Can You Watch Normal TV on a Projector?

So you have been thinking about buying a projector and you’re wondering if you can watch normal TV on it. When you think of projectors, probably the first use that comes to mind is watching movies. As it turns out, there are many other ways you can use a projector, one of which is using it to watch normal TV. In fact, there’s no reason not to use a projector for your daily TV needs.

You might be wondering: Do you need to buy a brand new TV when a projector can get the job done? Is it easy to set up a projector? What steps do I need to take to watch normal TV on a projector? Stay on this page to find out.

Can You Watch Normal TV on a Projector?

If you have an HDMI projector, watching normal TV on it is possible and highly recommended because a projector can cover a larger area. In most cases, a projector can play the same media your TV can through an HDMI cable box. There are also certain advantages to using a projector as a TV which I’ll cover later on in this article.

How to Use a Projector as a TV:

The most important point is that projectors do not have built-in TV tuners. What this means is you won’t be able to search for or view any free television signals directly from the projector. In most cases, that’s not a major dealbreaker because you probably use a cable top box for HD channels and whatnot. And that brings us to the next point.

Since you likely use a cable top box, to connect the top box to your projector you simply need to run an HDMI cable between the two devices. The projector should detect the HDMI signal and project the media on to the screen, the steps are exactly the same as connecting the box to a TV. Do remember that projectors can get a bit hot after long periods of use, probably a lot hotter than your TV.

If you don’t have a cable box, you could buy one from your cable company. An alternative would be to look for something like a USB TV tuner connected to a laptop or PC. It might also work when connected directly to a projector’s USB port, but don’t quote me on that.

Getting a visual from your TV box to your projector is as simple as plugging an HDMI cable, but getting sound requires a bit more work.

Getting Sound Working:

There are a few ways to audio working on a projector, some of which I’ll run through below. Do remember that your projector isn’t the source of the audio, and most projectors don’t output audio in the first place.

Remember:

So you won’t be plugging in any cables, besides HDMI, into the projector, but rather from the media source (cable box, laptop, etc) to your preferred audio device. In other words, your media source is connected to the projector via HDMI, and then it’s also connected to the audio device through a separate cable.

Here are your options:

1 – Projector’s Built-in Speakers

The first option would be to use your projector’s built-in speakers. You will probably know if the projector has built-in speakers because, as soon as an HDMI cable is connected, the audio should automatically carry over.

Many projectors do have built-in speakers, but the sound quality is probably worse than the speakers on your TV. Generally, I don’t recommend using built-in speakers because the quality is simply not good, a better option is to use a soundbar or another audio device. Bear in mind, projector speakers are usually mono, so that ruins the media watching experience.

2 – Connecting a Soundbar to a Projector

Assuming your media source is a cable box for TV, the idea is to connect a soundbar to the media source for audio while the projector takes care of the visuals.

Most cable boxes will have a wide selection of audio connectors, such as RCA, optical, 3.5mm, and others. Likewise, most soundbars have a similar selection. I would keep an eye out for an HDMI ARC port on both of your devices.

If your cable box has two or more HDMI ports, and one of them is labelled as ARC, that would be ideal. You can run a regular HDMI cable from the normal HDMI port to the projector and then another cable from HDMI ARC to the ARC port on your soundbar.

Maybe neither your cable box nor soundbar have HDMI ARC, in which case I would recommend connecting the two with an optical cable (Toslink) cable. If even that is not an option, you could try a 3.5 male to male adapter to connect the two devices.

3 – External Speakers

Got an old set of stereo speakers lying around? Chances are they probably deliver better sound than your projector’s built-in speakers. Take a look at the ports on your media source and see if the speakers have any matching ports. In most cases, stereo speakers will have at least 3.5mm slot, so a male to male aux cable should do the trick.

Streaming to a Projector:

If most of the media you watch on your TV are streaming services, you might be able to run those services from the projector using a streaming stick like Chromecast, Roku, or Firestick. These casting sticks will connect directly to your projector’s free HDMI port, and you don’t need to run any cables around.

While this method is great for cable management, the main problem is you don’t have many options for audio. Since projectors don’t have audio outputs, and most streaming sticks don’t either, you’ll be limited to your projector’s built-in speakers. If the quality of those speakers is acceptable to you, that’s one option.

Wrapping it Up:

To summarize, you can watch normal TV on a projector but you’ll need to get a cable box and connect the box to the projector via HDMI. You’ll also need to work on an audio solution because built-in projector speakers aren’t the best. However, if you manage to set up a decent system, it can make normal TV watching a whole lot better.

 

About S. Santos

Tech columnist and tech blogger, audiovisual aficionado trying to keep up with the ever-evolving world of gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology. If not fiddling with AV cables at home or in front of the computer, he can be found playing tennis or padel.

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