TV Ports Summary

Video TV Ports

Port

Purpose

Quality

Associated Devices

HDMI Illustration Icon

HDMI

Video/audio/computer

Best

See Below

Component Illustration

Component

Video

Better

See Below

S-Video Icon Illustration

S-Video

Video

Good

See Below

Composite Icon Illustration

Composite

Video

Good

See Below

HDMI Illustration Icon

Port

HDMI

Purpose

Video/audio/computer

Quality

Best

Associated Devices

See Below

Component Illustration

Port

Component

Purpose

Video

Quality

Better

Associated Devices

See Below

S-Video Icon Illustration

Port

S-Video

Purpose

Video

Quality

Good

Associated Devices

See Below

Composite Icon Illustration

Port

Composite

Purpose

Video

Quality

Good

Associated Devices

See Below

Audio TV Ports

Port

Purpose

Quality

Associated Devices

HDMI Illustration Icon

HDMI

Video/audio/computer

Best

See Below

Optical Digital Icon Illustration

Optical Digital

Audio

Better

See Below

Coaxial Digital Icon Illustration

Coaxial Digital

Audio

Better

See Below

RCA Stereo Icon Illustration

RCA Stereo

Audio

Good

See Below

HDMI Illustration Icon

Port

HDMI

Purpose

Video/audio/computer

Quality

Best

Associated Devices

See Below

Optical Digital Icon Illustration

Port

Optical Digital

Purpose

Audio

Quality

Better

Associated Devices

See Below

Coaxial Digital Icon Illustration

Port

Coaxial Digital

Purpose

Audio

Quality

Better

Associated Devices

See Below

RCA Stereo Icon Illustration

Port

RCA Stereo

Purpose

Audio

Quality

Good

Associated Devices

See Below

Other TV Ports

Port

Purpose

Quality

Associated Devices

HDMI Illustration Icon

HDMI

Video/audio/computer

Best

See Below

DVI Icon Illustration

DVI

Computer

Better

See Below

VGA Icon Illustration

VGA

Computer

Good

See Below

Antenna In Icon Illustration

Antenna In

OTA TV

Better

See Below

USB Icon Illustration

USB

Incidental

N/A

See Below

Ethernet Icon Illustration

Ethernet

Internet

N/A

See Below

Ex Link Icon Illustration

Ex-Link

Samsung updates

N/A

See Below

HDMI Illustration Icon

Port

HDMI

Purpose

Video/audio/computer

Quality

Best

Associated Devices

See Below

DVI Icon Illustration

Port

DVI

Purpose

Computer

Quality

Better

Associated Devices

See Below

VGA Icon Illustration

Port

VGA

Purpose

Computer

Quality

Good

Associated Devices

See Below

Antenna In Icon Illustration

Port

Antenna In

Purpose

OTA TV

Quality

Better

Associated Devices

See Below

USB Icon Illustration

Port

USB

Purpose

Incidental

Quality

N/A

Associated Devices

See Below

Ethernet Icon Illustration

Port

Ethernet

Purpose

Internet

Quality

N/A

Associated Devices

See Below

Ex Link Icon Illustration

Port

Ex-Link

Purpose

Samsung updates

Quality

N/A

Associated Devices

See Below

Port Glossary

Here are some phrases you’ll encounter while learning more about different kinds of ports:

  • Signal type: This refers to the way data is sent through the connection—either as a high-quality digital signal or a lower-quality analog signal.
  • Maximum resolution: Relevant to video ports, this is the perceived sharpness and clarity of an image. Large numbers like 1080p are better than smaller numbers like 480i, but 4K Ultra HD is the best.
  • Associated devices: These are devices you may hook up to your TV through the corresponding port.

In-Depth Port Guide

Below you can find ports by name and image, learn about signal type and quality, discover which devices are used with each port, and get the answers to tricky questions about the purpose and potential of your TV ports.

HDMI

HDMI

Why does HDMI get its own section? Because it’s one of the most useful and most common ports on your TV. It can be used for video, audio, computers, and even turn your non-smart TV into a smart TV!

HDMI Illustration

Other Names: High-definition media input
Signal Type: Digital
Maximum Resolution: 4K Ultra HD
Associated Devices: Modern game consoles, media players, DVRs, sound systems, computers, and streaming devices

What are HDMI ports?

