Jason writes, “I’m about to purchase a LCD HDTV and want to connect to my PC with wired connections under my floor to stream movies/music/pictures etc. I would also like to connect to a second LCD TV/monitor and get rid of my normal monitor- is this viable?”
Depending on the specific screen you choose, using an HDTV as a monitor is not only viable – it often looks great. Many of the LCD HD screens have a native resolution of 1024×768, which is a common resolution for PC monitors. Depending on which video card your have on your PC and the actual native resolution of the HDTV screen, you can often get higher resolutions as well. Here are a few things to consider if you plan to go the route of connecting your HDTV directly to a PC:
Dual Monitor Support
Especially in the case mentioned here, where you plan to connect two HDTV screens to your PC, you need a video card with support for dual monitors. This is also useful in cases where you want to connect one HDTV and a traditional PC monitor, so you can either share the same screen data on both the monitor and on your HDTV. Make sure the connections on the video card are compatible with the connections on your HDTV screen. Ideally, you want DVI connections on both ends so you get a digital signal between the video card and the HDTV screen. The other thing to consider here is maximum resolution supported by the video card – most video cards will support standard HDTV resolutions of 1080×720 and 1920×1080, but it’s always a good idea to check in advance.
Long Cable Runs
The limiting factor in the equation described here is cable length. You can easily run DVI cable for 50 feet or more, but it starts getting expensive fairly quickly. Expect to pay between $100-200 for a 50-foot DVI cable run with the price climbing as you add additional feet of cable.
In addition to running cable for the video portion of your signal, you also need to run audio from the PC to the HDTV screen. If possible using a digital audio run will yield better results over a long distance. If digital isn’t an option, make sure to use well shielded audio cable to avoid picking up noise from any nearby electrical wiring along your run under the floor.
My favorite place to buy DVI cables (and most other cables) is Monoprice. If you visit a comparision shopping site, you will find that DVI cables come in a wide range of prices, even though the cables being compared are almost identical. Monoprice does a great job of providing reliable quality at a fair price.
I cover a few additional details about connecting HDTV screens to your PC in this article.