Help Me Mac My Roku and Continue Life Sans TV
November 21, 2017 9:12 PM   Subscribe

So my puny 19in TV finally gave up the ghost and I feel zero need to replace it. I'm the happy new owner of a 27in iMac on which I can stream my Amazon and Netflix addictions. And yet. I miss my Roku. Details below.

I have Plex set up to stream my ripped exercise DVDs just the way I like (don't judge!). And I love the universal search so I don't have to be responsible for remembering, "was it Amazon or Netflix that streamed Babymakers?"

So I went and bought a thunderbolt (USB-3) to HDMI connector thinking it might be easy to just plug the HDMI out from the Roku 2 to the thunderbolt in of the iMac. Alas, nothing. I pushed CMD-F2 like the google suggested to change the screen output and nothing. I glean that there may be a wifi connection issue, and perhaps I need to set up some local connection between the two, but that's the extent of my understanding from 2hrs of unsuccessful searching.

If this is impossible, I can live with that. But I'd like to think in 2017 there's a solution.
posted by eglenner to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It’s impossible. You can use it as an external monitor for another Mac, and that’s it. Bad apple...>:-(
posted by Huck500 at 9:34 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

There is no HDMI input on an iMac. What you want is not possible.
posted by GuyZero at 10:12 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

To do this, you'd need an hdmi capture card, like the Roxio Game Capture HD PRO. HDMI capture cards are cheaper than they used to be; they became more common with Twitch, I think.

That specific card is from my own shopping comparisons a few months ago. There are likely cheaper items, or higher resolutions - this maxes out at 1080p.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:33 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I just remembered: HDCP copy protection will likely be an issue with HDMI capture cards. I've heard HDMI splitters *might* help with that.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:47 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, I think your best bet is just ponying up for a new tv. HDMI capture cards can be finicky under the best of circumstances and I've found over the years, most don't live up to their promises. I'd also caution against using your shiny new iMac as a tv/monitor even if you could because you'd just be speeding up the demise of your backlight, which is much more expensive to replace than just buying a cheap tv from the start. For example, this LG 24" 720p tv is just $117.00 and this 22" 1080p tv is $137.00.

I'd recommend just getting a new tv and not changing your current setup, which you seem to like.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:04 AM on November 22, 2017 [9 favorites]

You can use Plex through a web browser (just navigate to the URL of your Plex server).

There are various websites which emulate the universal search of the Roku (though it will be a bit clunkier). JustWatch is one, I think, but I've never used it.
posted by katrielalex at 5:56 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yep, on the Mac use the browser frontend to Plex (which runs as a server on the Roku....but where is your media stored, back on the Mac??), and make your browser full-screen.

But if your videos are actually stored on the Mac and only served out via Plex, then why not just double-click them and watch them locally?
posted by wenestvedt at 8:04 AM on November 22, 2017

I'm in a very similar situation to you—moving to a small studio apartment, and the biggest, best display I own is my brand-new 27" iMac. Seems like it ought to make perfect little TV, right? Maybe I can somehow plug my PS4 into it, too, and—

After a few days of looking into it, it seems like getting from here to there involves a Rube Goldbergian series of contraptions, the failure of any of which puts me back to square one.

The Wirecutter's pick for the best "small TV" has Roku built right in, and costs less than $200.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:07 AM on November 22, 2017

Oh, hey, Black Friday is in two days. You could replace your tv cheaply then.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:38 AM on November 22, 2017

In answer to LuckySeven~, I watch--at most--10hrs of TV a week (and use the computer as such for perhaps another 5), so I hardly think my heavy usage will burn out the backlight!

In answer to wenestvedt, the exercise video rips are stored on the mac but have been organized by trainer, length, body-part, etc and each have appropriate thumbnails via Plex. Using the Plex website at least will maintain that. This leaves the streaming services separate.

So I appreciate everyone's input: I guess 2017 won't solve my "I just want a single screen dammit," problems.

Oh well. The spouse comes home from deployment in a few months and a large screen TV will come out of storage at that time, so never fear! I will rejoin America at large again soon.
posted by eglenner at 5:00 PM on November 22, 2017

Has anyone found a good solution to show HDMI video on an older iMac which doesn't support video in?

I want to use my iMac as a screen for my Raspberry Pi 3. I don't care about recording, but I want smooth enough video to use the RP3 as a console emulator with the iMac as the screen.
posted by sindark at 11:33 PM on December 18, 2017

sindark, I'd look at an hdmi capture card or using vnc over the network.
posted by Pronoiac at 8:37 PM on December 19, 2017

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