How to Use Your TV as Monitor for PC
Let’s say that you’ve bought Diablo III or Max Payne 3 and you want to play it like there’s no tomorrow. Ultra high on all the settings, 100 fps and all that. But what if your PC monitor seems too tiny to fully immerse you in the atmosphere of the game. Let’s face it, a 21” monitor is nothing compared to to a 32” TV screen. If you own a cool HD TV, it would be a shame not to use it to its maximum potential, and to do that, all you have to do is to hook it up to your gaming rig.
In the past, connecting the TV to your computer could be tricky, and in some cases, offer poor video quality. This was due to the poor quality of the connectors or the low resolution of the TV. Nowadays, the story is somehow different: TVs have full HD resolutions and offer a crystal clear images and the bigger dimension of the screen does not affect the quality. Also, newer connectors, such as HDMI or DisplayPort have almost no attenuation and provide top of the line video signal.
Ways to connect your TV to the PC
HDMI has one great advantage over its rivals, and that is the ability to transport both video and audio signal within one cable. This feature is great for those who want to keep their house clean of cables. But for this method to work, make sure that your TV has HDMI connectivity and your video card also has HDMI slot and the option to render audio. You might want to lookup the manual for the video card to see if you have the possibility to transmit both audio and video.
Also, keep in mind that some video cards do not have native HDMI, but there are certain adapters available, to convert the digital signal from a DVI, DisplayPort, miniHDMI to HDMI. Do not let yourself be fooled by those who claim that HDMI offers better picture quality than DisplayPort or DVI. They are all digital cables and have the same quality. The only difference is that HDMI can carry audio as well as video and the other cannot.
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Of course, if we compare HDMI to the old school VGA connection, the difference is pretty big. The analog signal of the VGA makes it very susceptible to interference and any damage to the cable can result in artefacts appearing on the screen. Also, HDMI can carry the signal for a longer distance than VGA, so if you want to keep your TV and PC apart, make sure you go with this method (of course, if you can).
I use HDMI on my PC monitor and I can tell you that it has one disadvantage: the connector is not secured with clamps or screws and when I move the monitor, it interrupts the signal for 1-2 seconds. Better make sure that you won’t touch the cable often, or move the TV or PC because you might encounter the same problem.
These are the alternatives to HDMI for those who do not have that type of connection. The only difference is that you have to have another cable for sound. But regarding the picture quality, they offer the same crystal clear image. I personally like DVI because the connector is more secure that the HDMI and does not wobble and cause artefacts or loss of signal. If your TV has a DVI connector, then it would be a great idea to use this type of connection. Also, DisplayPort is smaller than DVI but it has the same properties. So, either one you chose, the quality will be the same.
Video Graphics Array is a connection used in older graphics cards and monitors. VGA is an analog signal and because of this it’s much more likely to suffer from attenuation over longer distances and when the cable is damaged in any way. Although its quality is poor in comparison to newer technologies, in absence of other connection types you can use it. Keep in mind though that VGA does not support audio, so a different cable needs to be used for sound. Keep in mind that VGA offers low video quality, mainly noticeable when reading text.
S-Video cables are found on older video cards. The cable usually uses a splitter from S-Video to Video connector (the old AV) but it doesn’t carry sound. It offers a good video quality, but the problem usually is with the resolution. Old TVs use a line setup, rather than a pixel format. So you might see a “resolution” of 700 vertical lines.
This can be confusing, but 1 line is roughly equal to 1 pixel in height. So a 700 line display has about 700 pixels in height. I used to use this setup a few years back, from my PC to my TV which was in another room and the video quality was pretty good after this distance, and also the availability of long AV cables. Nowadays, this method is underrated, but if you don’t have any other option, it still works. Also, I connected my PC to a DVD player and then to the TV. There was no difference in quality (not one that I could see).
5. Wireless / LAN
Top of the line TVs now have wireless or LAN connectivity. And this feature, although a bit pricey, opens a door for better ways to connect to other media devices like a PC. The connection can be over wireless, and you can stream video or other media. Although, I wouldn’t recommend it for gaming because of the lag it develops.
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In shooter games, the lag might be so high that you can’t play at all (or it’s just me, I’m pretty hard to please when it comes to speed). Also, over LAN networks you can stream at pretty high speed and the lag is not that great. This method also eliminates the need for cables and helps you keep your room tidy. There are wireless dongles available that allow you to stream from PC, laptop or other devices, such as smartphone or tablet. Also, there are streaming apps that can help you accomplish this task.
These are the main methods for connecting your TV to the PC and viewing images, games or movies. The advantage of using your TV instead of a monitor is the fact that it has integrated audio and they are usually bigger. Although, some might complain that the resolution is smaller than a monitor, but I don’t find this to be a big problem. Modern TVs have full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, the same as most PC monitors, but there are bigger monitors (27” or higher) that have 2560 x 1440 or bigger resolution and they offer superior image quality and can fit more stuff on the screen.
Keep in mind, older TV sets have pretty low resolutions and you might encounter a sensible loss in image quality and incompatibility between the video card resolution and the screen resolution. So be sure to search the user manual or the web for more information on how well it works. If you know other methods to connect your computer to your TV, please let us know, and also, if you try any of the methods listed here, I’d like to know your impressions.