Saturday, May 12, 2007

HDTV as a computer monitor

For my very first Blogger post, I think I'll share my experiences with getting our new TV - a black 32" Sanyo LCD HDTV model - working as a computer monitor. If you'd prefer to avoid the technobabble and the long story, it's working fine as of now and I couldn't be happier.

Jennifer (my wife) and I decided to build some credit. To pay bills, finance our as-of-yet-unconfirmed California trip in November, and ease a little monetary stress, we applied for an unsecured loan of an amount I will not specify publicly. We were denied, but we were given a Visa card with a third of what we asked for, still a generous amount we can certainly work with. We decided we needed a present for ourselves. All work and no play and all that jazz. I was looking at a 19" monitor at Walmart, a widescreen LCD model. $193 - not bad, eh? But Jen has a hard time seeing small details in movies on our standard 19" CRT (aka tube monitor) and she didn't think simply going widescreen would improve it much. Or the 22" model next to it for about $100 more. We went to the TVs, as I explained to her that the new digital TVs are basically big computer monitors - which they are. And this is what we settled on. I hate discussing finance, but between the warranty, the DVD player (I'll get to that), and the cable to hook it up to the computer, we probably dropped about $850.

The TV has a native display of 1366 by 768 pixels (width, then height). However my nVidia GeForce 6600 (256MB) wouldn't do it, even as a "custom resolution". In fact the only one it would do stably (as opposed to flickering and/or blurry) was 1280x720, and it pushed 50 or so pixels on all four sides over the edges. On top of that, video was too dark and too red. Some video looks good but some looks terrible. This is when we decided to buy a DVD player. For $45 or thereabouts, we got a Philips model which upconverts DVDs to HD (I can't tell the difference) and plays numerous computer-based video formats, like DivX. It's what my brother calls a play-all.

Then we had a power outage, and all of a sudden the TV wouldn't work with the computer. I got it sorted (I still need my old monitor for some things, it seems) and found an option I didn't see before. Underscan - it was just what I needed. The description fit my problem, and after I hit OK, everything magically fell into place. The TV just works now, as a giant computer monitor. And I mean giant, the thing is freakin' huge! Video still looks bad, though, so the DVD player is still necessary.

I want satellite - I'm a fairly big fan of WWE Monday Night RAW, and I would watch other shows if I could. I'd like to watch Discovery and Animal Planet, learn stuff when I get bored. What little I see of them, they look pretty fun. With a TiVo or other kind of recorder, I could even watch stuff that broadcasts while I'm at work. We can't get cable, so that's out. I am also interested in getting a game console. I think between the PlayStation 2 and PS3, Sony dropped the ball somewhere and Microsoft became the better serious gaming company; an Xbox 360 is looking real good right now. But Nintendo have always held a monopoly on fun, but I'm not sure I want a Wii. I'm not that active, not into getting into my games. A Gamecube maybe, they're just under $100 and have some good games. But the Xbox 360 has SmackDown vs. RAW 2007, which features all four personas of Mick Foley as well as the McMahons, crucial characters missing from the regular Xbox wrestling games I've played. And the 360 will surely have Grand Theft Auto IV when it comes out in October or November.

But for now, Jennifer and I are enjoying the TV as a big monitor for our web browsing and watching DVDs. We'll figure out the rest later.

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