Connect your PC to your HDTV

I absolutely love technology. Though, I have to be very careful not to get so absorbed in a new gadget that it actually steals time from real life. To that end, the wife and I decided to kill our cable TV service about a year ago.

After realizing just how much time we were devoting to our heroin-like dependence on Tivo, we pulled the plug and went to rabbit ears. It’s been great. Our 3 young kids adjusted quickly and HDTV broadcast over-the-air is stunning.

Our main home PC is in the living room corner opposite our 44″ Plasma TV home theater system. Being the technophile that I am, I demanded we have dual 19″ LCD screens. Careful: once you go dual, you’ll never be satisfied with a single monitor again!

We have a Netflix subscription and recently heard they were offering a huge selection of streaming HD videos at no extra cost. Heidi and I watched one movie on the PC and quickly realized that was no fun. Movies are best enjoyed on 44″ Plasma TV screens… not 19″ PC screens!

After a little investigation, we discovered that several devices are out which can connect your Netflix account directly to your HDTV. The $99 Roku Player got my attention first because most of the other options were Blu-Ray players running at over $250.

I was about to pull the trigger when this thought suddenly occurred to me: “Hey, I wonder if there’s a way to connect my PC directly to the Plasma TV?”

A little more digging and I found a way to do it for about $100. This solution is much better because it opens an even larger world of online digital content. There are tons of great HD shows available (with commercials) for free from Hulu, Fox, NBC, CBS, and more. Plus, I can now connect our iTunes music library to the home theater speakers.

Here’s what I bought:

$40 ASUS EAH4350 Video Card
$65 50 foot HDMI cable

The video card features 2 PC monitor outputs and an additional HDMI output. The HDMI output carries HDTV and 5.1 surround sound (on a single cable!) to our HDTV. This allows our HDTV to act as a 2nd monitor… unfortunately the card only allows you to have 2 screens at a time running from the PC. But still, it worked like a charm!

As a side note… Heidi and I were most satisfied with all the movies and TV shows we’d missed. My 6 year old daughter, Emma, however, was most impressed with the fact that she can drive SpaceClaim on “the big TV!” Charlotte (5) and Henry (2) haven’t quite figured SpaceClaim out yet, however, and prefer catching up on the Wiggles and Scooby-Doo.

Got a loved one with Techno-lust? Try this as a gift idea!

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  • http://cadwire.net/ Rick Stavanja

    Thx for the post! It’ll serve to reinforce our decision to move the same direction here. I am curious tho on the configuration for the PC you have connected to the HDTV. …Vista? XP? MediaCenter?

  • http://cadwire.net Rick Stavanja

    Thx for the post! It’ll serve to reinforce our decision to move the same direction here. I am curious tho on the configuration for the PC you have connected to the HDTV. …Vista? XP? MediaCenter?

  • http://virtualvector.com/ Mark Burhop

    We’ve been doing this too. My wife’s laptop and son’s apple both have s-video out so we have been streaming video this way. This works pretty well from netflix or whatever video source my son finds.

    But what you have done is definitely a step up since it takes care of the sound and is probably higher video quality.

    It may be time to build a media PC :-)

  • http://virtualvector.com Mark Burhop

    We’ve been doing this too. My wife’s laptop and son’s apple both have s-video out so we have been streaming video this way. This works pretty well from netflix or whatever video source my son finds.

    But what you have done is definitely a step up since it takes care of the sound and is probably higher video quality.

    It may be time to build a media PC :-)

  • http://www.derrekcooper.com/ derrek cooper

    ok.. now I am super jealous.. Something I have been thinking about forever.

    This sounds like an awesome setup..

    I have an old school rear-projection.

    Trying to decide whether or not to go plasma??

  • http://www.derrekcooper.com derrek cooper

    ok.. now I am super jealous.. Something I have been thinking about forever.

    This sounds like an awesome setup..

    I have an old school rear-projection.

    Trying to decide whether or not to go plasma??

  • Jeff Waters

    Rick: The PC is about a 3 year old Sony running “Windows XP Media Center”.

  • Jeff Waters

    Rick: The PC is about a 3 year old Sony running “Windows XP Media Center”.

  • Jeff Waters

    Derrek: Seemed like there was a near religious devotion to either Plasma or LCD back when I bought the TV.

    I went w/ Plasma and have had some burn-in issues. I hear the newer sets don’t have that as a problem now.

    Still, I think I’d probably go LCD if I were getting one today. Mainly cause they are lighter & thinner and a bit less costly. I think they use less juice, too (not that I’m hugging any trees, eating granola, or wearing birkenstocks).

  • Jeff Waters

    Derrek: Seemed like there was a near religious devotion to either Plasma or LCD back when I bought the TV.

    I went w/ Plasma and have had some burn-in issues. I hear the newer sets don’t have that as a problem now.

    Still, I think I’d probably go LCD if I were getting one today. Mainly cause they are lighter & thinner and a bit less costly. I think they use less juice, too (not that I’m hugging any trees, eating granola, or wearing birkenstocks).

  • Jeff Waters

    Oh, and one more tip for everyone. If you are really eager to jump on the blu-ray bandwagon, you could also add a blu-ray DVD player to your PC and this rig will play it.

    Though, at that point- you might consider getting one of the HP Slimline PCs (very tiny and quiet) with a bluetooth keyboard, blu-ray player, and HDMI out for under $1k. Small enough to easily fit in your home-theater cabinet and then you’d have a dedicated mediacenter PC.

    Considering most blu-ray players are still around $250-$500… that could really make some sense!

  • Jeff Waters

    Oh, and one more tip for everyone. If you are really eager to jump on the blu-ray bandwagon, you could also add a blu-ray DVD player to your PC and this rig will play it.

    Though, at that point- you might consider getting one of the HP Slimline PCs (very tiny and quiet) with a bluetooth keyboard, blu-ray player, and HDMI out for under $1k. Small enough to easily fit in your home-theater cabinet and then you’d have a dedicated mediacenter PC.

    Considering most blu-ray players are still around $250-$500… that could really make some sense!

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  • http://seablick.com/ Tom Kraak

    Great post Jeff. Here is some more interesting stuff http://tinyurl.com/5n3nsd.

  • http://seablick.com Tom Kraak

    Great post Jeff. Here is some more interesting stuff http://tinyurl.com/5n3nsd.