Are you trying to upcycle an old TV? Maybe you just got a new Roku and are just now realizing your TV is a little to old to take advantage of it? Well, rest assured you can connect your Roku to a TV without HDMI, but you’re going to have to jump through a couple hoops!
A Roku can connect to a TV without HDMI by using a converter cable, or, better yet, a powered converter box. Component, S-Video, and VGA connections can all be used with the right powered conversion box, which allows the Roku to connect with HDMI on one side and your TV to the other.
We’ll start by figuring out what port you have available before turning our attention toward the adapters and cables you’ll need in this article. It’s not complicated, but there are a few details you need to get right for a great experience, so, let’s get started!
Step 1) Figuring Out Which Input Options Your TV Has
Connecting your Roku to your TV without an HDMI port may seem daunting, but fear not! There are several other input options available that you’re probably dealing with, including VGA, S-Video, and Component video (aka RCA…see below).
So, first we have to figure out which port you have! Typically they’ll be labeled, but we’ll talk about what to look for here. Take a look at the back of your TV and check for any input ports other than HDMI.
RCA ports are typically color-coded red, white, and yellow, while Component ports are color-coded red, green, and blue (and two red-and-white connectors). If you only have the red white and yellow cables, you only have “RCA” connections, not the full component connection. Don’t worry-that still works!
VGA ports are typically blue and have 15 pins arranged in three rows. This is a wider, rectangular port.
Lastly, very old models may be dealing with S-Video, which is actually a curcular port with several ports in the middle. Our graphic at the top shows these ports from left to right.
If you’re still not sure which input options your TV has, consult your TV’s manual or look up the make and model online. You may have a DVI port, which works in principle the same way the S-Video or VGA port does (at least for the purposes of this guide). While we won’t break out a separate section for DVI because it’s a bit archaic at this point, if you happen to run into it, that’s how to manage it!
Once you’ve figured out which input options are available, you can move on to finding the appropriate converter for your Roku.
Step 2) Picking the Right Adapter
Connecting your Roku to a TV without HDMI requires an adapter to convert the digital signal into an analog one that can be read by your TV. This is why we’re going to recommend actual adapters over the simple cable-adapters (with two types of connectors on each end).
An RCA cable actually comes with the Roku Express+ (on Amazon), but it’s a three-cable red, white, yellow setup, which means it won’t be able to pass along higher resolutions: the screen is limited to the cables, because there’s no proper adapter.
Pro-Tip: Use Powered Cable Adapters to convert HDMI to any other format, because the powered adapter has to do some computing to convert the signal while maintaining resolution and audio quality.
If your TV has composite ports, you can use a simple powered HDMI-to-Component converter like this one (on Amazon) to connect your Roku. This adapter converts the HDMI signal to the full suite of 5 component cables, which you can plug into your TV’s composite ports.
Note that options like the one in the next paragraph only include 3 of the RCA ports, which isn’t enough for the full component setup. If your TV only has the three RCA ports, though, then obviously you’d be fine with the simpler adapter below.
If your TV has an S-video port, you can use a powered HDMI to S-video converter like this one (on Amazon) to connect your Roku. This adapter converts the HDMI signal to S-video cables, which you can plug into your TV’s S-video port, and it also has 3 RCA out ports if that happens to be the only option you have!
Lastly, for those with VGA ports, you can use a powered HDMI to VGA converter (also on Amazon) to connect your Roku just like the other options above. Just be sure you’re purchasing the right converter for the outputs and cables you have on hand!
Step 3) Purchasing Any Extra Cables
Now that we have the adapter, we need to ensure we have the right cables to connect it to our TV. If you have an HDMI cable for one side of the adapter, you just need to make sure you have the other cable on hand before moving forward.
The S Video, Component, or VGA cable is a crucial part of this puzzle, so, if you don’t have one on hand, that’s your next step.
When purchasing the cable, make sure to check the length and make sure it meets your needs. Other than that, these are simple components – get whatever’s easiest on the pocket book before connecting it all and seeing if it works as expected.
If things don’t work out automatically, check the cable connections and restart the Roku after powering up the adapter.
Image and Audio Quality
The image and audio quality will always be limited by the TV’s capabilities and/or the effectiveness of your conversion equipment. HDMI will be the best, but after that, we recommend using a Component connection before trying S-Video, and then VGA. This is also the order in which you’re most likely to run into these standards in the field at this point (with S-Video and VGA falling by the wayside like DVI).
While Roku devices support up to 4K resolution, older analog TVs may not support this high resolution. In this case, it’s best to use an analog composite input. If you’re using an older connector, you probably have an older TV too.
If it’s only a standard resolution screen, then you don’t need to care as much about powered adapters–wired models are worth at least trying (especially if you already have the RCA adapter cable on hand and can try that with the Roku Express+).
For those who want to enjoy HDR content, it’s important to note that this feature is only available on Roku devices that support HDR. Sadly, none of the above methods are guaranteed to pass the HDR content through properly, with a powered component conversion being the best experience here.
Lastly, a note on audio: while the three-cable RCA connector, or even the powered conversion options will power surround systems, they won’t be able to separate audio channels and send them to the right speakers like a true home theater audio system–as some users have found out the hard way (forum link).
If you have other issues after you’re connected, like an unstable Roku WiFi connection or maybe your sound isn’t working, be sure to check out our other articles designed to help you with those issues!
Can You Connect Roku To Your TV With USB?
If your TV does not have an HDMI port, you might be wondering if you can connect your Roku to your TV with a USB cable. Unfortunately, the answer is no. The USB cable that comes with some Roku models is for power only. You can plug it into your TV, but it’s not doing data transfer, only power.
Converted & Connected!
Home theaters have evolved significantly over the years, and with the advent of streaming devices like Roku, the experience has only gotten richer. However, not every TV set in our homes is the latest model, and sometimes, we find ourselves in a jigsaw puzzle of connections and cables.
But as we’ve explored, even if your TV lacks an HDMI port, it’s not the end of the cinematic world. With the right adapters and a bit of patience, you can bridge the technological gap and enjoy your favorite shows and movies.
Hopefully we’ve gotten you up and running with your Roku, but it’s worth noting that if you’re limited by input ports, then the next best upgrade for your Home Theater is probably a new screen! We have a dedicated article on using Roku’s with projectors, actually, if you want to make a big upgrade!