Laptop seeks TV for LTR
November 25, 2011 10:10 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations please for using a big screen LCD TV (40+"?) as a computer display. "Don't" is fine as a response but please justify. Cost is a significant issue; we can spend up to or little over $700.

My wife needs to work on text plus graphics for a book she's editing. She has a ThinkPad T60 and thinks a good TV will give her a better view than the laptop. The T60 has only a VGA output, not DVI or HDMI. She is very opposed to upgrading her laptop.

I read ask.metafilter.com/162855/42-TV-as-monitor-good-idea and wonder if tech has changed since then. I would get an LCD not a plasma display

I know little about the mechanics of connecting a VGA laptop to a TV (despite reading ask.metafilter.com/174274/How-to-connect-a-computer-and-TV-wirelessly), so advice on that would be helpful too. (The link in that ask to Netflix's device is dead.) Would wifi between laptop and TV be usable for editing work?

Costco is selling a Westinghouse 1080p 120Hz 46" LED-edge-lit LCD TV for $550 (model LD 4680) and a similar LG 47" for $690 (model 47L V4400). Is LG worth that much more than Westinghouse, and would either be suitable?
posted by anadem to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
 
Are you looking to buy this primarily as a computer display, or primarily as a TV which you can occasionally use with the computer? Because if it's the former, my answer is: don't.

The reason is that a 1080p display will be 1920x1080 pixels, whether it's a 24" desktop monitor or a giant TV. That's great for video, but for a computer user interface, you really won't want to be sitting any closer than the couch if you're trying to use a 40+ inch TV as your display. At 46", it will be just under 50 pixels/inch, which I guarantee you will not want to stare at from the usual eyes-to-monitor distance. (Some comparisons: dot matrix printers and early CRTs were 72 ppi; 27" 1080p monitor about 80 ppi; smartphones 200 ppi or so; iPhone 4(S) Retina display 326 ppi.)
posted by robt at 10:36 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Don't.

On preview, robt explained things with much less snark than I did. So, that. Exactly.

Go back to Costco and buy a 22–23" monitor for $150 or so. It probably even includes the VGA cable to connect it.
posted by bhayes82 at 10:45 PM on November 25, 2011


For text + graphics, assuming she's sitting in front of it at a desk, I'd recommend a 24" (maybe 27" if you're greedy) monitor. Plus, it might even rotate to portrait mode, which would be handy for text editing. TV probably won't do that.

Using a TV as a monitor is great for a home-theatre PC or a gaming rig, but it sounds like that's not your scenario.
posted by TangoCharlie at 1:38 AM on November 26, 2011


A don't from my point of view too.

I had a dual screen setup on my desk here until recently of my normal 21 inch monitor and a 32 inch LCD TV connected with VGA.

For gaming the TV was awesome but I had to sit a good metre away from the screen otherwise it was just too much. Flicking back to Windows and trying to use it to look at websites wasnt a very pleasant experience... Apart from having to move your head around to see all the screen, it just hurt the eyes. It's back as a TV in my bedroom now.
posted by aqueousdan at 2:40 AM on November 26, 2011


my 3 year old Samsung TV has a regular VGA input. using it as the monitor really only works well when playing games or movies. The resolution was too low for doing stuff like surfing the web.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:58 AM on November 26, 2011


Trying to read text on a tv is impossible. Don't.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:09 AM on November 26, 2011


Yeah you can't do this.

Your wife's intuition is probably something along the lines of: the TV screen is larger; therefore, I will be able to see more information than on my laptop monitor.

This is not correct. Though the surface area of the TV screen is greater than the surface area of the laptop screen, the pixel size of the TV screen is also proportionately larger.

What this means is that your wife will see the same information on the TV screen as on the laptop screen, only rendered larger and more pixelated.
posted by dfriedman at 8:29 AM on November 26, 2011


The only reason to do this is if your wife is very farsighted or low vision (i.e. legally blind), and really needs huge, bright pixels. I mean, it will work just fine in that you will get essentially the same image displayed on the TV as an LCD monitor, but you'll spend twice as much for a big TV as a decent monitor, and probably have to sit way too close.

Connecting a TV to a computer wirelessly is very expensive and degrades the quality. If you can at all avoid it, don't do it.

One reason for caution here is the VGA cable. It is technically possible to push a high-resolution signal through VGA, but it can get fuzzy, since VGA is an analog signal and the monitor image is digital. A real monitor (instead of a TV) is likely to put more effort into displaying good quality VGA input, too (my Toshiba TV's VGA input looks like crap relative to the same image over HDMI, which is digital).

If the VGA were not in play, the usual advice for the tasks your wife is looking at would be to get as big a monitor with as high a resolution as you can afford. For $340, you can get an excellent 24 inch, 1920x1200 monitor from Dell. This monitor is not something a graphic designer would use, given the choice, but it's relatively high resolution, and features an IPS panel, which is definitely moving in the right direction for design work.

However, to really get the best use out a higher resolution display, you'd need the mini-dock for the Thinkpad, which has a DVI (digital) out. IF you've got a T60 with a discrete graphics card, look for anything but "Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 (Intel 945GM)". If you've got $500 to spend on a TV, I think you'd be much happier with the dock and a high-quality monitor for the same price.
posted by wnissen at 1:55 PM on November 26, 2011


While our bigger TV (have an hdmi hookup so can connect to my laptop, so unsure about the VGA) is awesome for watching hulu, having two monitors (dual monitors) of a decent size is much better for doing work on your laptop and will give you more work area.
posted by ejaned8 at 3:37 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks all! Useful info from all answers.
posted by anadem at 12:04 PM on November 28, 2011


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