Can Macbook HDMI Port Be Used as an Input?

The return of the HDMI cable on the MacBook Pro has taken users by surprise in a good way. It came just when Apple was steadily ditching ports from its devices.

MacBook HDMI port can output a signal to an external display or TV. But it can not decode any input signal over HDMI. As a result, it’s impossible to use a MacBook as a video display for your console or phone. However, connecting a third-party USB capture card allows you to use the stunning retina display as a monitor.

But it’s not all rainbow and sunshine! In this write-up, I’ll explore more about the MacBook HDMI input and output, what is possible, and what you should look out for. Without further ado, let’s take the tour, shall we?

Can You Use MacBook HDMI as An Input?

By default, a MacBook can only transmit an output signal to other HDMI devices, such as an external display or TV. So, you can experience the MacBook’s imagery on a bigger screen.

In contrast, if you are planning to use your MacBook’s incredible Retina Display as a monitor via HDMI input, the blatant answer is — NO. Apple restricts its MacBook Air or Pro display to only exhibit its own output signal.

The underlying reason is that the MacBook cannot decode input video signals through its HDMI USB-C or Thunderbolt ports. They are only unidirectional.

That said, another trick that can get you going with the MacBook is to use its display as a regular monitor of such.

Is There a Way to Use MacBook HDMI as An Input?

Yes, there is an alternative method to use the MacBook HDMI as An Input. How, you may ask. Well, this trick includes a third-party HDMI video capture card.

So before you set sail to take advantage of one of the most color-accurate displays out there, buy a capture card first.

Now, let’s quickly look at how you can set up your MacBook for HDMI input:

  • Take your HDMI capture card, and plug in your preferred device’s HDMI cable to the input port. The device can be an XBOX, PlayStation, Nintendo, TV, etc.
Take your HDMI capture card, and plug in your preferred device
  • Connect the provided USB A to C cable to the opposite side of the capture card port.
Connect the provided USB A to C cable to the opposite side of the capture card port
  • Plug in the other end of that USB cable to your MacBook’s Thunderbolt port.
Plug in the other end of that USB cable to your MacBook’s Thunderbolt port
Launch QuickTime Player.
  • Press File > New Movie Recording from the apple menu bar at the top. This will open the internal webcam of the MacBook.
  • Click on the little down arrow next to the record button.
Click on the little down arrow next to the record button
  • Select USB Video. This will switch over to the HDMI input.

And voilà! Your device’s output signal is now showing on the MacBook. Whatever you play on your TV or console will now appear on the beautiful Retina display.

Click on the green maximize button to view the video feed in full screen. You can also choose to record it if you want.

Warning: Make sure to place your capture card in a well-ventilated place, as it will heat up as time goes on. Also, remove any plastic that wraps the device. Excessive heat may cause interruption and loss of signal.

So, that’s a simple maneuver to benefit from the industry-leading display of the MacBook.

However, you will need more screen space when the 14, 15, or 16-inch screen real estate becomes inadequate. This is a familiar scenario for creators, video editors, and programmers.

So, how would you work in such a situation? Well, simply connect external monitors. This is what we are going to explore in the next section.

How to Connect MacBook to TV or Display with HDMI?

Some Modern MacBooks, such as MBP 2021 and later, and Mac sport full-fledged HDMI ports. You can take advantage of this port to add another display and mirror or extend the active screen size. You can do this on your gigantic living room TV as well.

For older MacBook and newer MacBook Air models, however, do not include an HDMI rather than thunderbolt 3 or 4 ports. Use HDMI to USB Type C cable or adapter for those devices.

Now, before you move on and plug in an external display or TV, one caveat you should know about. The jittery sensation appears while using the TV as a monitor.

It’s because televisions, in general, have fewer pixel density compared to a dedicated monitor. As a result, at 60Hz, poking around on the television display feels sluggish.