HDMI, or “High-Definition Media Input,” is the go-to port for all your modern devices. It works with both video and audio. In addition, most computers have HDMI capabilities, so you can use an HDMI cable to hook your PC up to your TV. You can even plug a streaming device like a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick to turn your old TV into a smart TV.

If you like to plug in one cable and be done, you’ll love how simple it is to set up your TV with HDMI.

Are HDMI ports always the best connection option?

Because HDMI transfers data digitally—without compressing or distorting the information—it delivers the highest-quality picture and sound.

However, some people prefer the familiar sound of analog audio. You can play with how you connect your sound system to find out what you like best.

What is HDMI ARC?

The TV port labeled “HDMI ARC,” or “HDMI Audio Return Channel,” is set up to both send and receive audio data. This port pairs great with a sound system because you can hook all your other devices up to an A/V receiver and use a single cable to connect your receiver to your TV. It’s pretty sleek!

Video TV Ports

Component

Component Illustration

Other Names: Component video, component analog video (CAV), and Y/Pb/Pr
Signal Type: Analog
Maximum Resolution: 1080p
Associated Devices: DVRs, media players, and previous-generation game consoles

What are component video ports?

The component video ports are the red, blue, and green ports on your TV, and before HDMI became popular, they offered the highest video quality.

If you have an older TV that isn’t HDMI compatible, you can use these video ports to hook up your DVR or media player. And even if your TV does support HDMI, component ports can be handy for hooking up some previous-generation game consoles like PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and Wii systems.

S-Video

S-Video Port Illustration

Other Names: Separate video and Y/C
Signal Type: Analog
Maximum Resolution: 480i
Associated Devices: Computers, previous-generation media players, and previous-generation game consoles

What are S-video ports?

S-video ports (the black circles with a lot of dots) were used primarily in the late 1990s and early 2000s for video input on TVs. They’re not as common as component video ports, but you might see them on your TV or computer. If you’ve got an old Nintendo 64 kicking around, it can connect to this port.

While the S-video port will display a brighter picture than composite video, it’s still not as good as component video or HDMI. Skip this port unless you don’t have better options.

Composite

Composite Port Illustration

Other Names: Composite video, composite video baseband signal (CVBS), or SD video
Signal Type: Analog
Maximum Resolution: 480i
Associated Devices: DVRs, previous-generation media players and previous-generation game consoles

What are composite video ports?

Composite video (the circular yellow port) is used for standard-definition video. While plenty of equipment still comes with a composite video connection, you should pass on this port for the higher-quality component video or highest-quality HDMI.

Audio TV Ports

Optical Digital

Optical Digital Port Illustration

Other Names: Digital audio (optical), optical audio, optical digital, digital audio out (optical), and TOSLINK (Toshiba Link)
Signal Type: Digital
Associated Devices: Soundbars and A/V receivers

What are digital audio (optical) ports?

This port, which is usually covered with a small flap, sends digital audio to your sound system. Because it uses a digital format, it’s usually more crisp than RCA Stereo, which uses analog.

Should I use the digital audio (optical) port?

HDMI is better, but if your sound system doesn’t have an HDMI hook up, this port is a great choice. However, optical cables become less effective at a distance of ten meters, and they’re more delicate than the coaxial cables used in other audio ports. Be careful not to bend your optic cable at a sharp angle, or you could damage it permanently.

Coaxial Digital

Coaxial Digital Port Illustration

Other Names: Digital audio (coaxial) and coaxial digital audio
Signal Type: Digital
Associated Devices: Soundbars and A/V receivers

What are digital audio (coaxial) ports?

Like the optical digital ports, the coaxial digital port connects to your sound system to send digital audio. The coaxial cable is sturdier than the optical port, but HDMI will still be the highest-quality option.

RCA Stereo

RCA Stereo Port Illustration

Other Names: RCA stereo audio, RCA audio, and analog audio
Signal Type: Analog
Associated Devices: DVRs, previous-generation media players, previous-generation game consoles, soundbars, and A/V receivers

What are RCS stereo audio ports?

