Computer monitor as TV, and vice-versa?
December 2, 2009 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Computer monitor as TV, and vice-versa?

My wife and I are now in the market for a new computer monitor that works quite nicely as a television. The idea is to put it in the den/man cave/playroom and utilize it as:

1. The full-time computer monitor for internet browsing, document creation, photo editing, video editing, and motion graphics...


2. A video display so we can sit about 6-8 feet back and watch movies or television.

1080p, 1920x1080, and an HDMI input (to run from the video card to the display) are my requirements; I'm not locked into any particular size, although I certainly don't want to go so big that I can't sit a few feet away and do some writing or webbrowsing.

Other notes: We already have a nice 42" LCD in the living room...Please don't mention the projector idea...I am not loyal to any particular brand, but I'd rather spend a few more dollars to get something better than try to hoard a few dollars and get something lame...the budget in my head is anywhere from $200-$400.

Has anyone had any luck finding something that works well for them?
posted by st starseed to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Do you already have an amp/receiver and speakers in the den/man cave/playroom?
posted by box at 8:00 PM on December 2, 2009

we use our 37" samsung tv as a computer monitor (and compute from the couch). it's a little beautiful. i would think a few sizes down (so you can sit close) would be just as good.
posted by nadawi at 8:01 PM on December 2, 2009

I do this in one room. Samsung 245BW (24-inch). Liked it so much I bought two more for work.

It's 1920x1200 / 1920x1080 (aka 1080p) when used as a TV. Which I almost never do, preferring to play digital downloads from the network share most of the time anyway.

I watch today's programming.... tomorrow!
posted by rokusan at 9:30 PM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a 37" Dynex into which I plug my computer so I can occasionally browse from the couch, though it serves as a TV more often. I ended up getting a really good deal on it, but if I hadn't I don't know if I'd have gone with Dynex (though I haven't had any problems with it). 37" is a pretty good size though for a combo TV/monitor. A little smaller might let you comfortably sit a little closer. I don't know if I'd go too much bigger.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:33 PM on December 2, 2009

Are you going to be using the computer from the couch as well? A 24" screen would be a bit too small to use from 8'. If you can, get a screen that is native 1920x1200. You will get black bars for 1080p content, but I find that the added space makes up for it. You can net a 24" monitor for less than $200 and a 37" - 40" hdtv for less than $500, and any of these will usually have hdmi. If you need good color reproduction for your image/video work, you should stay away from the TN panels and get a small, but more expensive IPS panel.
posted by palionex at 9:48 PM on December 2, 2009

I'm currently sitting about five feet away from a 32" 720p TV. I've been using it as a computer monitor all day, while lounging in a recliner with my laptop on my lap and a VGA cable running to the TV.

At this distance, I don't think 1080p would be much improvement --- the pixels are already about as small as I can see.

I also have a Dell 24" monitor (1920x1200), and unsurprisingly the TV is much better at being a TV in spite of its lower resolution.

Make sure your HDTV has the right inputs for your computer before you buy it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:55 PM on December 2, 2009

My only computer monitor is a 47" Vizio HDTV. I sit about 7-8 feet away from it. IT'S AWESOME, I don't think I could go back to anything smaller.
posted by markjamesmurphy at 10:19 PM on December 2, 2009

I know it's a tad smaller than you're thinking, but go into an apple store and take a look at the new 27" iMac. The screen on that thing is INCREDIBLE and you can hook up other computers to use it as well. Amazing resolution. The first thing I thought when I saw it was "I'm never buying another TV."

My practical comment would be that you shoud be careful about using a TV as a computer monitor. I've done that and even at 180p, the results were always a bit disappointing for daily computing tasks. TVs just aren't meant for sitting close or reading text. It's far better to think about getting a great monitor and watching TV on it than the reverse.
posted by raygan at 12:28 AM on December 3, 2009

The iMac is a terrible suggestion - there are no standard video inputs (component/vga/dvi).

Just about any monitor will suffice, you don't necessarily need a HDMI port, DVI/HDMI adapters work just fine. All you need to do is pick a size. Off the top of my head, 1080p monitors come in 22", 23", 24", 27". I would just pick a size and find the best reviewed unit for however much you want to pay.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:49 AM on December 3, 2009

Having just built a media center box last month... oh yes, putting a computer on an HDTV is oh so very sweet.

Some little nuggets of wisdom that apply regardless of what you end up using:

- I'm making the extremely huge assumption that you're using Windows 7, so please forgive me if that isn't the case. Go nuts with the resolution if you're so inclined; you can crank up the text size independent of the screen resolution by means of the Display applet in the control panel (it's the "Make text and other items larger or smaller" link on the screen where you change screen resolution). Go as huge as possible, your eyes will thank you for it later. Unfortunately, there are quite a few programs that ignore this setting and the text remains small (I'm looking at YOU, Winamp)-- it sucks but that's how it is sometimes.

- In Firefox, CTRL - + is your friend. Use it LIBERALLY. It doesn't stick between hard reloads but after awhile it becomes reflex.

- Games look awesome on a huge TV. But if you play a lot of text-heavy things (like, oh, just about every MMORPG out there), such a huge display works against you. It's awful-- you get very few means of cranking up text size, if at all. City of Heroes scales up the text a bit depending on resolution-- not as much as I like but it's just barely readable. In WoW, however, the best I can do is crank the chat buffer size up to 18... and that's just the buffer! The text entry itself and all the other UI text elements are still really tiny. Generally speaking, you'll have to decide whether you want a lot of viewing space but teeny text, or a more constrained viewing space but more readable text. (There's also the option of using voice chat to dodge a lot of this entirely if appropriate to your circumstances and preferences...)

- Worst case, there is no shame in using Magnifier as needed.

- Have a Slingbox but the TV lacks picture-in-picture? You can use the Slingplayer client to fake PiP. Useful if you want to watch TV while browsing or doing other things. This is what I end up doing on mine, and the picture quality is still very nice if you are on wifi.

Also speaking from experience, most if not all Samsung HDTVs have at least two HDMI ports and a VGA-in port (with a corresponding mini-stereo plug).
posted by Yoshi Ayarane at 2:15 AM on December 3, 2009

Anybody annoyed by Ctrl-+ not sticking in Firefox can just install NoSquint. Works really well on my 19" CRT at 1600x1200.
posted by flabdablet at 2:39 AM on December 3, 2009

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