One of the most popular questions we get asked is how to connect a tablet to a television, as this allows you to mirror whatever is on your screen to play games, surf the Internet and watch movies, or simply to use your TV as a big screen so the whole family can share what you’re doing.
To keep things simple, we’ll assume that you have a relatively modern TV that has a HDMI input – that should cover almost every TV made in the last decade. We’ve also covered screens that have a VGA adaptor, which includes many big screen televisions as well as computer monitors.
How to connect your tablet depends on which make and model you own. For example, connecting an iPad to the television requires different connectors compared with Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, so we cover both in the tips below. Even though we’re talking about tablets here, the methods explained below also work with smartphones.
If you have a tablet with a type of connector which is not covered here, or know any alternative ways to hook everything together, let us know in the comments.
Simply because there are more of Apple’s tablets in the wild than any other model, we’ll kick of with the iPad first.
How to connect an iPad to the TV
There are a couple of ways to hook an iPad up to the television, either using cables that plug into the bottom of the device, or using an Apple TV set-top box, which is obviously more expensive but lets you do lots of other things too.
You might be wondering whether to buy official Apple cables and adaptors (which are expensive) or cheaper copies which can sometimes be found in IT shops and malls in Thailand. In general, it always pays to buy the highest quality cables to avoid damage to your kit, in addition to the fact that they are certified by Apple and tend to have higher quality electrical components.
Apple connectors can be found on their online store, or in retailers in Thailand such as iStudio and Banana IT. You could try some of the cheaper ones, but do so at your own risk!
Lightning Digital AV Adaptor
Available on the Thai Apple store here for ฿1,890.
Every iPad sold from 2012 has the modern “Lightning” connector, which is a small reversible port which is used to charge and to carry audio and video. Likewise, every iPad Mini uses this newer connector instead of the old 30-pin one.
If you have an iPad 1 or original iPad 2 from 2011 (later revisions of the iPad 2 used Lightning), you can use the equivalent Apple 30-pin Digital AV adaptor (details on the Apple website here).
Apple’s Lightning digital AV adaptor plugs into your iPad and provides a HDMI socket on the other end (as well as an extra Lightning socket so you can still charge it), and will mirror whatever is on the screen of your iPad – apps, photos, videos and slideshows for example, on an HDMI compatible TV up to 1080p resolution – in other words, full HD.
Besides mirroring exactly what you see on the screen, you can also just use it to output movies and TV shows and other video without mirroring everything else. Once you have connected the cable, you’ll have an option in the iPad’s video player to select the television as output. The adaptor also carries audio to the TV.
Note that you’ll also need to buy an HDMI cable, typically a few hundred baht from any electronics store. We found that Thai company Invade IT stock a good selection of HDMI cables and adaptors.
Lightning to VGA adaptor
Available on the Thai Apple store here for ฿1,890
This adaptor can be used to connect to televisions and monitors, as well as many projectors.
It works in exactly the same was as the Lightning to HMDI connector, and also has a spare Lightning port on the connector itself for charging.
In terms of resolution, it also supports 1080p HD, but again, you will also need to buy a suitable VGA cable, as that’s not provided with the adaptor.
Available on the Thai Apple store here for ฿3,800
The Apple TV is a diminutive set-top box that connects to the Internet and lets you purchase or rent movies and TV shows from iTunes. There are also a selection of built-in apps such as YouTube and Vimeo, and you can play music from your home computer or stream from iCloud. It’s a flexible little device that is still officially called a hobby by Apple. The current model has been around since 2012, so it’s also long overdue an update.
The cool thing about the Apple TV is that it supports wireless connections from an Apple device, something Apple calls AirPlay. It works with all iPads, iPhones and most iPod Touches, as well as Mac computers.
Setting up an Apple TV is easy – just plug it into your television’s HDMI socket and (optionally) sign in with your Apple ID if you also want to buy content. Note that you could just use it to mirror your iPad, but that’s a rather expensive option if all you’re doing is mirroring your screen.
Apple TV can be connected to the Internet with a network cable or using Wi-Fi (which is easier), and when it’s on the same home network as your iPad will automatically show in when you open the Control Centre as in the screenshot below.
You have the option to mirror your tablet, so your TV displays exactly what is shown on the iPad screen, or if you don’t choose Mirroring it will just display movies and photos when you’re using those apps.
Apple TV is a great way to share your iPad’s screen, especially for driving games which use tilt controls. It’s also great for parties, as it enables you to play music through your TV speakers as well as show pictures.
How to connect an Android tablet to the TV
Many Android tablets have some form of HDMI output, and because HDMI is extremely common these days, it’s very cheap and easy to pick up a cable. Just like the Apple adaptors already described, connecting a cable to your Android device will send both audio and video, and the great thing is the HDMI ports are built into many tablets so you don’t need to buy an adaptor.
HDMI ports on most Android tablets are usually one of two sizes – either Type C (mini HDMI) or Type D (Micro HDMI) which is the smallest. Whatever type of port your device has, all you need to do is find a HDMI cable and connect the two devices.
MHL and SlimPort over micro USB
One of these is called MHL (Mobile High Definition Link) and the newer one is called SlimPort. They both looks the same, but MHL has more widespread support on modern televisions. If the HDMI port on the back of the TV has an MHL logo, you can just connect an HDMI-to-micro-USB cable between the two. Simple.
If your television doesn’t support MHL or you have a tablet that only supports SlimPort, then you will need a small dongle to convert between micro USB and HDMI.
You should definitely check the specs of your tablet before buying an adaptor – as an example, the Microsoft Surface tablets and Galaxy Tab 3 both support MHL, and Google Nexus devices tend to support SlimPort.
You can find more details about SlimPort at the official website.
Chromecast wireless video
Google’s Chromecast dongle is pretty much the equivalent of the Apple TV, albeit very much smaller (not that Apple TV is large by any means). It’s also very cheap at around $30 US and just plugs into a spare HDMI port on the back of your TV, and uses your Wi-Fi network receive video from your tablet.
Chromecast lets you mirror the display of your Android tablet, or you can just press play in the video player to watch movies directly on your TV without a like-for-like mirror. The same applies to apps, games and photos.
Unfortunately, not all video content will play on Chromecast (if the movies are copy protected, for example) but you could get around this by using others devices that support something called Miracast. This is basically a standard for wirelessly sending video and audio from tablets and smartphones, and has been licensed so that any company can create a product based on it.
Microsoft has a Miracast compatible dongle that works with the Surface tablet, and companies like Asus and Belkin also make their own versions, which we have been told are available in Fortune IT mall and Panthip in Bangkok.