TV with PC Monitors? etc

Discussion in 'Computer Software and Operating Systems' started by OSW, Jan 1, 2008.

  1. OSW

    OSW Wii King

    Former Staff
    Oct 30, 2006
    Well, my family recently started talking about getting a new tv, and they have discovered this idea of using a PC monitor and some kind of tuner (?) from some written article, reasons apparantly being it's cheaper than buying an expensive HDTV.

    Now i'm pretty sure i've heard some murmouring here and there about these kinds of setups, but i thought it best to ask my favourite forum for some wise words of advice, before my family makes any rash or uneducated decisions.

    I'd like to know;
    1. What equipment is needed and how does the setup work?
    2. Are the cost advantages etc as much as they appear?
    3. Will we get a good High Def (?) image?
    4. Can consoles connect up fine (need adapters? or an all in 1 tuner box?)
    4. Any Personal experiences people have had with this kind of rig?

    If all seems positive then some bonus questions

    5. Recommended brands/ deals
    6. What to look for in equipment specifications

    extra info:
    father reckons a 30inch screen is appropriate.
    family has a history of always heading to dell first (:wtf:) why? i don't know
    edit: also budget is limited, we can only afford so much (however, we will definitely put in enough so we can achieve reasonable quality)

    Or any semi-relevant advice or comments would be appreciated.
    I'm not demanding full responses to all my questions from everyone [​IMG]



    ps: going to sleep now. will see if there are any replies tommorow morning.
  2. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip Reporter
    Nov 21, 2005
    United Kingdom
    OK I dare say your requirements/questions are quite broad. I shall however endeavor to answer them in some manner.

    If I understand: You thought about replacing your current TV and though getting an HDTV but decided you would look at alternatives (namely a monitor).

    You want standard TV broadcast (which I will say now is not a problem in the slightest) but if you can get ahold of this new fangled HDTV thing then even better (not hard but you may be let down by the selection available).
    Personally I find a usenet subscription and S-video out on my graphics card/a projector (a nice projector is a great investment) works better but back on topic TV tuners.

    It seems as though if this takes off you will end up token TV repairman so I suggest you read and read a bit more. Know the problems that are most likely to arise and how to fix them in persona and over the phone. Luckily there are places you can go for this: and to a lesser extent the guides section of the main site there.
    Basic video knowledge is also a must unless you plan on sticking with the bundled junk (which will work but the fact you are on a forum such as this suggests you have hit upon the idea that technology often does far more than first advertised.)

    I find there are typically 2 forms here:

    PC addon: great as they can play everything and are as versatile as the software you use, can be a shade expensive and if not properly done noisy too. Ease of use for day to day stuff is not quite TV level but anyone with 20 minutes to spare to learn something new can work it and probably have a better experience than a TV. Upper end (transcoding and storing to whatever) is limited by you. In short I would consider it an addon like a DVD player is to a normal TV.

    Standalone (varying from home theatre PCs to standalone boxes). Can come in boxes not much larger than a Wii and go right up to small form PCs. Versatility is usually as much as you want to get in there (HTPCs are basically small, slightly underpowered PCs although perhaps a bit expensive due to the low power, small size and low noise features) although the small boxes can have fewer features from the recoding side.
    I strongly suggest the home theatre side of things if you are going the TV replacement route (the boxes seem to be aimed more at those who want an add on for their TV). Of course a few tweaks to an older PC or your current one will work fine for several months until you get this up an running. In short these are usually always on/on standby and more than happy to sit under a screen. Be wary though as a lot of HTPC stuff is geared more towards having something under a TV than a monitor (a minor distinction in some regards but important)

    After this there are two things people want to do:
    View live/as broadcast TV (normally with "pause" features and their kin).
    Watch recorded stuff (be this TV or otherwise).
    Both are not a problem and are all software driven.

    Sidenote if going for a windows PC is well worth a look.

    If you are intending a true TV replacement whatever you do invest in some form of more specialised remote: trying to mess around with a keyboard or mouse for something as basic as volume and channels is a surefire way to get this scheme binned.

    1) TV tuners come in all major variants: PCI(e) (and earlier: I have a few ISA ones around here somewhere), firewire, USB, PCMCIA, standalone with VGA out and on occasion even network (normally a standalone box).
    Quality for the most part can not really be differentiated as digital broadcast is just that: the stuff is send out as an MPEG2/MPEG4 stream so my rip is the same as yours with the only difference being the chance of interference (anything else is in the video recorder/playback side of things is down to software your end), price tag is normally not that bad either (PCI is normally cheaper as USB/firewire is a “luxury” in as much as it can be on 100 different computers in probably around 10 minutes) and courtesy of storage space requirements network stuff is more pricey). Cost is usually not much more than a new top tier game or a standalone digital converter box.

