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Long Story Short: This article is extremely interesting but if you just want to know our top recommended unit to view your PC on your standard definition TV, see the Sewell PC to TV (this one on the left). This will take a VGA signal from a computer and put it on a composite video TV (composite video is sometimes referred to as 'AV'... it's the yellow RCA plug on your TV). We also have other ways that are higher quality if you're trying to get your computer's VGA signal to display on a high def TV, like Hammerhead VGA to HDMI, and you can even go from USB to HDMI.
Whether you want to browse your computer on your TV screen and watch movies stored in your computer on your TV, or you want to do the opposite (like watching your favorite TV shows on your PC), this article discusses the how-to as well as the benefits and the problems of each option (and what you can do to get around them). You may also want to do both (record your favorite shows on your PC but watch them on your TV). Whichever of these you're trying to do, the intention of this article is to provide a concise explanation of how to converge your TV with your PC.
Using your TV as your Display
More and more people are interested in connecting their TV to their computer. High speed internet connections and fast computers are becoming more ubiquitous and capacitating people with the necessary resources to download large files such as movie rentals or other video clips. But that 17 inch monitor that came with the computer just won't cut it when you have a big screen TV sitting in the other room. Hence the introduction of the PC to TV convergence.
Watching downloaded movies isn't the only reason why you may be interested in connecting your PC to your TV. You may want to show elaborate slide shows of your digital images or view home videos on the tube. PC to TV converters are also great for running a company presentation from your computer or laptop on a TV.
Although TV's are usually bigger, they aren't necessarily better than a monitor. Even high definition TV's don't support resolutions available on some 17" computer monitors, and even if they did, what might look good, crisp and clean on a 17" or 19" monitor, might not look good stretched across 52 inches.
One way to connect you computer to the TV (when using a TV as your display) is to get a video card with TV-out. There are cards with composite (yellow RCA), S-video, and component (red, green and blue RCA) outputs for standard and component high definition TV's. If your TV has a digital HD input (DVI or HDMI), you can connect a DVI video card directly to the digital input.
You can also get a PC to TV converter. These are perfect when you don't want to upgrade your video card (especially with laptops, small multimedia PC's or integrated graphics). The PC to TV converter connects the VGA out on your computer to composite, S-video, or component. You can also use a wireless PC to TV converter if your computer is in another room or far from your TV.
Remember that running the video out of your computer will only send the video signal and not audio. If you're playing anything with audio, you would still have to use your computer's speakers if you don't send the audio to the TV along with the video. Fortunately, it's not hard to get the audio to your TV.
Computer audio is usually outputted to a 1/8" (3.5mm) jack common on headphones and computer speakers. You can simply run a 1/8" (3.5mm) to the RCA audio on your TV (a common audio interface on TV’s). If you don’t have a spare headphone or speaker jack on the computer, or if you want a high quality surround sound, you can add a sound card to your computer.
Watching TV on your Computer
(or recording TV on your computer for later viewing on your TV)
Having access to regular over the air or cable/satellite programming on your computer is a very nice feature, especially when you can use your computer as a DVR (digital video recorder) to record your favorite programs for later viewing. With TV tuner hardware, you can also store VHS tapes or home videos on your hard drive or burn to a DVD. You might also want to maximize the potential of a new flat panel computer screen (which can be significantly cheaper than a similar sized flat panel TV). Why get another TV when you have a screen right there?
Video applications can be taxing, even on otherwise fast computers. You will want to make sure that your computer is beefy enough to handle video files, especially if your editing and converting video, or be prepared to be patient. Converting and burning a DVD can take hours, even on a good computer.
To bring the video in, you will need a TV Tuner. A tuner is what gives TV’s, cable boxes, VCR’s or in this case, your computer, the ability to select the desired TV frequencies and change channels. TV tuners come in a few varieties; you can get a TV tuner PCI card that will install directly into a PCI slot on the motherboard. Most have the option of live TV viewing or time shifting (which gives you the ability to pause and rewind TV). They also usually support a recording schedule so you can record a program, or even a whole series and watch it whenever you want. You can also get a USB TV tuner adapter, or a TV tuner PCMCIA card for your laptop.
Besides a tuner, most cards have additional inputs: RCA, S-Video and sometimes even an FM Radio Tuner. If you don’t need the channel options, you can simply get a USB video capture adapter to pull in some video from an external source like a camcorder or VCR.
The other option is a standalone TV tuner that you connect directly to a monitor without using the computer at all. It can make a monitor into a regular TV, or utilize an extra analog input on a digital computer display. Some standalone boxes even come with their own speakers and/or hard drive so that you can still have all the benefits of time shifting and recording.