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Posted: July 12, 2014

How to stream movies to your TV with a simple (and super cheap) HDMI cable

Tired of huddling around the computer to watch a movie or binge-watch your favorite show? Use an HDMI cable to stream to your TV – for less than $10.

Written by: mainetoday freelancer



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I was resistant to buying a special device to stream movies through my internet connection to my TV. I simply didn’t think spending $100 or more for a Roku, Apple TV or whatever-kind-of-box to interface with my computer was worth that much money. But huddling around a 13-inch computer monitor with my two teenage daughters to watch a two-hour movie was starting to get old.

I have always been a bit of a geek when it comes to technology, so I did some research and found out that a simple HDMI cord was a good option. And it cost less than $10.

Don’t be afraid of the HDMI moniker. It stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. Simple stuff, really, but all you really need to know is that this cord can interface with your computer and your TV or tablet, so you can have a dual-screen movie-watching experience. Here’s how:

Connecting your TV and your computer with an HDMI cable

HDMI ends

The ends of this HDMI cord are the same for both the computer and the TV. Wendy Almeida photo

1. Get an HDMI cable

HDMI cables can be bought at any electronics store (like Best Buy), big box store (Target or Walmart) and often even drug stores like Walgreens. They come in different lengths – 3 feet, 12 feet, etc. – so you’ll want to purchase a cable that can easily reach from your computer to your TV. No one wants you to have to climb behind the TV stand every time you want to watch a movie. That said. I do need to note that an  HDMI cable works best when it is less than 15 feet because the quality of the image on the screen decreases if the cable is longer.

TV-HDMI-cord-connection

The back of my TV has a clearly marked HDMI port. Wendy Almeida photo

2. Plug the HDMI cable into your TV

I have a four-year-old flat screen TV and it has an HDMI port. I believe most, if not all, flat-screen TVs have this port (they’re all digital, after all).

Computer HDMI input

The back of my still-kicking 7-year old computer has an HDMI port. Wendy Almeida photo

My desktop computer, which is about seven years old (yup, still running Windows Vista!), also has an HDMI port.

I bought a 9-foot HDMI cord from Amazon for less than $10. Remember, longer HDMI cables reduce the image quality on the screen, so you need to have a computer that is pretty close to your TV for this set-up to work well and for the sake of your picture quality. (If you have a laptop with an HDMI input, lucky you. You’ll have have more flexible options in your TV watching room. If you’re working with a desktop, better move that puppy close to the TV.)

With computers made within the last couple of years, you can just plug in and watch. But for folks with older desktop computers, you’ll have to set up your TV to “mirror” your computer monitor. Don’t worry, it’s easy and I’ll show you how.

Computer-monitor option

3. Set your TV to mirror your computer screen

On your computer, choose the “Control Panel” from the “Start” menu. I have Vista on my computer, so I double-clicked the “Adjust Screen Resolution” link in my “Appearance” menu. Other operating systems may have slightly different menu options (on a Mac, go to “System Preferences” from the Apple menu. Choose “Displays” from the View menu or under the Hardware header in the System Preferences window), but the bottom line is you’re looking for a monitor/screen adjustment menu.

Computer-mirror screen

I chose the “multiple monitors” option because that’s how my computer’s video card works. Even if you don’t have that exact option, most cards have a “clone” or “mirror” mode, where both screens display the same thing.

If you’re TV still isn’t showing a mirror of your computer desktop, Reboot your computer to apply the changes. This is KEY! I did everything above but the TV wasn’t displaying my desktop until I actually restarted.

TV-HDMI input options

4. Set your TV to HDMI input

It’s time to fiddle with the remote. Navigate to the TV menu and choose the HDMI input option. There’s likely to be more than one HDMI option – you’ll find the right one through some old school trial and error.

TV-HDMI input selection

There’s likely to be more than one HDMI option. Try one, try them all! One of them will work.

5. Binge-watch “Orange is the New Black” or “House of Cards” or whatever your heart desires!

Success! Both the TV and the computer screen look the same, which is a good sign. It means all your hard-earned efforts are working!

Computer-dualscreen

This really is a nice, inexpensive way to lounge on the couch and have a lot more elbow room while watching streaming services (Netflix and Amazon Prime are my family’s choices).

The downside to the HDMI cable is not having an operational TV remote, unless you have a wireless mouse/keyboard on your computer (remember, your computer is running the show on your TV, not your TV controls). But for less than $10 to set up, it’s a great deal to have this dual screen-watching option.

Tablets work, too!

Tablet-cord

A special High Speed Micro HDMI cord connects tablets to TVs to stream movies. Wendy Almeida photo

I have a tablet (Kindle Fire HD) and discovered that there is a special HDMI cord that interfaces that device with my TV as well. It’s a High Speed Micro HDMI cable. Basically, there is a standard HDMI end for the TV and a micro HDMI (like the cord end used to charge the device) that connects to my tablet. This is a wonderful “plug and play” option with no special dual-screen to set up.

Tablet-connector

The Kindle Fire HD has a port for charging and a micro HDMI cord connection. Some tablets use a slightly different micro connector so check your device’s specifications to make sure you buy the right one. Wendy Almeida photo

Tablet-dualscreen

I can sit on my couch to watch my TV shows and have the tablet controls at my fingertips. (The cat likes this option as well so he can snuggle up on the couch with me and photo bomb.) Wendy Almeida photo

I chose to order a longer cord for my tablet (15 feet) than the one I use for my TV (9 feet) because I wanted to be able to control my tablet from the couch. But the picture quality isn’t quite as good as my desktop cord. And, the battery life of my tablet makes my old desktop the preferred method most of the time. But hey, it works when I am feeling lazy and miss the old remote control.

 

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