How do I plug an Xbox 360 into a computer setup?
March 12, 2009 1:41 AM   Subscribe

Is integrating an Xbox 360 into an existing computer monitor/speakers setup worth it? Or should I simply get a TV?

I want to get an Xbox 360. The easiest thing to do would be to get an LCD TV, because it'll have all the connections I need. But it'd cost extra and take up space in my very small apartment. It'd be cool if I could use my existing 22" LCD computer monitor + my existing computer speakers.

Near as I can tell, though, it'd be a pain:

* Get a VGA cable for the Xbox
* Get an RCA converter/connector for the component audio on that Xbox cable to make it compatible with computer speakers
* Some kind of KVM or VGA switcher, so I don't have to manually plug and unplug cables constantly to switch video signals
* And how would I switch between computer and Xbox audio? No idea on this one other than manual plug/unplug

It seems like such a messy procedure that I'm considering just biting the bullet, spending about $230 on an LCD TV and dealing with the extra clutter in my apartment.

Secondary option: Maybe spend a bit more and get a nice LCD TV (or a computer monitor with extra ports) that would have the ability to switch video signals with a button (my existing one can't)? And then use that as my main display and sell off my existing monitor. Even then, I'm still now sure how audio signal switching would occur without manual plug/unplug.

Sorry for the long question. It's just hard to figure this out without the cables/ports right in front of me, and there's conflicting advice online.

posted by wastelands to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have my xbox hooked up to my 22" LCD also. It's not a pain. You use this for the audio and video, running the audio through your sound card on your pc so there's no switching. All I have to switch is the VGA cable, which I don't see as much of a bother because it takes me all of five seconds. It's definitely worth saving the space, and only spending 40 bucks instead of 230.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:17 AM on March 12, 2009

Oh, also, the RCA converter comes with the cable I linked to. Microsoft knows what's up (for once).
posted by Roman Graves at 2:18 AM on March 12, 2009

Response by poster: running the audio through your sound card on your pc

Would you mind expanding on this point?
posted by wastelands at 2:20 AM on March 12, 2009

My sound card, and all of them I assume, has a line in port so you just plug the RCA converter into that and it runs the xbox and your pc on your speakers at the same time.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:28 AM on March 12, 2009

My LCD has both digital and analog (VGA) inputs. I use the digital one for my computer, which leaves the analog one free for other things. There's a button on the monitor to switch inputs. These are very common.
posted by alexei at 2:39 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Roman Graves, ahhh, line in. Yeah, that makes sense. Thank you!

alexei, yeah, I know what you mean, but I swear I've looked and don't see a way to switch between inputs on my monitor. It's kind of a cheap, no-frills model.
posted by wastelands at 3:42 AM on March 12, 2009

Hmm... so you do have both inputs. Have you tried
1) checking the manual (look up the model number on google to find a copy if you need one).
2) Going through the menu?
3) If it's fully automatic, it must still detect which signal is active in some way. Does it switch over to the other signal if the first one turns off? If so you could probably shut off the monitor signal with power settings in windows or some sort of tool.
posted by alexei at 5:01 AM on March 12, 2009

Response by poster: alexei, the monitor does have a DVI port and a VGA port, but, no, I don't see anything in the menu. I've gone through every option.

It's okay. I am leaning toward getting a separate LCD TV. Too much sharing (space on my computer table, video signals, audio signals, even sharing power on a crowded outlet) otherwise. But I appreciate all the advice given so far!
posted by wastelands at 5:50 AM on March 12, 2009

I've got a setup like this right now. A piece of useful information for you: the official Xbox VGA connector comes with an RCA to male-1/8" converter.

So I've got the video input plugged directly into the VGA input on my monitor, and my computer plugged into the HDMI port with a DVI/HDMI adapter. Most monitors either have a switch on the front or are smart enough to play whichever input is currently active. If that isn't the case, you should be able to figure it out if you access the menu.

For sound I think I've got something quite clever. I have 4.1 surround speakers, and I've got the front channel plugged into my sound card and the rear channel plugged into the Xbox using a female/female 1/8" adapter I got at RadioShack for like $4. Stereo sound for both devices, though obviously not surround. But I wasn't using that anyways, so it works just fine.
posted by valkyryn at 5:59 AM on March 12, 2009

One word of warning about running audio through the PC: you'll have to pay close attention to amplification levels. I used to hook my gamecube up to my monitor with s-video and use the PC "line in" for audio.

The main challenge was that if you had the Windows amplification too high the sound would distort; the secondary challenge was that there were now more volume sliders to fiddle with. A video too quiet in Windows can prompt you to turn up the volume and receive a surprise later...
posted by pwnguin at 1:23 PM on March 12, 2009

Response by poster: pwnguin, that's a good point, and I was thinking the same thing. One more thing to have to mess with. I'm really going toward just buying a TV and not having to worry about any of this.
posted by wastelands at 3:03 PM on March 12, 2009

I've hooked up my Xbox to my monitor with the above-mentioned dual inputs. My particular monitor has two buttons on it which are usually used for menu navigation, but that also switch the inputs when two devices are plugged into it. If I shut down my computer it automagically switches to the Xbox. This set up is definitely better for late night gaming when the roomies are asleep. I can strap on the headphones and hide myself away by my desk.

The benefit of getting a nice LCD TV is that the XBOX makes a great media center. If you have Vista with media center you can stream all your videos, music and pictures. It streams Netflix watch now with an Xbox Live Gold membership. Also, I recommend playon which lets you stream YouTube, Hulu, CBS and some other stuff from your PC to the Xbox. I'd recommend buying an HDMI cable for the Xbox if you go the TV route, instead of the component video. The difference is slight but noticeable.

Not to mention that most new TV's can also be used as pretty good computer monitors. My cheap-o Vizio TV from Costco works like a charm as TV/Xbox/computer display. PC games look pretty sweet on it and the Xbox looks much better on it ever did on my monitor. One thing to watch out for is that LCD TVs can have weird resolutions that can cause clipping of the tops or sides of your PC display.
posted by runcibleshaw at 2:52 AM on March 15, 2009

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