How to Play TV Through a Projector

With high definition and 4K capable projectors becoming more and more available on the market, at ever-decreasing prices, you may be asking yourself “Can I play my TV through a projector”.  The answer is yes you can!

At TechChiller, we’ve therefore written the ultimate guide on how to play TV through a projector.  We’ll guide you on everything you need to know and consider to do this.  Read on…

Given the huge range of connectivity options on almost all modern projectors, there are many ways to connect devices to these.  Two of the most popular ways of playing TV shows through a projector would be directly from your cable TV box or via an Internet streaming device such as a Chromecast, Roku, or Amazon Fire TV stick.

Connecting a cable TV box to a projector

Most cable TV boxes have a few options when it comes to displaying content to an external device such as a projector or TV.  When it comes to connecting a cable TV box to a projector, there are two main things to consider; these are video and sound.

Let’s discuss the issue of the video signal first.  Usually, there are two video outputs from a cable TV box – HDMI or Composite.

Connecting a cable TV box to a projector via HDMI

All modern projectors will come with at least an HDMI port.  HDMI is a fantastic technology as it allows you to transfer 4K video along with crystal clear sound, all in one cable.

If your cable TV box supports 4K playback, you will need to ensure that your projector is HDMI 1.4, 2.0, or 2.1 compatible.  Please check the manufacturer’s website for this.

To play TV on a projector via HDMI carry out the following:

  1. Switch on your projector.
  2. Change the Source on the projector so that it is HDMI.
  3. Insert your HDMI capable device into the HDMI port on the back of the projector.
  4. Power on the cable TV box.
  5. Select your favorite TV show or Hollywood blockbuster and sit back and relax!

Sound considerations

Although HDMI cables do allow the transmission of an audio signal as well as a video signal, there are still some considerations to make regarding sound, especially if you are planning on using the internal speakers to a projector.

Let’s look at each of the three considerations.

Inbuilt projector speakers

As you are using HDMI cabling to connect your cable TV box to your projector, you also get the added benefit of this cable delivering sound to your projector.  By default, your projector will playback the sound signal to you via the internal speaker system.

This is by far the easiest and most straight forward speaker setup.

The downside to this is that as a general rule, inbuilt projector speakers are pretty poor.  They are often below somewhere between 2W and 8W in power.  The volume levels obtained through such a speaker are pretty poor however if you aren’t trying to fill a large living room with a deep, rich sound, this might be sufficient.

Some projectors do come with dual 10W stereo speakers which do improve the quality significantly.

Inbuilt speakers are also quite tinny in sound quality as they lack a subwoofer to give the unit some bass.

All things considered though, projector speakers are ok as long as you aren’t too fussy about sound quality.

Soundbar

Soundbars by their very nature are much more capable devices in delivering great sound quality for cable TV boxes when compared to inbuilt projector speakers.  They come with a range of different speakers to deliver a rich, well-balanced sound to your living room or bedroom.

The only thing to note is to check what sound outputs you have available on the pack of the cable TV box.  Once you have done that you will need to see if you have a corresponding port available on the soundbar.

Quite often a cable TV box and soundbar will both come with a 3.5mm stereo jack or Composite port.

Perhaps the best options though would be to use an HDMI ARC or optical cable to and from both devices.  These deliver the highest quality sound.  Optical cable ports have been common for decades whereas HDMI ARC is a relatively new technology.

Although HDMI ARC ports look exactly the same as normal HDMI ports, they usually have the letters ARC next to the port to denote if it is indeed an HDMI ARC port.

External speakers

Another great way of delivering sound when playing back TV to your projector is by using an existing set of external speakers that are within your living room or bedroom.  Perhaps you already have a HiFi that has a spare 3.5mm auxiliary jack, optical or Composite port.

This would be a great solution for giving you high-quality sound at no additional expense. 

Simply, plug in the cable, switch on the HiFi, select the source, and away you go!

Connecting a streaming device to a projector

All modern projectors will come with at least an HDMI port.  HDMI is a fantastic technology as it allows you to transfer 4K video along with crystal clear sound, all in one cable.

