Best quality way to connect a Macbook Air to external monitor?
October 11, 2018 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I want to connect my Macbook Air to another TV and want to figure out the best adaptor or cable for doing so. VGA, S-video, RCA?

The TV I'm connecting to is a 15 year old 20" flat screen with S-video, VGA, or RCA connections. My output options on the mac appear to be USB or Thunderbolt 2; I currently have no thunderbolt cables that I'm aware of. I'm doing this to air a couple of football games streaming through xfinity.

I'm guessing that perhaps Thunderbolt to S-Video or VGA will yield the highest quality video, but I'm not sure (the TV doesn't have HD, so I don't expect anything great but would still like best available.) If I do these options I would have to run a separate audio cable but I'm considering using a small external speaker anyway, so no problem there.

However, if I do RCA I would be able to run sound through the TV, so assuming video quality and all other things are equal I'd go this route. But not at the price of sacrificing video fidelity.

I'm totally bean-plating this but...what's my best option? Cheaper is always a plus too.
posted by andruwjones26 to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Poking around, it seems like mini displayport -> composite/RCA is a pretty uncommon adapter, so what I might do is mini displayport -> HDMI (which is cheap; cable should be $10) and then HDMI -> composite/RCA, which also seem to be pretty inexpensive (Adafruit has one for $14). Seems like it'd be cheap and adequate.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 7:42 AM on October 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Are you sure a bigger standard definition screen will be a better viewing experience than just sticking your (HD) Air on a table? I'd encourage you to try this out with some pre-recorded highlights footage before the game, and make sure you actually want what you think you want.

Also, if the TV has a VGA input (blue 15-pin D-sub shape connector), then try that! A Thunderbolt to VGA adapter can be had for dirt cheap on Amazon, and if you're anything like me you probably know several people with old VGA cables sitting around in a drawer..
posted by Alterscape at 7:50 AM on October 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Macs often don't work well with daisy-chaining adapters. I suggest going with Mini-displayport to VGA, an adapter I've used for years, often for a purpose just like this. Get one here:
posted by conscious matter at 7:52 AM on October 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Do not do anything but Mini Displayport -> VGA. This is a common adaptor, you probably have a friend who upgraded to a new Macbook in the last year who will just give you one. There was a first-party version, but Monoprice still sells it for $14. VGA is way, way better than S-Video or RCA.
posted by wnissen at 11:31 AM on October 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

To expand a bit, VGA, while an analog format, is intended for computer displays, and over the types of cable runs most people are talking about (1-2m) it will display HD pictures that would be pretty much indistinguishable from 1080p by your average person who is not obsessed with video quality. Whereas S-Video is interlaced and only half-HD resolution. Tolerable but not ideal, especially since your source is not going to be doing anything to help the interlacing. RCA (or composite, not to be confused with component, which uses the same connectors but different colors) is interlaced but at even lower resolution.
posted by wnissen at 11:38 AM on October 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

We use Minidisplayport to VGA adapters at work, and yes, this is the way to go.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:07 PM on October 11, 2018

This is a common adaptor, you probably have a friend who upgraded to a new Macbook in the last year who will just give you one.

This. You could have mine, but you could buy one in the US for cheaper than I could post it from here.
posted by pompomtom at 6:02 PM on October 11, 2018

Re-reading your Ask reminds me that I probably shouldn't answer Asks until after the coffee has kicked in! I'm with the group: mini displayport to VGA is absolutely the way to go!
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 6:51 PM on October 11, 2018

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