Nowadays, most laptops come with a high-resolution display with decent brightness and color accuracy. Some of them also offer high-refresh rates, but all of them are limited to the only one display input.
If your laptop has an HDMI port, you might wonder whether it’s possible to use it as an external display with your game console. Laptops are portable, and the one with a decent display panel can be considered a portable monitor as well.
Sadly, it isn’t possible to HDMI input on laptop screen due to the HDMI port only carrying output signals. In rare instances, there might be another HDMI port on your laptop that supports HDMI-in signals, but the possibilities are vague.
Regular HDMI’s can’t carry bi-directional signals simultaneously. Also, you need dedicated hardware to decode the HDMI signals, which you won’t find on a laptop with an HDMI-out port. If you want to reuse the screen on an old laptop, you will have to deal with its LVDS (Low-voltage differential signaling) interface and unconventional connector types.
The input and output HDMI connectors look the same, but their circuitry is quite different. This is why you just can’t plug a PlayStation to your laptop over the HDMI interface and expect it to work.
Which Laptops come with an HDMI-in port?
If you got one of those gaming laptops from Alienware (older M series), the chances are that it has a dedicated HDMI-in port. However, we didn’t find any newer laptop models with the same feature, which isn’t unexpected, given that it only serves a niche purpose.
Also, if you connect your laptop to a console or other devices over HDMI-in, then you won’t be able to use it until you disconnect the cable from the HDMI-in port.
In case you are lucky to have a laptop with the functionality, you can at least carry it anywhere you want and use it as a portable monitor.
How to Get HDMI Input on Laptop?
There are several reasons why you would want to get HDMI input on laptop. Some might want to play games on a console and stream or record it on their powerful laptops, which is quite a critical use case if you are going to make content on Twitch or YouTube.
To get your laptop to read HDMI input signals, you will need additional hardware. One of them is an HDMI capture card, which is capable of capturing an HDMI-in signal. It has a built-in decoder that decodes the signals and sends the real-time capture feed to your PC or laptop over USB.
Elgato makes the best capture cards in the market. The Elgato Game Capture HD60 S passes through the HDMI signals from your PlayStation and Xbox game consoles to your PC over a USB 3.0 Type-C connection. You can get a 1080p@60fps HDMI input on your laptop using this capture card, assuming that it has a USB Type-C port. It works with both Windows 10 and macOS laptops.
However, note that there will be a slight delay in the feed due to the bandwidth limitations of the USB interface. PCI-E based capture cards can only be used on tower PCs, which basically offers zero passthrough lag.
This cheaper HDMI capture card from AGPtek also captures HDMI-in signals, but it can’t pass the video feed to your laptop. If your sole purpose is to record 1080p@30fps gameplay footage with voice recording, then this AGPtek HD game capture card is for you.
You can either plug in a USB drive (128GB max) or an external hard drive (2TB max, partitioned in MBR) for saving your recordings. You will also have to use an external power supply to power the capture card.
Is it Possible to use your Laptop as an External Screen?
Unless your laptop has an HDMI-in port, it’s impossible to use your laptop as an external screen. However, you can take advantage of Windows 10’s Miracast feature to project the screen of another PC to your laptop over a local Wi-Fi network.
To do it, make sure that your PC and laptop is running the latest version of Windows 10 and connected to the same Wi-Fi hotspot. After that, go to the Windows 10 Settings > System > Projecting to this PC menu, then set the projection settings to Always On. You will have to enable this option on both your laptop and the PC.
Once you enable the option, press the Windows + P key combo to bring up the Project menu on your PC, and choose your laptop from the list of devices.
The PC will establish a connection to your laptop, which will then act as a second monitor for the PC. You can also choose to duplicate or extend your PC screen to the laptop. If either of the computers doesn’t support Miracast, you can use an app like Spacedesk to get a duplicated feed of your PC screen on your laptop.
If you want to use to laptop screen just to play console games, then there are streaming alternatives for it as well. For PlayStation 4 owners, the PS4 Remote Play app offers game streaming from PlayStation to a Windows or Mac PC/laptop.
You can pair your DualShock 4 controller with your laptop and use the Remote Play app to connect to your PS4 over the local network. It’s worth mentioning that you will have to log in to your PlayStation account. The stream quality is limited to 1080p@30fps (with PS4 Pro).
There’s no such app for Xbox owners that enables game streaming on Windows PCs/laptops, but you can install an Android emulator on your computer and get the Xbox Game Streaming Android app on it. You can learn more about the app from Xbox’s official page.
If you have an old laptop that doesn’t work anymore, you can at least salvage the screen and use it as a portable monitor with a supported display controller board. Most of you won’t likely tread into such complications, but you can possibly try it in case you have a broken laptop lying around.
All you have to do is buy a new embedded display controller board with an HDMI-in port, which should be compatible with the laptop’s 30-pin LVDS connector. When you connect an HDMI device to the display controller, you will be able to use the laptop screen as a monitor.
Also, note that you will need an external power adapter and more likely get a 3D-printed casing for the whole contraption. If you are interested in such DIY solutions, then this video guide from Linus Tech Tips will help you.
Here are some frequently asked questions on this topic:
1. Can I convert HDMI-out to HDMI-in?
No, it’s not possible to convert HDMI output to an input interface. HDMI ports don’t support bi-directional I/O signals, and the hardware is quite different. The only option for you is to use an HDMI capture card that we discussed earlier.
2. What’s the main difference between HDMI-in and HDMI-out?
HDMI-in allows signal transmission from your PC, laptop, console, or streaming media players to an output device, such as a monitor or TV. On the other hand, HDMI-out transmits the HDMI signals from an HDMI-compliant device to the HDMI-in interface.
In simple words, HDMI-out is the sender, and HDMI-in is the receiver end. Few devices support HDMI in/out at the same time, for instance, the early generations of Alienware laptops.
3. How do I know if my laptop has HDMI-in or out?
The majority of laptops that come with an unlabeled HDMI port is HDMI-out. If it’s labeled as HDMI in/out on your laptop, it should support HDMI input.
If it’s unlabeled, don’t try to plug in consoles or other devices to your laptop’s HDMI port, as it might overvolt the circuits and cause irreparable damage to your laptop. Instead, you can use a capture card, but you won’t be able to watch encrypted streams over it or play games without noticeable input delay.
In conclusion, it’s quite difficult to get HDMI input on laptop, if not impossible to say the least.