Good TV for watching movies online?
January 8, 2011 7:36 PM   Subscribe

So Mr. Attackpanda and I haven't had a TV in several years, but we watch netflix all the time on my laptop. This is getting old and we'd like recommendations as to what to get.

I've come to realize I don't know what the hell has happened to TVs in the past 5 years. We did some initial poking around and there's astronomical prices for them. We just want to have an S cable from the laptop to the TV, watch our Doctor Who and have movie nights with friends.

What should we be looking for in a TV and what is unnecessary? Would a large monitor be better? Cheaper? Our budget is $300. Hope me mefi!
posted by Attackpanda to Technology (28 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
TV's usually have tuners in them. If you aren't planning on watching TV, just get a monitor. You can get a 28" monitor for < $300.
posted by wongcorgi at 7:53 PM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

An HDMI or VGA cable from the laptop will give you much better quality (and probably less fiddly-ness) than S-Video. And actually, in the past 5 years, prices on TVs have plummeted. Take a look at sites like DealNews for good deals on HDTV sets. There are quite a few sets under $300. You could also go with a monitor, like wongcorgi said, but monitors often don't have pictures that are as bright or contrasty as TVs, since they're optimized for computer use, not TV programs and movies.
posted by zsazsa at 7:57 PM on January 8, 2011

Craigslist. You could get a huge older rear-projection TV for peanuts if you have room for it in your home. Bring your laptop and a cable with you and make sure it works before you buy.
posted by LarryC at 7:57 PM on January 8, 2011

Response by poster: So will all the TVs now have the VGA input? If that's easier to use/deal with than S-video, I'm all for it.
posted by Attackpanda at 8:05 PM on January 8, 2011

TVs have speakers too, which are kind of important. And a remote is nice to have.

Do they all have VGA? Not necessarily (they all have HDMI), but they will list it in the specs and it's easy enough to find. For instance, a 32" Westinghouse for $289.
posted by smackfu at 8:12 PM on January 8, 2011

You need to hunt for the VGH connector. This is what you want. What are you doing for audio? Did you plan on using the TV or do you have a stereom you cab connect it to a stereo?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:25 PM on January 8, 2011

Response by poster: I was going to use the TV for audio. The VGA input takes care of that as well? (I seriously know nothing about VGA)
posted by Attackpanda at 8:29 PM on January 8, 2011

It sounds like you don't want to wade into a mountain of research; you just want a good, reliable, easy-to-use tv that won't break the bank. However, I think it's worth it to consider a few things.
First, what's important to you? Picture quality? Audio quality? Easy to set up & use? Think about these things.
And second, what size screen do you want/need? There are some good viewing distance calculators out there that can help you choose an appropriate size screen based on how far you sit from it.
posted by cleverevans at 8:30 PM on January 8, 2011

You'll need a 3.5 stereo to dual RCA for audio then. I cant see which audio input the VGA is associated with. Will try my own 46 Sharp, and report back.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:31 PM on January 8, 2011

Not all will have a VGA input, though some will. Almost all will have an HDMI input, though, and if your computer has a DVI output (many do), you can convert from DVI to HDMI easily (there are adapters available for not much). Quality will be *much* better than S-Video, which is positively awful by modern standards, particularly since most content is now in the 16:9 aspect ratio, and S-Video forces everything into 4:3.
posted by andrewpendleton at 8:33 PM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

New flat screen TVs are expensive.
But you could get an older used TV, and it would work great for you.

What ever used TV you get, you are just using it is a monitor. You can get virtually any type of adapter cable at Radio Shack - like this, to go from compuer to AVI
posted by Flood at 8:37 PM on January 8, 2011

I downloaded the owner's manual for that Sharp, and it has a dedicated 3.5 mm stereo input for the VGA, which doesn't show up on the spec listings. You won't need a "Y" adapter for audio then. What computer are you using? I doubt that it has an HDMI or DVI output, as you mentioned "S", but andrewpendleton is quite correct in pointing out that this will provide better video still than VGA.

NEVER buy cables from Radio Shack and do NOT buy a used TV.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:47 PM on January 8, 2011

An option is a TV with the internet apps built-in. We have a Vizio in the bedroom and are quite happy with it. It has a very nice Netflix app and we just got the firmware update for the recently announced Hulu app too. The 802.11n wifi has been fine for all of our viewing, but it does have an ethernet port to put it ont he hardwired network if you like.

