Run wacky cable or buy a whole new gaming pc?
August 29, 2009 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Is it better to (a) run audio, video, keyboard, and mouse to the TV at the other end of the house or (b) just get a second PC? Help me sort out the cost/benefit.

We're going to move into a new house soon and I would like to nail our A/V planning down. I have a PC that will be in a room at the opposite end of the house from the family room where the TV and stereo are. I play console games on the TV and I would like to play PC games both on the TV and on the PC. Is there even a good way to run cable for this? What would you do? Details:
  • Win XP and the games are on a separate drive (dual boot), so I could just get another nice gaming barebones and put that drive in it. So that's the cost limit. I'd rather not spend that much if feasible.
  • I do not want fan noise by the TV.
  • The TV is a 720p LCD with VGA/HDMI/composite and any solution needs to drive it at native res.
  • The house is a 60's rancher with all original plaster walls and a very accessible attic & basement running the length of the house.
  • Currently our entire IP network is wireless. Not sure how that's going to fly in the new place. A wireless solution would be awesome but I haven't found a sweet one on the googles...
posted by mindsound to Technology (8 answers total)
You need to know exactly what type of video connection you are planning on using between the PC's video card and the TV. Most monitor cables are not designed to go more than a few meters. VGA seems to be 1-9 meters. DVI 9.6 meters.

I don't know what your video card supports. Just be sure to do a google search for 'X cable length' for your specific X video cable type.

But in all liklihood, I suspect that you will have to look into some kind of repeater device for the video cable if you want to do this.
posted by cotterpin at 12:16 PM on August 29, 2009

You could do KVM over IP, but I doubt that you'd get acceptable performance for gaming. A second PC (there are many "noiseless" cases out there) is the best solution.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 1:21 PM on August 29, 2009

Second computer. Do some research, see if a Mac Mini running Windows XP will run the games you're looking to play at a reasonable speed, then do that (they're quiet.) Just remember that high-performance gaming machines have fan noise; that's even the case for dedicated gaming consoles these days. If you are really worried about that, plan for a piece of furniture adjacent to the television (with good ventilation) that can contain the computer.
posted by davejay at 2:21 PM on August 29, 2009

Right now, I actually run a thirty-foot combo cable (USB, s-video, two-RCA audio) from a PC to a TV very far away, and then I use a wireless kb, mouse and joystick "with the TV"... but that thirty feet is pushing the limits of length. The video signal is a bit weakened, though not enough to bother me (it's just a 37" tube, not a modern HDTV anyway), and that is the very edge of what even active USB cables can do.

It was sort of a temporary hack that I've just lived with for a couple years now since it's been fine. When I get around to replacing the TV with something newer, I'll probably add a second PC and just ethernet them to the same network. (And, for that matter, it'll be a Mac next time, because I hate wasting hours messing with Windows just to get something changed.)

Wifi (at least in my place) is too flaky for video streaming, so it'll be Cat6 and 100T for me.
posted by rokusan at 2:21 PM on August 29, 2009

there are extenders and KVM switches that can run that data over standard Cat5e cable. this is the cheapest thing on NewEgg that'll do it. might not be helpful if you want to use a specific, USB-only keyboard and mouse, though. there are others that'll work too; just make sure you don't get one that's just a VGA extender. since it'd presumably be easy to run cable, you'd want to run a dedicated line for the extender. you definitely don't want to just run straight USB and DVI/VGA cables; apart from the fact that it'd be a pretty horrendous cable run (VGA at least has some coax bits in it), you'd need to also install active repeaters and whatnot to keep the signals strong. none of these standards were written really to work with long cable lengths.

I've never had to use one of these deals to play video games, but given that it just resamples the output from the VGA card itself, it might not be so bad. (things like this are used pretty frequently to provide KVM to rack-mounted servers - in fact, most of the products that newegg carries are designed to be used in that sort of environment.) I'd probably avoid products that try to funnel the data over IP; there's a lot more processing going on there, and that makes those kinds of things slower and potentially not useful for gaming.
posted by mrg at 5:08 PM on August 29, 2009

You can easily run VGA 50' to 100' with the right cable you can even purchase 50' lengths of with audio attached . You can chain active USB extension cables for your Keyboard mouse (and possibly audio) I think you can chain 4 15' active cables reliably. However in my opinion I would get a 2nd PC to put with the TV.
posted by jmsta at 5:17 AM on August 30, 2009

monoprice has a HDMI cables for around a $1/foot if your PC has HDMI. DVI to HDMI cables as well.

If your planning on running a giant USB cable, go here:
posted by glenno86 at 6:28 AM on August 30, 2009

BTW, just taking the secondary drive with the games installed on it out and installing it in another computer may not work, if when installing, it wrote anything to the registry.
posted by baserunner73 at 10:16 PM on August 30, 2009

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