) has its DVI (picture) and optical (sound) connected to an AV receiver and from there to the HDTV. Problem is that the AV receiver constantly adapts to the resolution of what’s coming in… and OSX constantly adjusts to the resolution of the display it thinks it’s connecting to. So as soon as I connect the two together, the MBP gets stuck in an eternal loop of readjusting its resolution every second, with the display flashing on and off every time.

    I imagine people have experienced the same with digital projectors etc – can anyone ease my pain and suggest a way to stop the Mac from auto-adjusting its output resolution?

    Thanks as always, everyone :)

    • From what you’ve described, it’s possible that the issue is being caused by a conflict in the EDID system, used by displays/projectors etc to describe to a graphics output device it’s display capabilities, (i.e. supported resolutions & scan rates).
      You can read up more about EDID at wikipedia or VESA (registration &/or payment required to view some content, & often very geeky!).

      If you can happily drive the display when connected directly, bypassing the AV receiver, you may want to consider a box like this one:

      They rely on interrupting the contentious EDID info & substituting it with info that you either manually set, or capture from your actual display device. Once configured, install this close in the signal path to the video source & the MBP will always ‘see’ the correct EDID info & consequently send the correctly formatted video signal, the display will be happy with the signal that arrives, & the MBP is none the wiser.
      This should eliminate the constant ‘hunting’ loop.

      EDID *can* be a bit of a black art sometimes, when trying to pass it through several components in a large AV setup. Sometimes caused by latency, or power-up sequences or even older devices not handling more recent versions of the protocol very well, even though it is built to be backwards compatible.

      Good luck. Hope this solves it, or puts you in the right direction.

    • +1 For Plex.

      I am good friends with one of the developers who got me hooked.

      a 50′ samsung plasma+mac mini+plex+iphone+romote pro (itunes app) = home theater greatness.

      plex is free and has support for netflix, hulu, and much more. it also access your itunes, iphoto, and multiple media shares.

      I could go on… just check out the website.

  6. Or If you already have the Apple Mini Displayport (or DVI) adaptor, you could just buy a HDMI – DVI cable. Like this:

    You don’t need a DVI socket on your screen. HDMI and DVI are the same signal, just different connections.

  7. Marinprincess

    Thank you soooo much for this; I purchased a new Blu-Ray that theoretically can pull in my WiFi signal, but nothing I did worked, including getting a new Airport Extreme, which meant getting a new desk computer and compounding that purchase with a new laptop (the system needed upgrading anyways, so nothing lost there). So I resorted to trying to cobble something together with plugs. I’ve spent the last two weeks running from store to store, and getting all kinds of conflicting advice, never mind buying all kinds of stuff that doesn’t work. I’ll let you know how successful I am at putting it together this way. My fingers are crossed!

  8. I haven’t got to the bottom of the article just yet, but have noticed that for two differently described adaptors you link to the same product. You might want to amend before we all rush out in our excitement & buy the wrong one!

    I think the product you intended to link to is ID 4852 from the same supplier?