Your video quality has nothing to do with video resources; the MacBook has plenty of graphics card to drive its built-in and a TV or fairly large external display. Instead, you need to have a long look at the connectors and devices you’re using.
S-Video, specifically, doesn’t output very high quality video (in computer terms), and a standard def TV is a very, very low resolution display compared to just about anything else. Officially, S-Video carries a 480i signal, and you’re not going to get a quality picture above 640×480. Specifically, text quality suffers significantly when you try to throw an 800×600 or 1024×768 signal down that pipe.
VGA is better, but not tremendously, but that more depends on the screen than the computer, and which versions of VGA it supports in common with the MacBook. You don’t say anything about the screen, so I can’t say much here.
But there is an answer to your question, at any rate. Most Mac portables support ‘closed clamshell mode,’ though I don’t have a MacBook handy to test this with. My MacBook Pro definitely supports it. You just plug in your display while the computer is closed and asleep, then use an external keyboard or mouse to wake the computer. It will sense that the screen is closed and activate only the external screen. You could then open the clamshell and use the built-in keyboard and trackpad, if you’d prefer.
Last update: 07:31 AM Thursday, June 26, 2008