These twin red and white ports are either inputs or outputs for transmitting analog audio. Sometimes you will see them by themselves labeled as “out” to output audio. If they’re for inputting audio, you’ll usually find them next to component or composite video ports.

Should I use the RCA stereo audio ports?

Use RCA stereo audio if you don’t have a more advanced digital connection (HDMI, optical, or coaxial) or if you just like the sound of analog. Connectors for this port are often paired with composite and component video, so they’re a handy go-to if you’re using those video connectors.

Computer Ports

DVI

DVI Port Illustration

Other Names: Digital visual interface, DVI-A, DVI-D single link, DVI-D dual link, DVI-I single link, and DVI-I dual link
Signal Type: Digital/analog
Maximum Resolution: 1080p
Associated Devices: Computers

What are DVI ports?

DVI ports are primarily for connecting your computer to your TV. They aren’t as high quality as HDMI, but most modern DVI are better than VGA. Which DVI cable you can use with the port depends on the number and arrangement of the pin holes in the port.

Why are there so many different types of DVI?

DVI has changed dramatically with evolving technology. The old DVI-A is an analog port no better than VGA. But DVI-D is digital, and DVI-I is compatible with both digital devices and older analog devices.

DVI-D and DVI-I are further broken down by single-link and dual-link capabilities. Dual-link connections have twice as much power, leading to an increase in speed and signal quality.

Which DVI connector is best?

Both DVI-D and DVI-I work fine. Just make sure the pin holes in your port will support the cable type you’ve chosen.

Can DVI cables carry audio too?

DVI-I-to-HDMI or DVI-D-to-HDMI cables can carry audio, but it depends on whether or not the video card inside your computer supports this transfer. Hook in the DVI end into your computer and the HDMI cable into your TV to see if your video card port is compatible with audio. If not, you’ll need a separate audio connection.

VGA

VGA Port Illustration

Other Names: Video graphics array and PC in
Signal Type: Analog
Maximum Resolution: 720p
Associated Devices: Computers

What are VGA ports?

If you want to connect your computer to your TV and you don’t have HDMI or DVI capabilities, you can go with VGA. However, the quality won’t be as good as with those other ports, and VGA doesn’t support audio, so you’ll need a separate audio connection.

Incidental Ports

Antenna In

Antenna In Port Illustration

Other Names: RN in, cable in, and coaxial cable connection
Signal Type: Analog
Maximum Resolution: 1080p
Associated Devices: Over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna

What is the antenna-in port?

This port provides both video and audio input from an over-the-air (OTA) antenna. You’re probably familiar with this port from the early days of TV when it was used for a wide range of devices. It’s not used for much anymore, since HDMI does a much better job, but it’s a definite plus if you want free OTA TV.

Learn More About OTA TV

USB

USB Port Illustration

Other Names: Universal serial bus
Signal Type: Digital/analog
Associated Devices: USB flash drive, TV antenna, and streaming device

What are USB ports for on a TV?

USB ports on a TV serve a variety of functions, including as an input for USB flash drives and powering a TV antenna or streaming device. You could even use it to charge your smartphone if you wanted.

Ethernet

Ethernet Port Illustration

Other Names: LAN
Signal Type: Digital/analog
Associated Devices: Internet modem

What are Ethernet ports?

Ethernet connections help provide faster internet speeds than Wi-Fi can. If you have a smart TV, you’ve probably seen this port, which looks like a normal phone-line port.

Should I use the Ethernet port instead of Wi-Fi?

If the shows you’re streaming spend a lot of time buffering, it may be time to switch to using the Ethernet port. It’s less convenient, since you have to run a cable from your internet modem to the TV, but it can noticeably improve your streaming speed.

Ex Link Port Illustration

Associated Devices: Samsung TV service updates and wall mounts

What are Ex-Link ports?

The Ex-Link is a bit of an oddball port found on some Samsung TVs. Its primary function is to help Samsung technicians update your TV, but you shouldn’t attempt to do that yourself. Additionally, about ten years back, Samsung had a motorized TV mount that you could control by plugging it into the Ex-Link port, but the mount doesn’t seem to be around anymore.

But a motorized TV mount sounds really cool, and I want one!

You’re right, it does sound really cool. It’s not from Samsung, but you can pick up the VIVO motorized TV mount on Amazon. Don’t worry—you don’t need an Ex-Link or any other special port to use it.