You will need a separate device with an HDMI port that will be used to connect to the WiFi, stream TV shows, and output the video signal to the HDMI cable and therefore projector.  A laptop, Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick are the ideal devices for this task as they can all playback live TV to a projector.

To play TV shows on a projector via HDMI carry out the following:

  1. Switch on your projector.
  2. Change the Source on the projector so that it is HDMI.
  3. Insert your HDMI capable device into the HDMI port on the back of the projector.
  4. Power on the HDMI device such as the laptop, Chromecast, or Amazon Fire TV Stick (other devices are available too but check the manufacturer’s website first).
  5. Connect the HDMI device to your home WiFi or tether it to your mobile phone.
  6. Launch the inbuilt TV show app of choice on the streaming device.  
  7. Sign in to your streaming TV service of choice.
  8. Select your favorite TV show or Hollywood blockbuster and sit back and relax!

Please note that Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick, and other HDMI devices will need an external power source.  A neat trick for small HDMI capable devices like Amazon Fire TV Sticks is that these can usually be powered via the USB port on the side of a projector.  Most modern projectors have these ports.

Obviously, laptops require an AC adapter to power them but it is possible to run these off the battery which will keep cables to a minimum.

A Chromecast device is a fantastic solution for playing TV shows on a projector.  The latest Chromecast devices are capable of displaying up to 4K shows and films (as long as your projector can projector at a 4K resolution of course).

Please note that some 4K Ultra HD and HDR content, requires your projector to support HDCP 2.2.  Please check your manufacturer’s website to see if your projector is HDCP 2.2 compatible.

Why Can’t I Play TV on My Projector?

There are a number of reasons that might be preventing you from playing your TV through your projector.  Below we explore some of the main ways of troubleshooting and resolving these problems.

You’ll be back to enjoying your favorite TV shows in no time!

Cable TV Box Won’t Connect to my projector

If you are trying to play live TV via a Cable TV box, please go through the following steps to resolve the problem.

  1. Switch off your cable TV box and power it back on.
  2. Switch on your projector.
  3. Change the Source on the projector so that it is set to the input that you have wired into the projector from your cable TV box e.g. HDMI, Composite, etc.
  4. Check that all cables are firmly plugged into both devices.
  5. Check that the coaxial cable from your cable TV provider is firmly plugged in.
  6. If you have a spare TV within the house, try plugging the cable TV box into this to see if you get a signal.  If you do, then the issue must be with the projector.  If you don’t get a signal, then the issue maybe with the cable TV box or cabling itself.
  7. Try changing one of the cables with a spare.

Streaming Device Won’t Connect to My Projector

If you are trying to play live TV via a device plugged directly into your projector’s HDMI port, such as a Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV stick, please go through the following steps to resolve the problem.

  1. Switch on your projector.
  2. Change the Source on the projector so that it is HDMI.
  3. Insert your HDMI capable device into the HDMI port on the back of the projector.
  4. Power on the HDMI device such as the Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick (other devices are available too but check the manufacturer’s website first).
  5. Connect the HDMI device to your home WiFi or tether it to your mobile phone, so that it can stream a TV signal to your projector.
  6. If your device doesn’t appear on the projector, check the Micro-USB cable powering the device.  Unplug the USB cable and plug it back in.
  7. If the Chromecast or Amazon stick is plugged directly into the projector’s USB port, check the projector manual to see if the USB port is capable of powering a device.  Not all projectors can power devices via USB.
  8. Plug the Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV stick, etc directly via mains power with the plug and cable provided by the manufacturer.
  9. Launch the Netflix app.  If your device doesn’t have the Netflix app, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to download and install this.
  10. Sign in to Netflix (if you have previously signed into Netflix on the device you won’t need to do this again).
  11. If your Chromecast/Amazon Fire TV stick doesn’t connect to the WiFi, power off your home router and then plug it back in again.  Wait 5 minutes and check that the Chromecast has reconnected to the WiFi.
  12. Select your favorite TV show or Hollywood blockbuster and sit back and relax!