    This leaves your main worry as driver support: windows XP and you are laughing (vista will probably be the usual needs new hardware), linux can be done very well but may require a bit of thought ahead of time (read: see a nice model and check the manufacturers site or one of the big linux fan sites (linux media boxes are one of the major uses for non-linux users so there usually an array of things to pick from)). Mac, BSD and whatever else are probably slightly behind linux but as support often means here is the driver source you can still join in if you look hard enough
    Region wise Australia is one of the better places to live for digital "high def" (it has been standard for years unlike a lot of the rest of the world which is now playing catchup). Having never been there or really bothered to pay attention to digital video over there (R4 DVDs the only exception) I will recuse myself saying from more on this front.

    2) Cost advantage. Personally I would only begrudgingly accept a HDTV as a gift (I would not buy one until it is the same in price as a standard TV and everything is sorted out). Do not underestimate the nicety of having more features as well.

    3) I have not got much experience with HDTV capture (spent a few days and then decided to stick with DVD) but seen a TV show via less than legit means recently?

    4) Consoles: earlier stuff that uses plain old antenna or RCA/scart may be a bit harder to work with. DVI/HDMI should not be a problem for new stuff and you can always grab a converter box/lead (this last year they have become nearly flawless). Projectors usually come with all the necessary attachments.

    Monitors: Dell do some decent widescreen stuff lately (unlike most other things they have peddled to others over the last couple of years). They will probably cost a bit more but they do more, also I will take the time to mention projectors again: they really are nice.

    5)Recommended brands/ deals. This sort of thing has a lot in common around the world but there are differences between the US, Europe, Japan, rest of Asia....... so the usual check local vendors and reviews thing will have to be the limit of my advice in this regard.

    Personal experiences. I have a high end PC I wire up to a TV and a projector (when available) and have done the same with laptops for years. A modern TV tuner is in many regards a glorified internet connection with limited use and the software available is more than capable of acting in a TVs stead. When not hooked up to a TV my monitors (not bad by any means but not top of range at any time ever) are fine for watching films, TV shows and such.

    In short:
    Replacing a family TV for those those not especially willing to use technology probably will mean a month or two of moaning before it gets sorted. I would go the whole hog and get a projector though.
    If you can make those who will use it appreciate the limitations and advantages or you are replacing a second room/bedroom TV or as an addon for a PC go for it, it may take a little bit of time and effort to get going but the end result is well worth it.

    A suggestion if people are in need of convincing:
    before a major outlay in monitor, speakers, stand and whatnot get a throwaway card from a PC store (and a remote if you can get it), maybe add in an audio cable or two if you have some nice hifi speakers, make sure your aerial/cable/sat dish is up to the task (clean all connections etc), set up the PC by yourself and make it as bulletproof as you can (see below) and try a PC for a few days as a replacement.
    Adding the TV options to startup is a nice touch: you can always exit it later, if you want to go all the way maybe a replacement for the windows shell such as bblean is on the cards.
    Add a browser like firefox, add in flash, quicktime, real (use alternatives for these two), stuff to allow them to run IE only websites and whatever else you think may be needed but try and keep it lean on the features front. Add a slew of bookmarks/toolbar links to TV guides (both your area and places like the US) and maybe add a chunk of links for usenet/ftp/whatever you grab stuff with and make those fairly foolproof as well (this is not a usenet thread but one of those one off charges for 100 gigs deals would be perfect if you do not have something already).
    If your monitor is really not up to the task then maybe you can use the TV but make that easy as well: set to turn on to whatever input is required, hide the normal remote, block the scart/aerial ports for the more ingenious amongst them and wire them directly to the PC.
    Rip a couple of their favourite DVDs/source a few of the videos and do the same with music
    If you can set it up late at night (get permission/the nod from someone), hide all the cables and leave them with no choice the next day (whether said day has something that someone “has” to watch or not is a choice I will leave to you). You want the disc drives and maybe a USB port (or adapter for music) to be readily available (you could run an IDE/sata one outside the case and an extension lead/hub arrangement would sort the second.
    Set it to power on 20 minutes before people arrive back from work/school/wherever if it is to be turned off.
    Basically you are playing the salesman except you are there to make their lives better (note better does not necessarily mean easier but more striking a compromise between features)
    At worst you will have a great media PC/alternate TV for yourself in a few weeks.

    Some links: A near flawless codec pack that should work out of the box. a great video related site, make sure to check the forums. Good for finding video/music sorting/naming apps and frontends.

    Good luck.
  3. OSW

    OSW Wii King

    Former Staff
    Oct 30, 2006
    ah, cheers. as always i appreciate the quality contribution.

    I'll have to try and dumb down this information for my family [​IMG]