Computer Monitor as TV

Category: Television

I have a 30-inch computer monitor, and it would be great to be able to watch live television in my home office, without having to buy a separate TV set. Is it possible to use a computer monitor as a TV screen?

TV Tuner Card

How to Use Your Computer Monitor as a TV

Flat-screen TVs have come down in price in recent years, but they still aren't exactly cheap. If you have a decent-sized flat-panel computer monitor, you can watch TV on the monitor by adding a bit of specialized hardware that costs less than $100. (If you came here looking for help doing the opposite -- using your TV as a computer monitor -- see my companion article TV as Computer Monitor.)

The hardware you need to use your computer monitor as a television is called a TV tuner, and it can be integrated with a computer or packaged as a standalone device. Some tuners require your computer's operating system to work, but many do not. So it's your choice whether you want to watch TV at your computer, on the same monitor you use for computing, or put the tuner and monitor in the living room just a regular TV. Let's look at the pros and cons.

  • Pro: you'll save money and space by using the same monitor for computing and TV viewing.
  • Con: you'll wear out your computer chair much faster by spending twice as much time in it.
  • Pro: you can watch TV in whatever privacy your computing workspace offers.
  • Con: the rest of the family may miss you, and television if you don't have a TV in the living room.

TV tuners that integrate into your computer include PC cards with all the tuner circuitry built into them, plus application software for controlling the card's functions; and cards that rely upon operating system features such as Windows Media Center; you'll need the Media Center edition of Windows to use this type of card.

External TV tuners are housed in cases about the size of a cable TV set-top box; these can be used without a computer. They have their own power supplies so you will need an outlet for the tuner as well as the monitor. Controls include pushbuttons and remote control handsets.

Some internal TV tuners are integrated with high-end graphics engines, making them suitable for playing fast-paced, high-resolution games as well as watching TV. The popular ATI All-In-Wonder card is an example of this breed. At the low end are $70-$100 cards like the GeForce 9500GT and at the high end is the $250 GTX 275.

The difference in price reflects the power of the graphics engine in the card; the HD capabilities of the tuner; the number and types of connectors; and last of all, the amount of RAM on the card. Check reviews of graphics engines for buying guidance, and consider RAM secondarily. Often, a high-end graphics engine performs better than a low-end one with more RAM.

Whichever solution you choose, make sure that it supports the type of TV signal that you want. Some very cheap tuners do not support high-definition TV at all, while others support only lower resolutions. Also make sure that the input cable you will use has a compatible connector on the tuner you buy.

Watching TV on a computer monitor is a low-cost alternative to buying a separate television set. It can also be an environmentally friendly alternative to tossing out or even recycling that old monitor when you buy a new one.

Do you have something to say about using a computer monitor as a TV? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Computer Monitor as TV"

Posted by:

Dave in Indy
23 Mar 2010

You can use LCD monitors as displays but the AT&T U-Verse Set Top Box (STB) requires that the display be HDCP compliant. Many LCD monitors can't do that and they have "handshake" issues with the U-Verse STB. Also many cable / satellite / FiOS STB's power off the TV via the providers remote. Most monitors can't be switched off with a cable / Dish or FiOS remote.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2010

Have not done this yet, but the kids have gone on line, pulled up a kids site and watch their favorite cartoons on our computer(s) all the time. This just requires the right browser plugins and off they go. Not the same as using a new style TV, but they sure do have fun. I have the site 'allmyfaves' plugged in as the home page and they find what they want from their in the kids section. What is nice is it did not require any extra hardware; only drawback? The display is limited to the notebook (~15") or my 17" monitor, not a nice 20 or 30 inch plus size for viewing...

Posted by:

24 Mar 2010

What about the reverse: using a large-screen TV as a computer monitor, because the TVs are often much cheaper?

Posted by:

William J Giunta
24 Mar 2010

You did not mention that you could use a monitor to view TV by using a cable/satellite Set top Box video output. You would not have to purchase a seperate tuner if you all ready have this service and a STB(set top box).

Posted by:

Zeke Krahlin
24 Mar 2010

I don't understand why everyone doesn't just give up cable/satellite/broadcast television...if you already have high speed Internet access. You can watch anything--TV shows, movies, videos--directly through the Internet. You don't even have to pay anything to watch a lot of things for free. But if you want *everything* then a reasonable fee of $25-$75 annually, takes care of that.

Posted by:

25 Mar 2010

Another option to consider in the SlingBox.

Posted by:

26 Mar 2010

Nice job Bob
Thanks for YOUR WORK
Very funny
Wear out the computer chair, con.

Posted by:

30 Mar 2010

Laptop users can find PCMCIA or ExpressCard tuners for under $100 now as well. We routinely time-shift TV programs by using the laptop as a DVR, and then watching the program later, wherever we want.

Windows Media Center will even let you burn your fave episodes to a CD or DVD for archival purposes.

Posted by:

ed b
01 Apr 2010

Just remember - you need at least a 2 ghz dual core computer to stream video off the net smoothly. And watch out for the cheaper tv cards - tried 3 different ones and had poor results.

Posted by:

29 Apr 2010

My Dell LCD monitor came with a HDMI and sound inputs. My cable box has a HDMI output. A $20 HDMI switch (with remote) allows me to switch back and forth.

Posted by:

27 May 2010

I have been watching TV on the computer monitor for a couple of months, but my sound is now distorted even with music videos. I ran antivirus/malware scans. Any suggestions?

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