TV as Computer Monitor
Imagine... putting that big old television set to good use as a secondary, or even primary, monitor for your computer. The thought has certainly crossed the minds of many a technophile. Here's how to hook it up...
Using your Television as a Computer Monitor
With the advent and ever-growing popularity of LCD displays, the CRT display has seen its day. Despite its superior color consistency and higher resolution within a given area, CRT monitors are quickly giving way to the generally lower power consumption and vastly smaller footprint of the LCD. Similarly, consumer-level television is in the process of being affected by the very same trend; as prices continue to drop, the combination of LCD screens and high definition television (HDTV) is becoming an increasingly viable alternative to its older, bulkier counterparts.
Although the price of CRT monitors have dropped in recent years, to purchase one comparable to the size of an average consumer TV set would be quite expensive. So naturally, thoughts of using larger and comparatively less expensive television sets for computing purposes quickly emerge.
And there are a number of methods that will allow you to make the connection. Many computers have incorporated composite (RCA) or S-Video (TV-Out) output that will either mirror or, better yet, extend your desktop beyond the monitor. For desktop systems, there are numerous AGP video cards available that offer a variety of video outputs. For example, ATI's Radeon X1950 PRO video card includes composite, s-video, and component video connections for analog signals.
Connecting your video card to the big screen, though, depends on what inputs your television can accept. If it has multiple input ports, remember that there is a hierarchy in terms of signal quality among the three typical types of connections, which, from lowest to highest, is composite, S-Video, then component video. So opt for the highest quality connection supported by both devices. Many older or more basic televisions may only have a coaxial cable connection. In this case, there are video cards with coax outputs and scan converters that will pass the signal through a coaxial cable directly to your television. Oh, and remember that you'll also need to connect your sound card's LINE-OUT connector to the TV for sound.
The tricky part may be finding the right cables to go from the computer to the TV, since there are several types of RCA (1 or multi-port) and S-Video (4-pin and 7-pin) connectors. One product I found, the Pro S-Video to 3 RCA cable allows you to connect your desktop or laptop computer's S-Video to your TV. These adapters are compatible with both S-video 4-pin and 7-pin receptacles and also connect your PC's stereo audio output to the TV.
But don't run out and buy any special video cards or cables yet... There are certain limitations of using older CRT televisions as computer displays that can easily render the advantages of size and affordability almost completely negligible. Perhaps the greatest constraint is the relatively low resolution of standard, tube-based televisions. Because of their design to accept NTSC (North American), PAL (European), or SECAM signals, good old-fashioned analog television sets generally cannot display resolutions greater than 640x480. That was barely adequate for a 14-inch monitor ten years ago, so just imagine how it might look on a 32-inch TV screen. Have you ever tried to read those fuzzy disclaimers at the end of a TV commercial? Viewing your computer's video signal through a CRT television will not yield the detail and clarity that you would normally expect, although for games and video playback it can produce acceptable results.
Don't give up on the idea of connecting your computer to a big screen TV just yet... there is a better alternative.
HDTV to The Rescue
With the growing popularity of high-definition television, users are presented with a more tantalizing alternative, one where quality and versatility need not be sacrificed. Even the lower echelons of HD televisions offer a multitude of both analog and digital video input connections. And many come equipped with VGA and DVI inputs, allowing for direct connections to your computer's video output. Video card manufacturers have quickly responded to the demand for HD by including dual DVI outputs to support more than one display, as well as HDMI connections for uncompressed digital video and audio transmission.
The only conceivable drawback to using HDTV is obviously the cost. Used exclusively as a computer monitor, it is difficult to justify such a daunting expense. But if you've already got a large HDTV and you can't wait to see what a Windows or Mac display looks like on a 50-inch screen, go for it!
Got comments or questions about using your television as a computer monitor? Post your thoughts below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 29 Mar 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- TV as Computer Monitor (Posted: 29 Mar 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved