Yet another HD + Mac question
March 27, 2014 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Finally giving in and getting a ginormous screen. What is going to work best with what I have and what I want to do.

Previously we had an old 'box' (non-flat screen, non-HD) TV, which we hooked up to our MacBook Pro to play dvds and stream BBC iPlayer and Lovefilm. Got rid of the box, and have just been watching media on the iMac.
So now I have the chance to buy a big f-off screen tax-free, but have no idea what to get.
I want to be able to run stuff through the Macbook. I have no need for 'antenna'or cable TV. I already have a great sound system, so that is not an issue either. I just need recommendations for what to look for in a screen, especially what to look for in one that I will be hooking up to a macbook to play dvds - and should I really care too much about internet-connectivity in the screen itself if I am running the Macbook.

Also, I don't have a huge room - what is the best ratio of screen size to distance from the screen?
posted by Megami to Technology (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I haven't really done a full survey of the current state of things, but all I've ever heard about the internet connectivity stuff in TVs is that they're underpowered and clunky and not updated well. If you didn't already have a computer in mind to use with it I would still say ignore the built in TV internet stuff and get an apple tv, chromecast, roku, or any other dedicated thing.

You'll probably wind up using HDMI to connect them. Newer macbook pros have HDMI outputs. For the older ones you need a minidisplayport -> HDMI adaptor, but that'll work fine. So there's no real special considerations for your TV there. (Instead of using HDMI you could look for a TV with a displayport input, but unless the display is higher resolution than 1080p there's no real benefit to that vs HDMI).

So the bottom line is pretty much anything will work.

As for size: This chart plots screen size vs viewing distance. I think they're a little conservative with how many pixels a resolution needs, though this will depend a lot on the content (text needs more pixels than video). Anyway it's a good starting point. Really you should measure how far you'll sit from the TV and then go to a store and stand/sit that far from some TVs and look at them.
posted by aubilenon at 10:17 AM on March 27, 2014

As long as your MacBook has HDMI the only vital thing is that the display has HDMI. If it doesn't have HDMI then things get slightly more complicated, and you should say what model and year the MacBook is, and how you plan to get sound into the sound system.
posted by wotsac at 10:30 AM on March 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

1080P TV of whatever size you decide, use hdmi to connect. lower than 1080p doesn't save you any money anymore, and 4k/uhd is pricey and has technical issues to be worked out (and virtually no content).

If your mac doesn't have hdmi out natively, you need an adapter.

As far as size, figure out what the biggest you can physically fit in the room, then work your way down from there, price and aesthetics wise.
posted by TheAdamist at 10:37 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you don't have HDMI and want the best sound, run a mini TOSLINK cable from your Mac's headphone port to your TV or amplifier.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:49 AM on March 27, 2014

Best answer: You'll probably wind up using HDMI to connect them.

I would go another route, and suggest budgeting an Apple TV into the purchase - this way, you can plonk down on the couch/bed/floor with the MacBook, and not have to worry about cabling the Mac to the TV.

As for the TV itself - I'd measure out (in paces) roughly from where you'll do most of your viewing to where you'll be putting the TV. Then go to a department/big-box store with a ton of TV's on display (they can be crappy TV's, we're just fitting for size) and measure out your distance from the TV's on display - the size that looks comfortable is the size you want.

Also, measure (with a tape measure) the space you're going to putting the TV in, from side-to-side and top-to-bottom, to make sure what you want will fit.

The rest of it is doing your homework - check reviews online, and pay attention to contrast and refresh rate specs. (Contrast really only works to distinguish between low-end and high-end sets from the same manufacturer, as they all measure it differently, but refresh rate should be 120hz or 240hz no matter who makes it.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:54 AM on March 27, 2014

Mine doesn't look exactly like this (but according to my order history it's what I have), but I use this relatively cheap Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt to HDMI Cable to connect my MacBook Pro (and Air) to my TV. Works as expected.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:56 AM on March 27, 2014

If you're going to mount the TV on the wall, you might find it useful to tape up a sheet of paper (or even just an tape outline) to see what size is going to be comfortable/attractive. It's my understanding that the screen-size-to-distance-to-screen ratio is not important with modern TVs since they look very good even close up. Like, if you can sit on your couch and comfortably see the whole screen at once, you should be OK.

Depending on whether you have MiniDisplay or Thunderbolt you may need to run a separate cable for sound.
posted by mskyle at 10:58 AM on March 27, 2014

I'll second the suggestion above to not waste money on "Smart TV" features. Software is not the TV manufacturers' strong suit, and you'll do much better getting a non-smart TV with HDMI inputs and spending an extra $100 on a Roku (or an AppleTV - but that should be updated any day now).
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:43 PM on March 27, 2014

Best answer: TV brands currently do not matter in terms of screens. Panels, the screen part of your TV, are all made by the same 2 or 3 manufacturers. The electronics, (UI, apps) are all different, but as previous posters have said, they all differently suck. The macbook should be fine enough for what you were previously doing. The only thing you would gain from something like a Roku or Apple TV is to not have your laptop chained to the TV all the time, and a slightly nicer interface.

As far as size, use this chart to see what size of TV would probably be good for you, given 1080p resolution, and how far you would sit from it.

The Wirecutter has a list of various TVs in different price/performance/size options.
posted by zabuni at 3:11 PM on March 27, 2014

> I already have a great sound system

Does your receiver have HDMI-in? I used to use a stereo, analog-only receiver with the analog audio output of my iMac, but then I got an HDMI receiver and a moshi mini displayport to HDMI adapter that supports audio (they don't all do that) and now I can listen to AC-3 (Dolby Digital) soundtracks which have the dialog fixed to the center channel.

Dolby Pro Logic decoding of the stereo matrixed analog audio attempt this, but it's not as effective.

I can also listen to rips of multichannel DVD-Audio (Talking Heads "brick").

TOSLINK would handle the AC-3 part, but not multi-channel PCM (uncompressed).

An AppleTV won't support Amazon Instant Video and choice is nice. The Robert Mitchum Farewell My Lovely is $7 from Amazon, $13 from iTunes. The Bogart/Bacall The Big Sleep is only available from Amazon. Anything I can watch on my general purpose computer, I can see on my TV. I use Hippo Remote to control the iMac.
posted by morganw at 6:01 PM on March 27, 2014

I believe you can stream from the Mac Amazon app to the Apple TV via airplay now... you can with an iPad and iOS 7.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:32 AM on March 28, 2014

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