The 26" model is ~$330-350 so just a little bit above your budget, but less cables and hookups to worry about.
posted by Animus at 8:48 PM on January 8, 2011

Best answer: Consider spending your $300 budget like this:

$60 for a Roku Netflix box
$240 for a flat screen TV, whatever your local big box retailer has on sale

HDMI between the Roku and the TV. Done! WAY better experience than dicking around with the laptop connection.
posted by intermod at 9:06 PM on January 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

I connect my laptop to a TV with a DVI to HDMI cable - if you buy it online, the cable should cost under $10 and at Fry's it's $12-15. This will give you noticeably better picture quality than VGA, which can be fuzzy. It will not handle audio.

For audio, I put some computer speakers next to the TV and I connect my laptop to those. YMMV.
posted by asphericalcow at 9:09 PM on January 8, 2011

Netflix has a Wii app (if you have a Wii).

Otherwise, speaking as someone who just bought a new TV to use as a media center, I like intermod's suggestion.

We have a laptop with HDMI out, so it's been no problem so far. However, initially I could not get any sound out to the tv from my laptop via HDMI, which made me ponder how to make audio work, and it was frustrating. Luckily, I fiddled with the laptop's control panel and it all works fine now. But if it had not, it would have been a pain. Which is why I like intermod's suggestion.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:06 PM on January 8, 2011

Aha! But one more option! Buy TV. Buy Blu-Ray player with wireless Internet and apps such as Netflix and Pandora built in. Now you're set up and you have a Blu-Ray player to boot. You can get a wifi-built-in player for $100 or less.
posted by azpenguin at 10:11 PM on January 8, 2011

With $300 to spend, and a functional output device, suggesting that spending wasting 20% to 30% of the budget duplicating that source is incredibly inefficient.

Maximum image-size/picture-quality for dollar is the constraint here.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:33 PM on January 8, 2011

I was going to use the TV for audio. The VGA input takes care of that as well?
No. But you should be able to plug the TV into your headphone output pretty easily. You'll want to make sure the sound quality is good though. My monitor has built in speakers but they sound horrible :/ Otherwise you can go with external speakers.
posted by delmoi at 2:31 AM on January 9, 2011

It would make recommendations easier if we knew the make and model of your laptop. Can you tell us what it is?
posted by mr_silver at 5:41 AM on January 9, 2011

I was coming in to recommend a Roku with whatever TV setup you decide upon, and intermod beat me to it! Seriously, though, get a Roku. You stream Netflix through it (and many, many other things like HuluPlus and Pandora) and we're considering ditching cable for the first time in years because it's so great.
posted by cooker girl at 6:14 AM on January 9, 2011

Best answer: Why not get a TV with Netflix built in? Or a Blu-Ray player with Netflix?
posted by blue_beetle at 6:20 AM on January 9, 2011

I got good answers in this thread and it sounds like your needs are a lot like mine.
posted by escabeche at 7:31 AM on January 9, 2011

With $300 to spend, and a functional output device, suggesting that spending wasting 20% to 30% of the budget duplicating that source is incredibly inefficient.

I don't know, using a set-top box with a remote control and a couch-viewable interface is a lot nicer than using a laptop.
posted by smackfu at 7:51 AM on January 9, 2011

Best answer: With $300 to spend, and a functional output device, suggesting that spending wasting 20% to 30% of the budget duplicating that source is incredibly inefficient.

Until you want to use your computer while your wife watches TV.

I have a Roku box, as was recommended above. It not only supports multiple video inputs (hdmi, component, whatever that standard yellow plug is) and it has a Netflix app, Hulu app, Pandora app, and amazon video (and a bunch of other stuff I never look at.)

The multiple video inputs is great - meaning my old.ass tube tv is supported just fine (not the case with, say, a new AppleTV)

If it's something you can squeeze into your budget, I'd highly recommend a Roku.
posted by device55 at 8:28 AM on January 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! So many answers! My laptop is a Toshiba Satellite A305D, which doesn't have a HDMI or DVI output. The Roku is sounding really good (which I never even knew existed) and getting reasonably priced flat screen, which would take care of the sound. Thank you so much!
posted by Attackpanda at 9:09 AM on January 9, 2011

We use a bluetooth keyboard and don't have any problems with it.
posted by xammerboy at 9:23 PM on January 9, 2011

posted by intermod at 7:56 PM on January 13, 2011

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