How to show computer desktop and video on LCD TV
December 12, 2008 5:40 AM   Subscribe

Hi, I'm looking for a way to show my computer's desktop on my large LCD TV so my wife and I can both see it. I have a used an s-video cable (along with an audio cable) from my laptop to the TV, but there are three problems with this method. 1) requires a reboot of my laptop to make it recognize the TV and play to it 2) text is blurry on the TV due to TV's unsuitability for acting as a computer monitor 3) requires the s-video cable to be plugged into the otherwise wirelessly connected laptop So I'm looking for a solution that will eliminate these problems. Like maybe something that will just play my desktop as a video signal to the TV and not try to make the TV into another monitor of my computer. Also, I'm not looking for HDTV quality, just watchable video (internet quality would be fine.) Thanks!
posted by atm to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The model number of the TV would help. Does the TV have a VGA or HDMI input?
posted by Pastabagel at 5:49 AM on December 12, 2008

Response by poster: It's a Vizio VX37L HDTV. For inputs it has component, composite (RCA, yellow for video and red and white for audio), computer VGA, HDMI, s-video, and coax.
posted by atm at 5:59 AM on December 12, 2008

your laptop should have VGA out, no? Have you tried hooking up to the VGA port with a normal monitor cable? That works very well on my Vizio.
posted by csimpkins at 6:21 AM on December 12, 2008

Best answer: Just reread your requirements. VGA should solve 1 & 2, but not keep you wireless with it (obviously).
posted by csimpkins at 6:24 AM on December 12, 2008

Yeah, the fuzzy signal is definitely not due to the insuitability of the TV as a monitor, an LCD TV works great as a monitor. It's the S-Video cable that's got you down. Switch to VGA and play around with different resolutions to make sure you get one that matches what your TV is capable of and you'll have crystal-clear image. If you're seeing an extended desktop you need to go into the display settings and set it to "Mirror" your desktop instead of "Extend".

Wireless video is a no go, the best you can do is get a long VGA cable. In order for your TV to get a signal something has to be hooked to it. The only real wireless solution would be a computer dedicated to the TV and then VNC to it with your laptop to control it. Not cheap unless you've got a computer lying around that can be purposed for that.
posted by genial at 6:28 AM on December 12, 2008

The text on your TV isn't blurry because it's unsuitable as a monitor, it's blurry because S-video is very low resolution. Go with the VGA connector, or HDMI if your laptop has it. If you've got a DVI port on your laptop, you can find a DVI-VGA or DVI-HDMI adapter quite easily. Either way, you'll get the full resolution of your TV (1366x768), which might well be a higher resolution than your laptop's display.
posted by sinfony at 6:28 AM on December 12, 2008

Isn't VGA an analog signal? Beware of signal quality loss over long distances with analog cables...
posted by kenbennedy at 7:30 AM on December 12, 2008

I've got several 50' cables that I use to feed lcd projectors 1024x768 signals. The same company makes a 25' cable as well

So long as the laptop puts out the proper signal level from the VGA port, 1366x768 should be fine over 25'.
posted by jjb at 8:09 AM on December 12, 2008

I had the same issue a while ago, and it was an absolute bitch to fine a male to male VGA cable. I tried BB, Cicuit City, Radioshack. I ended up having to purchase one from

See this :

A VGA cable will probably be your best bet. In case you don't know what VGA is or looks like - it's usually a blue connection that is on the back of your TV and the laptop. Just make sure you need a male to male connection.

This will provide a very good signal to your TV, that will faithfully reproduce your desktop to your TV screen.
posted by Brettus at 8:17 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Would the long VGA cable require the computer to be rebooted for it to see the TV?
posted by atm at 8:47 AM on December 12, 2008

On the reboot angle, are you sure you need to do that? Usually there is a key or set of keys (e.g. Function-F4 on my HP laptop) that will cycle through the display options (i.e. just laptop, laptop+external, just external).
posted by mmascolino at 9:08 AM on December 12, 2008

I've never had to reboot any laptop either - I've just had to select a different display setting.
posted by PFL at 9:13 AM on December 12, 2008

Best answer: Would the long VGA cable require the computer to be rebooted for it to see the TV?

Generally not - I'm always hooking up projectors to different laptop models and they work without reboots. You may have to press some of your laptop-specific "extra" function keys, or depending on your operating system you may have to set some properties but a reboot should not be required...
posted by jkaczor at 9:38 AM on December 12, 2008

Best answer: For cheap cables, I usually go with Monoprice. While cable quality is an issue for analog issues, I've been happy with the 10-footer I bought from them, and it looks like they've got long cables for about half the Newegg price.
posted by sinfony at 10:35 AM on December 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not so sure about the 'wireless video is a no-go'. I was in Best Buy the other day and noticed this wireless VGA USB kit. Looks promising... it 'claims':

Up to 720p/1080i video streaming
Supports resolutions up to UXGA (1600 x 1200 pixels) or WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050 pixels) for viewing videos on a high-definition display.

posted by shew at 10:50 AM on December 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What do you guys think about this:
posted by atm at 12:57 PM on December 12, 2008

Response by poster: Sorry, never mind my previous post/question about the system, it's not wireless like the one at Best Buy, and that's what I really am looking for.

Thanks Shew, your suggestion is probably exactly what I've been looking for. And thanks to everybody else for all the great responses and suggestions.

This is my first post here and I'm already glad I signed up.

And Merry Christmas everybody!
posted by atm at 1:24 PM on December 12, 2008

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