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December 21, 2009 3:44 PM   Subscribe

How can I help my parents hook up their computer to their TV?

My parents have a nice wall-mounted big screen Pioneer lcd tv and my dad's dream is to have their Dell desktop system in the same room wirelessly networked to it, for music-playing, presumably netflix and online video viewing, and general happiness. I've googled this in as many different verb-noun combinations I can come up with and I'm still not sure what I'm looking for. Is this possible?

My dad mentioned something called RocketFish, and I saw some BluRay players that potentially had wireless networking capabilities but I wasn't sure if that capability was usually used for some other purpose. I'd like to help him on this for a Christmas gift - what would I need to buy and do in order to do this?

Thanks so much! I can definitely provide more information if it's needed.
posted by sarahj to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
RocketFish is the BestBuy in-house brand for electronics junk.

The biggest catch here is the wireless requirement, when involving the PC. If you can instead have them buy a stand-alone device for it, something like the Popcorn Hour would be ideal, or even a PS3 or XBox 360 can stream media and so on.
posted by Rendus at 3:51 PM on December 21, 2009

Since it's in the same room, is the wireless really necessary? Most LCD TVs have a 15pin VGA input. You should be able to connect the video out on the computer directly to the TV.
posted by ODiV at 3:51 PM on December 21, 2009

Wireless USB to VGA
posted by fixedgear at 3:57 PM on December 21, 2009

Windows Media Center + a Windows Media Center Extender should do the trick. This will handle everything you mention, except maybe general happiness. Windows Media Center will play music, but the library interface currently leaves much to be desired. It's passable, though.

As an alternative, consider building or buying a media center PC. You can get special cases so they don't look any different from run of the mill AV equipment. It will be a little bit more expensive, but not incredibly so. You need a video card that will output DVI, a little DVI-HDMI adapter maybe, a 2+ GHz processor, and a nice size hard drive. You can probably find this on craigslist for a few hundred dollars.

In return, you will not be tied to one application. Add a TV tuner and you instantly have a DVR. Put it on the home network and you can control everything from a laptop, or an iPhone/iPod touch, a remote control, wireless keyboard/mouse, or whatever you like.
posted by dsword at 4:03 PM on December 21, 2009

It may or may not be your parents' cup of tea, but an Xbox 360 works fantastically for exactly what you're asking. I'm able to stream the nearly-3TB of music, movies, and television shows to my living room off with absolute ease whilst my computer and it's many, many external hard drives stay safely tucked in beneath my desk in my office.

At $199 now for a XB360 Arcade, it might be one of the cheaper options as well. *shrugs*
posted by Bageena at 4:19 PM on December 21, 2009

IIRC VGA is 640*480. On a big screen, that's going to look like crap.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:28 PM on December 21, 2009

Just to continue that thought: Take an average size display like 1280*960*24-bit and assume a refresh rate of 72 HZ. Then that is 2.1 gigabits per second. No legal in-home wireless protocol I've ever heard of supports that kind of bandwidth.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:30 PM on December 21, 2009

Sorry Chocolate Pickle, you're mistaken. VGA can run at much higher resolutions than that. I've sent 720p video (1366 x 768 maybe?) through the VGA port on my 32" LCD. My 22" LCD monitor can run at its native resolution of 1680 x 1050 through a VGA port as well.
posted by DMan at 4:31 PM on December 21, 2009

This only works if they have a DVI or HDMI output on their desktop, but they might consider a wireless HDMI transmitter/receiver combo such as this one. Googling "wireless hdmi transmitter receiver" brings up many more products - that's just the first one.
posted by squorch at 4:36 PM on December 21, 2009

DVI and HDMI are compatible. If the Dell has a DVI output (all fairly new PCs do), then you can buy a DVI -> HDMI adapter and hook it directly into one of the TV's HDMI inputs. With the HDMI cable the PC can output a picture at the TV's native resolution (either 720 or 1080 pixels high).

The Blu-Ray players with wireless are usually for streaming something like Netflix or Amazon getting BD-Live content, not for streaming from a home media server.

Otherwise, the XBox is probably the "easiest" solution. You can also do something similar with a PS3.
posted by kenliu at 5:02 PM on December 21, 2009

Cheaper and simpler than game console: WDTV live.
Cheaper than that: Cables from monoprice. VGA 15-pin "blue connector" with audio cable too(honestly recommended if a jack exists on the TV) or DVI and separate audio. Other lengths are available as well, that's just a standard "run around the room" length.
If you just run the PC on the big screen, note that he'll probably want to run a media center app, and remote controls help tremendously. You can get a standard USB Windows Media Center-compatible remote from newegg. I'm partial to airmouse for the iPhone/iPod touch since I just like to use the mouse.
posted by ijoyner at 6:30 PM on December 21, 2009

Everyone is making this sound so complicated, that perhaps I'm missing something. Basically, he wants to use his tv screen as a computer monitor and do all the things he does on the computer using his TV, correct?

I can do this. At the vga out on my computer I have a splitter. From there I have two vga cables running out. One goes to my computer and one goes to my television. If I want to see the computers display on the TV (For watching movies, since the cmputer is my DVD player, or watching recorded TV from the tuner card, or looking at pics or whatever), I turn the tv on and hit the input button on the TVs remote until the input is set to 'PC'.

That is all. I have a wireless keyboard and mouse, so in theory I could also sit in front of the tv and do computer stuff, but I don't, but he could.

So yeah, just get a splitter. I got mine at tiger direct. Make sure your male bits and female bits are all as they should be.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:14 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

OH, and sound? It still comes out of the PC speakers, but I have these positioned appropriately for listening from either the desk or the couch.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:16 PM on December 21, 2009

I just saw a review on the BBC technology program Click about the Q-Wave. From the link, it is ideal for "streaming up to 720p video with stereo audio - sorry, no surround sound - to any suitable TV, monitor or projector.".
posted by jonesor at 6:09 PM on December 22, 2009

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