Many users would like to use their laptop’s screen as a display for console video games or other devices and wonder if they can use the HDMI port on their laptop to do so.
It is very rare for a laptop to have an HDMI Input port unless it is a special piece of equipment custom-built for displaying video from external sources. In nearly every case, HDMI ports included on laptops are for output only. Laptop specifications from the manufacturer will indicate whether the ports are input or output.
Read on to learn how to tell if your laptop has an HDMI input, what they look like, and anything else you might need to know!
How to tell if your laptop has HDMI input
All HDMI ports look the same whether they are input or output so there is not a great way to determine what sort of port you have on your laptop just by looking at it.
The best way to tell if your specific laptop has an HDMI input is to check the listed specifications and features on the retail website that you purchased the laptop on such as Amazon or Best Buy. If you cannot find the specific model there then you can check the manufacturer’s website for that particular model as well.
Once you’ve found your laptop’s product page, navigate down to the specifications section of the product information. Here is a picture of what this looks like on Best Buy’s website:
Open up the menu by clicking on the arrow. Then, scroll down to the section that says ‘Ports.’
As you can see, this product page indicates all of the USB and HDMI ports available on this particular laptop model, including 1 HDMI Output (total).
If your laptop included an HDMI Input, it would be listed here.
If you would rather watch an explanation of this topic, check out this video on my YouTube channel below!
What does an HDMI port look like?
If you aren’t sure what an HDMI port looks like on the side of your laptop, check out my video above or take a look at the picture below:
Almost all laptops will come with a ‘Standard A’ HDMI output and most HDMI cables that you’ll find will also be the ‘Standard A’ size. On a laptop, they look like this:
As you can see in the picture (the port is labeled ‘HDMI’ to the right), this laptop comes with the ‘Standard A’ version of the HDMI port.
In most cases, you will only find the ‘Mini C’ or ‘Micro D’ versions of the HDMI port on extremely small electronic devices such as cameras or other recording devices.
Does an HDMI input look the same as an HDMI output?
The tricky part about figuring out if your laptop port is an HDMI input or output is that they look exactly the same.
If you have ever seen an HDMI cable, you’ll note that both ends are identical and it doesn’t matter which end you plug into the input and which end you plug into the output. Once the cables are connected, it is the internal wiring of the port itself and the software involved that tells the cable how to work.
Since they look the same, you’ll have to check the manufacturer’s or retailer’s website for the information.
Why don’t laptops have HDMI Input?
At this point, you might be wondering why it is so common for laptops to have HDMI output ports and so rare for them to include HDMI input ports. The answer is fairly simple but also a little technical.
From a technical standpoint, it is much more difficult to get an HDMI input to work correctly on a computer because they have to deal with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) and there are other variables at play such as operating system, device drivers, etc.
On the other hand, it is easier for a device such as a TV to include HDMI inputs because the software involved to display the video is much simpler – it only has one job.
I know this answer doesn’t provide all of the technical details that you might be looking for but, really, none of that is very interesting.
At the end of the day, laptop manufacturers know that most people will get more value from including HDMI outputs on their laptops because that’s how they are used in a business setting (such as during a presentation). The fact that HDMI inputs are more prone to technical issues also means that users will have more complaints and tech support issues as well.
What is High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP)
I just mentioned that HDMI input is trickier than output because it has to deal with HDCP.
HDCP is a type of digital copy protection used to prevent people from copying or recording audio/video across a data connection. Basically, when encrypted data (such as a Blu-ray disc) is streaming data from an HDMI output, the HDMI input receiving it has to be able to decode that encryption to play the media.
On the surface, this makes complete sense. If you were a content creator, you wouldn’t want people to be able to easily copy your stuff for resale or even personal use.
Anyone old enough to remember VCRs and cassette tapes will note that it was super easy to make copies of those because there was no such protection in place.
But, what if you just want to use your laptop screen as the display for your console video games or as a secondary display for your desktop computer?
Luckily, there are a few ways to get around this!
How to display HDMI Input on a laptop
While it is impossible to convert an HDMI output port to an HDMI input port, there are pieces of hardware that can do it for you.
By using adapters or capture cards, you can convert your laptop’s HDMI output port into an HDMI input.
Check out my more in-depth guide for that here.