Other Things You Need to Know

Read on to learn about port converters and port options on DVRs from a variety of TV providers.

How to Connect Ports That Don’t Match

Hooking up devices gets a little trickier if your TV doesn’t have all the right ports. New TVs might not have old ports, and old TVs might not have new ports like HDMI.

Luckily, there are solutions to get all your devices hooked up. Keep in mind, though, that converted audio and video won’t have the highest quality. If it’s time for you to upgrade your TV, check out our “TV Buying Guide”.

Input vs. Output

Pay attention to the input and output. Converters will work only with matching input/output layout, so know which way the data is going before purchasing a converter.

For the most part, media players, DVRs, game consoles, and computers output audio and video to a TV input. That means you’ll attach a cable to the output port on the device and connect that to the input port on the TV or converter device. However, TVs output audio to soundbars’ inputs.

Connections to a TV Illustration

Converters for Old Output to New Input

The following are good for connecting most old devices to a new TV.

Component to HDMI

Volantech Component YPbPr RGB to HDMI 4K Converter

S-Video/Composite to HDMI

CoolDigital RCA AV/S-Video to HDMI Converter

Converters for New Output to Old Input

The following are good for connecting most new devices to an old TV.

HDMI to Component

AOKEN HDMI to Component Video Converter

HDMI to S-Video/Composite

Tendak HDMI to S-Video/Composite Converter

How to Hook Up Your DVR to a TV

Most modern DVRs have HDMI outputs, so they’re fairly simple to hook up to a new TV. However, installing a DVR or cable box may still require the help of an expert technician if your home needs new wiring or a satellite dish. Refer to the chart below for TV providers’ DVR outputs and installation costs.

TV ProviderDVROutputsInstallation Costs
AT&TU-verse Total Home DVR
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)
Activation Fee: $35.00
Buckeye BroadbandVariesVariesProfessional Installation: $10.00
CoxContour Record 6
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)

Self Installation: $20.00

Professional Installation: $75.00

DIRECTVGenie (HR-44)
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)
  • Digital audio (coaxial)
Activation Fee: $35.00
DISHHopper 3
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)
Installation Fee: Included in price
FrontierVariesVariesActivation Fee: Up to $49.00
MediacomVariesVariesProfessional Installation: $99.99
OptimumVariesVariesProfessional Installation: Included with online order
RCNTiVo T6
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)

Professional Installation: $49.95

Activation Fee: $9.99

SpectrumVariesVariesProfessional Installation: $34.99
XfinityX1
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)
Professional Installation: $89.99
TV ProviderAT&T
DVRU-verse Total Home DVR
Outputs
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)
Installation CostsActivation Fee: $35.00
TV ProviderBuckeye Broadband
DVRVaries
OutputsVaries
Installation CostsProfessional Installation: $10.00
TV ProviderCox
DVRContour Record 6
Outputs
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)
Installation Costs

Self Installation: $20.00

Professional Installation: $75.00

TV ProviderDIRECTV
DVRGenie (HR-44)
Outputs
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)
  • Digital audio (coaxial)
Installation CostsActivation Fee: $35.00
TV ProviderDISH
DVRHopper 3
Outputs
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)
Installation CostsInstallation Fee: Included in price
TV ProviderFrontier
DVRVaries
OutputsVaries
Installation CostsActivation Fee: Up to $49.00
TV ProviderMediacom
DVRVaries
OutputsVaries
Installation CostsProfessional Installation: $99.99
TV ProviderOptimum
DVRVaries
OutputsVaries
Installation CostsProfessional Installation: Included with online order
TV ProviderRCN
DVRTiVo T6
Outputs
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)
Installation Costs

Professional Installation: $49.95

Activation Fee: $9.99

TV ProviderSpectrum
DVRVaries
OutputsVaries
Installation CostsProfessional Installation: $34.99
TV ProviderXfinity
DVRX1
Outputs
  • HDMI
  • Component video
  • Composite video
  • Digital audio (optical)
Installation CostsProfessional Installation: $89.99

If you’re interested to learn more about the providers listed above, enter your zip code below to see which are available in your area:

TV Ports Infographic