How to add a second display (TV or monitor) to a laptop to show movies?
May 8, 2014 5:37 AM   Subscribe

I want to be able to use a laptop (and its built-in screen) for normal computery stuff while at the same time the same laptop shows a movie on a separate display to the kids. How do I set this up?

My goal: I'm writing email, the kids are watching a pirated download of Bambi in the Bahamas, and it's all thanks to this one laptop to which I have somehow added another display.

I have the laptop (some kind of VAIO running Windows 7). I don't have the second display (TV or monitor). What makes sense to buy for that second screen to show a movie?

Explain it like I'm an idiot, because I know zero about computer monitors and televisions. I haven't bought a television since before flat screens and LED displays and so on, and I have never added a second monitor to any computer, so I'll be lost no matter how we do this. Which way is easiest? Which way is most flexible? Which way offers the best picture? Which way makes financial sense? (I'm not rich.)
posted by pracowity to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The lucky thing for you is that in the world of today's technology, monitors and TVs are pretty much the same thing. Small ones are usually marketed as monitors, and bigger one as TVs, but they all have the same types of wiring and inputs/outputs. (OK, a TV might have built in speakers while a monitor might not.)

Let's say you buy a modern TV type thing. The wire hookup will most likely be a type of cable called HDMI. These things can carry video AND sound, so you'll be able to have the movie play audio out of the TV too, rather than your laptop.

Modern Windows has pretty good multi-display support. The TV should be recognized automatically. Your laptop will have in its display settings options called "mirror" display (same thing on both), or "extend". Extend is what you want. It'll let you "place" the tv in relation to your laptop, then the movie is as simple as dragging the window over to the second screen.

The only thing to be sure of is that your laptop has the right kinds of outputs for this setup. What model is your laptop? We can look it up and tell you what kinds of cable you'll need.
posted by Wulfhere at 5:48 AM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: There are two basic ways to do this. The first is to directly connect your laptop to a monitor or TV. If your laptop had HDMI or mini displayport out then you only need one cable. Otherwise you'll probably need a VGA cable for the video and a 3.5mm cable for the sound. Most TVs will accept either whole most monitors only take VGA + sound.

The second option is to stream it. You could get a Chromecast($35) and then use something like Videostream to play the video. The nice thing about this approach is it doesn't require you to be physically connected to the TV or even in the same room. The Chromecast does require an HDMI port, so you'll probably need something marketed as a TV rather than a monitor.

Finally, if you already have a Roku, you could look in to Plex (which also supports Chromecast). That's probably the most complicated solution though.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:12 AM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: Wulfhere pretty much covers it.

Ignore the expensive gold-plated "high-quality" HDMI cables, they are a scam. I got a 4m long HDMI cable for £5 on Amazon which I have used with no issues to connect a 42-inch TV to a desktop PC to do exactly what you are talking about.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:35 AM on May 8, 2014

Response by poster: OK, I went home and checked the model number. SONY VAIO PCG-81411M. The only description I can find online is here:
- nVidia Geforce with CUDA
- Full HD 1080
- Tastatur Layout: deutsch / qwertz
- integrierte Lautsprecher
- 3x USB
- 1x HDMI (defekt / verbogen!!)
- SD-Slot
- firewire
- Netzwerk Ethernet RJ45
- Modem RJ11
- Mikrofon
- Kopfhörer
- Webcam
Etc. Though my keyboard isn't German and the HDMI works just fine AFAIK. Bought in Poland.
posted by pracowity at 8:20 AM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: Wulfhere covered the basics of hooking another tv/monitor directly to your laptop, but you might find that playing a movie and working on it simultaneously might slow it down a bit too much for your productivity. If this is the case, look at USB video adapters such as this one. Using a USB adapter will offload some of the processing required to display a second screen.

As for the type of external display to purchase? Get whatever you want, just keep an eye on the connections it has and match them up with your laptop or the display adapter you will be using (e.g. DVI or HDMI). Take note that HDMI can send audio as well as video through the same cable, DVI does not (so you will have to run a separate cable from you headphone or audio-out jack).
posted by Th!nk at 8:25 AM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: Does VLC handle full-screen on the second monitor correctly ? (vs running in windows mode).
posted by k5.user at 8:46 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A lot of new televisions can be connected to a network via Ethernet or WiFi. Then it is just a matter of sharing the directory the movies are on. No system resources used at all and the kids get a remote.
posted by cedar at 8:46 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: k5.user: "Does VLC handle full-screen on the second monitor correctly ? (vs running in windows mode)."

Just tried it on my dual-monitor system and it works fine.
posted by Aleyn at 12:32 PM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: k5.user - I run VLC full screen on my secondary monitor all the time. If VLC is on the same screen as the task bar, the taskbar can pop on top of the video when a different window (e.g. email) has focus.

OP, you also have to choose to "extend" as opposed to "duplicate" your desktop - otherwise, you'll have both screens showing the same image!

But rest in peace that this is 100% doable and very, very common. Get any monitor that has speakers, connect it via HDMI (and don't pay more than $20 for an HDMI cable - expensive cables are a scam), and bob's your uncle.
posted by rebent at 12:32 PM on May 8, 2014

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