Does Apple TV Work With Older TVs? (Yes, This is How)

Old vintage TV

The Apple TV is one of the best flexible devices on the market. It’s like the Google Chromecast, only much bigger and with a ton of features. However, its biggest advantage is that it’s compatible with all kinds of TVs. 

Yes, the Apple TV also works with older TVs. It can transform any old generation TV into a smart TV. Apps are installed directly onto Apple TV’s storage and only the audio and video are routed to the actual television. Any old TV is compatible as long as it has an HDMI or even RCA port.

I have a couple of friends who do not own a smart TV but simply use Apple TV to stream the latest content on major entertainment platforms. It’s easy to set up and once supports any television as long as there is a working port. Let’s take a look at how this is possible since the Apple TV only has an HDMI out and no RCA or Optical cable options.

Can Apple TV be used on any TV?

Yes, the Apple TV can be used on any television as long as there are HDMI/RCA ports on the TV and there is a working internet connection in the house.

There are three ports on the Apple TV. One is for power supply, the other for intent (ethernet port) and the last one is the HDMI output that plugs into the television. The Apple TV also supports Wi-Fi if so you can skip the ethernet port.

For best viewing performance, I suggest you get a 4K television because the latest gen Apple TV supports up to 4K. Note that there will be no streaming difficulties even if the television does not support 4K content. Now it’s time to discuss how to connect everything.

How to connect Apple TV to a television via HDMI?

There is an HDMI port at the back of the Apple TV which has to be connected to the TV’s HDMI-in port. Here are the steps on how to do so:

1. Connect the power cable to the back of the Apple TV.

2. Now plug one end of the HDMI cable into the back of the Apple TV.

3. Take the other end of the HDMI cable and plug it into the television. Note that Apple does not provide any HDMI cables in the box, so make sure to buy one beforehand. I suggest using the PowerBear 4K HDMI cable. It’s 10ft long which is enough for most cases and quite sturdy given I have been using one for the past 3-4 years.

4. Plug in the ethernet port if you use one. Otherwise set up the Wi-Fi by switching on the Apple TV and the television.

5. Take out the TV remote control and go to the source. Select the HDMI option where you connected Apple TV. Most TVs have multiple HDMI ports numbered 1 and 2. Select the correct option from the TV menu.

6. The first screen that shows up is the language selection screen

7. Select your preferred language followed by the country.

8. Choose whether or not you want to use Siri

9. Select how you want to set up the device. For this tutorial, I’ll choose manually.

10. Choose your Wi-Fi connection and enter the password. 

11. Upon successful connection, enter your Apple ID and password. 

12. Choose whether or not you would want to sign in to your TV provider and then enable/disable location services

13. I usually do not suggest downloading the Aerial Screensaver since it hogs up lots of storage and is useless if you are using a low-resolution TV. 

14. Finally choose whether or not you’d want to send Apple analytics data and accept the terms and conditions. The Apple TV is not ready for use. Download the streaming service of your choice and enjoy.

This is all good for TVs with an HDMI connection. In the case of older TVs without an HDMI port, there is a workaround which I will discuss in the next section.

How to connect Apple TV to a television with no HDMI ports?

Old TVs usually had RCA ports instead of HDMIs. So an HDMI to RCA converter is needed to connect the Apple TV to an older generation television.

Make sure to find what ports are available on the old TV before buying the converter. Once you have confirmed the ports, buy the appropriate converter to enjoy Apple TV on the outdated televisions.

For this example, I will be using the GANA HDMI to RCA converter because it’s the cheapest in the market and only supports up to 1080p. I highly suggest you not buy a 4K version since older generation television does not support that kind of resolution. But 4K one only if you are planning to upgrade to a better TV.

With that out of the way, here are the steps:

1. Plug in the HDMI from the Apple TV to the input of the converter.

2. Now plug in the RCA cables to the output of the converter and connect the other end to the TV.

3. Finally choose the broadcast formats from the side. Available options are NTSC (North America) and PAL (South America, Europe, and Asia).

4. Switch on the television and pick the composite audio-video mode to enjoy modern content on a ~10-year-old television.

It’s quite simple to set up but there are tradeoffs to this which I will address in the FAQ section.


Can I watch 4K content on older televisions with Apple TV?

Television using the RCA converter will not support 4K content. The audio and video quality is severely downgraded when being converted from HDMI to RCA simply because the old gen tech does not support all that information.

Most 4K or even HD content is halved in resolution, or further lowered in other cases depending on the capabilities of the older television. Even the audio is reduced to only two channels (left and right). So you can enjoy Apple TV on all televisions, but the quality may not always be consistent.


Hopefully, this article explains everything you needed to know about Apple TVs and their relationship with older televisions. There is a workaround, but at the cost of audio and video quality, which if you ask me is not that bad, especially if you want simply to experience the content and not the visuals. Stay tuned for tech tips in future posts.

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Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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