Help me hook up my basement
January 9, 2007 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for a low-end (under $2k) HD flat panel tv, I'm thinking plasma, but could be persuaded otherwise. DirecTV, MediaPC and

I've got some questions though, I've got DirecTV, do I need a separate HD Receiver for DirecTV to work with the new tv? What is needed to hook up a pc to these tv's? Will I be able to record HD content and playback from a PC? Are there other reasons to hook up a pc to the tv? I've seen HDMI bandied around, but I'm not sure if that's what I need, do I need a special video card, or just one that does DVI? 1080i or 1080p? Does anyone have any good links to beginners setups/configs?

I've got some time and would like to make an educated decision.
posted by TuxHeDoh to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just nabbed a 42" Samsung LCD for 1599$ and I've seen it listed a little lower since. Great set, Component/HDMI/S-Video, so you should have no problem running PC to it.

I thought I could live without HDMI until I started hooking things up. I run my XBox360 through the component and had to snag an HDMI cable to hook up the HD Cable Box.

I don't know about DirectTV, but I strongly suspect you'll need a new reciever. In my case, Time-Warner simply swapped out the cable boxes at no cost, but I'm not sure what it'll be like in your case.

The set does 1080i beautifully and regular analog signals aren't too bad, either. I had to play with the set up a bit, but for the most part you should be fine. The pre-sets aren't bad, just not great.
posted by GilloD at 11:49 AM on January 9, 2007

You need an HD DirecTV receiver if you want to receive HD channels from DirecTV, as well as possibly local OTA (over the air) HD channels. If you purchase a TV with a built in tuner, you would not need the DirecTV recevier to be HD to get OTA in HD (you would switch from Video1 to Channel 28 for instance), but you can't get the DirecTV channels in HD that way.

Your recording of HD content on the PC will be very limited. First, you would need an HD tuner card in order to record in HD. However, your HD tuner card will only work on OTA signals.

Playback of HD content from the PC (whether downloaded, ripped from disc, or recorded OTA) will be easy and fine. If the TV you purchase has multiple HDMI ports, you can plug in the PC via HDMI, and you'll get very good quality. The only limiting factor would be the video card/memory/processor (newer stuff works well). The resolution supported by your video card will determine if it can do video out at 1080p/1080i .
posted by stovenator at 11:54 AM on January 9, 2007

FWIW, under $2k isn't low end any longer. I bought a 37" Sharp Aquos (LCD) in July for $1800. It's an awesome TV.
posted by crickets at 12:44 PM on January 9, 2007

westinghouse 42 in. lcd, does 1080p, i picked it up in aug. for 1600, but i saw it for 1000 around christmas. look it up, good ratings etc.
posted by fumbducker at 1:46 PM on January 9, 2007

def. get a westinghouse

the 37" 1080p is 950 dollars, and the 42 is around 12-1400

you could probably snag the 46" 1080p for under 2k no problem...

also, as an aside, do not buy monster cables.
they are so hilariously overpriced, and you can get an extremely high quality (albeit without a woven cashmere insulation layer and a silk sheathing) cable at for next to nothing (seriously, a really nice hdmi cable will be no more than $10, where monster would run you about 100)
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 1:58 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Weapons- It's worse than that. The ONLY HDMI cables BestBuy had in stock last week were 150$. Yikes. RadioShack has an in-house brand that runs between 25 and 50 bucks, but that's still way more than what you pay on the 'web.
posted by GilloD at 2:17 PM on January 9, 2007

I bought a Maxent 5020HPM 50" Plasma Monitor from Costco for $1,499 plus tax. It supposedly has the same "glass" (Screen) as Panasonic Plasmas.

There is no tuner, so you'll need a Tuner/Receiver to watch broadcast TV on it. I don't watch much broadcast TV, I'm more of a DVD/Videogame/Watch downloaded shows streamed from my PC kind of guy.

It has 2 HDMI connections, 2 Component Connections, 1 VGA connector as well as Svideo and composite.

I run my DVD player via HDMI, my original xbox via component and my xbox 360 via the VGA.

The picture via component is OK. The picture via HDMI and VGA is GREAT! I'm very happy with it.

You can connect a PC via the VGA, or with a DVI-to-HDMI adapter from monoprice.
posted by de void at 2:28 PM on January 9, 2007

Get the size right first. We used pieces of cardboard to imagine what the TV would look like. It helped a bunch.
posted by mrbugsentry at 2:55 PM on January 9, 2007

I got a samsung 32" earlier this year for less than $1500. I really like it. It has 2 HDMI connections and a VGA connection as well. I have a upscaler DVD and a media PC hooked into it. The only problem I have is that HDMI won't give the digial signal to the flatscreen so I can use the flatscreen's optical out to my stereo. I have to run two separate, one from the flatscreen to the stereo (digital audio from the media pc) and one from the DVD player. If this is an issue for you, make sure that your flatscreen can handle digital audio _correctly_.

Also, expensive cabling should not be an issue. I bought all my cables here. They give you options for every cable from affordable to upscale. Optical audio cables are always expensive. I got mine pretty cheap there.
posted by kookywon at 3:02 PM on January 9, 2007

What is needed to hook up a pc to these tv's?

Some TVs (eg my SONY bravia) have specific PC connection inputs which are RGB cabling, just like a regular monitor. IMO it looks fantastic. Also, most newer video cards have DVI out, which you can buy a DVI to HDMI cable to use to hook up to your TV (you probably don't want to do this though, because it's likely you'll want the HDMI inputs for your cable/satellite and/or gaming console and/or HDDVD/Blu-ray). S-Video is likely the other option.

Will I be able to record HD content and playback from a PC? AFAIK, the answer is maybe. Lots of people are recording HD content out by hooking up Motorola cable boxes via firewire to their PCs, but I haven't been able to find another way to do it easily (if you call this easy). There are new HDTV PC tuner cards, but they are so laden down with DRM that it's likely they will be utterly useless.
posted by drgonzo at 7:48 PM on January 9, 2007

Rule of Thumb: Decide on what size you want, then buy the next larger one.

DirecTV requires an HD receiver (stovenator's post gives details on some variables). You may have to upgrade your antenna as well. The HD package costs more than the regular package on the same tier.

If you are going to hook up a PC, pay close attention to what your prospective TV does with PC signals. See here for some knowledge on different resolutions.

Consider an AV Receiver, especially one that has HDMI inputs and output. You will be able to switch your audio and video sources with one button, plus you'll get 5.1 (or better) from a DVD, DirecTV and possibly your MediaPC.

I have a Mac Mini in my mix. Besides using it as a jukebox, I can surf the Web and play games on the big TV. With PinP, you could watch a football game and do your email at the same time.
posted by forrest at 3:01 PM on January 10, 2007

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