So, here’s how you can connect a MacBook to an external display:

  • Find the HDMI port on your external display or TV.
Find the HDMI port on your external display or TV
  • Plug in the HDMI cable firmly.
  • Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to your MacBook Pro’s HDMI port or USB-C port via an HDMI to Type C adapter.
Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to your MacBook Pro’s HDMI port or USB-C port

Note: Use an adapter if your MacBook has no dedicated HDMI port.

  • Select the correct input source on the display. For example, if you connect the cable to the first HDMI port, choose HDMI1.
Select the correct input source on the display

And there you have it. You’ll see everything happening in your MacBook on the display at its native resolution. The MacBook starts to mirror the video output.

That means everything you do on your MacBook also shows on the monitor. But you can choose to extend. This will identify the new monitor as the secondary display.

In addition, to stir up how you want to set up the external display, navigate to System Preferences > Displays.

Now, organize how you want to move around between the two displays. For instance, If you want to set up the two displays vertically, drag the display icons and place them one below the other.

organize how you want to move around between the two displays

Common Issues with MacBook HDMI Output

Many times, connecting a display to a MacBook does not go according to the plan. A few issues come up down the line. Here’s a quick look at the most common issues that may give you a hard time.

HDMI Isn’t Detected

After connecting both ends of the HDMI cable, display, and the MacBook, you might still not see anything on the additional screen. It is simply because the MacBook is not detecting HDMI.

So what should you do in this situation?

First, check whether the connection is loose on any end. If everything seems snug, go ahead and reconnect the HDMI cable again.

Next, check the condition of the HDMI ports and the cable for any visible damage or anomaly.

When you figure out everything is as bold as brass, restart your MacBook, and there should be no problems henceforth.

Display Not Showing Image Properly

Due to the aspect ratio disparity between your MacBook and the external display, the images may not appear as they should. So you may notice a zoomed-in (overscan) video feed, the display not filling all the way (underscan), black bars on both sides, and other similar issues.

So, does it happen to everyone? No.

Is there a way to get around this issue? Yes.

To solve this problem, adjust the image size on the screen. Click on the Apple icon on the menu bar. Go to System Preferences (Settings) > Displays > Select external monitor. Fit the image to the screen using the touchpad.

Choppy or No Audio Over HDMI

Another known and reported issue while the MacBook is connected to a display is audio stutter or no audio at all. You need to specify the HDMI device for audio output to solve this problem.

Simply go to System Settings (Preferences) from the Apple menu. Next, go to Sound > Output > Choose an HDMI device.

Besides, don’t forget to disconnect any other audio devices connected to the MacBook.

Frequently Asked Questions

Digging into the MacBook HDMI input, I’ve found some interesting queries that people often ask. Below, I’ve tried to answer the relevant queries for you.

Does MacBook Support 144Hz Over HDMI?

MacBook’s support 144Hz over HDMI, but only selective models have this capability. M2 MacBook Pro 14 and 16-inch can run one display up to 4K 144hz. However, the M1 MacBook Pro 14 and 16-inch can deliver 144hz at 1440p resolution. Try to use a direct USB-C to HDMI cable for a direct connection. Any use of adapter in between may not unlock 144hz.

Does the MacBook Air Have an HDMI port?

Apple Silicon MacBook Air models do not include an HDMI port. They rather have a USB-C port. So if you are planning to connect an external display, a Display cable 1.4 to USB-C will do the trick. This allows you to use a 4K 144hz external display with the MacBook Air.

Which MacBooks Have HDMI Out?

Every 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro model that came out in 2021 or later includes an HDMI out port. Also, 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2012 to 2015 have a built-in full size HDMI port. But the HDMI port does not support any input signal.

Closing Thoughts

The MacBook HDMI port is designed to output only. It’s not meant to accept any input signal. Hence, you cannot use the MacBook as a monitor for your other media devices.

I recommend you to buy a relatively cheap USB/HDMI adapter to force the MacBook to accept HDMI input.

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