Gerald writes, “LCD HDTV, and monitor: What inputs would I need make sure the unit would have to run the input from the cable box digital tuner, and an input from the cable internet? Or maybe the correct question or setup would be to put a computer near the monitor and have a Internet connection into the computer, with a connection into the monitor? Costco has some great prices on the Sceptre brand with a 32, 37, and in March a 42 inch available. This way I could have a great system in the family room.”
Adding an HDTV as a monitor is a fairly simple process, assuming the video card in your computer already has the correct outputs. It sounds like you want to take things a step further and integrate the PC more completely into your home theater experience. This is a perfect case for a media center application of some kind in addition to the basics of connecting the correct components to your system.
HDTV as PC Monitor
If all you need to do is connect the monitor, make sure the video card in your computer has a DVI connector. DVI connectors are typically found on most HDTVs. While you can get a converter for the VGA connector on an existing video card, you won’t get the same image quality if you spend a few dollars on a video card with DVI support. Screen resolution is limited to the maximum resolution of the HDTV, which is typically 1920×1080. If the only thing you want to do is use an HDTV as a computer monitor, this is the only step required.
Watching TV via PC
While there are plenty of TV tuner cards with support for standard definition digital cable, none of the existing solutions support HDTV over cable or satellite television yet. I say yet because support should be available before the end of 2006. At the moment, TV stations available via HDTV tuner cards is limited to over the air stations, which vary wildly by location. At this point, HDTV is still best viewed by passing the signal through the cable box and bypassing the computer altogether.
At the same time, most of what is available on television is still standard definition television. Adding a TV tuner card adds the possibility of using a digital video recording solution like Windows Media Center Edition, BeyondTV or SageTV. Start with the list of Designed for Media Center Edition hardware because the list is compatible with a wide range of DVR software apps.
When you add a TV tuner card, the typical scenario is to run the cable connection from the wall to the digital cable box, from the cable box to the PC, and from the PC to the television. Changing channels requires a slight hack of sticking a small IR broadcaster over the top of the IR port on your cable box to direct channel requests through the computer to the cable box.
If you go the route of connecting your cable through a TV tuner card and DVR software, you also want to invest in a remote that controls everything on your PC. The remote you select is greatly dependent on which DVR app you opt to use.
Adding PC Audio to Your Home Theater
Adding PC audio output to your home theater provides a number of additional options. In addition to viewing any movies stored on your computer, you can also playback audio through speakers which are likely better than the ones on your computer desktop. This is as easy as replacing the existing cables coming out of your PC sound card or could involve getting a new sound card if you want to add support for 5.1 surround playback on the computer.
The Internet connection piece of this puzzle works the same way any existing connection in your house works. The internet connects to the PC by way of either the Ethernet port on your PC or by using WiFi.