Sunday, October 30, 2011

TV without a TV

The other day I was asked if there was an easy way to watch TV programs and movies now available on the Internet on a large screen TV. With Netflix,, iTunes and Hulu all providing more and more programs once only available on broadcast TV, cable or satellite, viewers now want to watch in a more comfortable environment than is possible sitting in front of the desktop or laptop computer. Even those who have graduated to the iPad or other tablet devices often want to watch some programs on a large screen.

There are several options available. Some of them simple and inexpensive and others a bit more pricey. If you already are using a laptop computer and you have a relatively new HDTV, very likely you can connect the two. Many newer laptops have HDMI outputs and many digital TVs have more than one HDMI input. So if you have your TV connected to a cable box using one of the HDMI inputs, you can use one of the remaining HDMI inputs to connect to your computer. Once connected using an HDMI cable, the TV serves as a large monitor for the laptop by displaying on the TV any content viewable on the laptop.

If you do not have a HDMI output on the computer you most likely have a VGA port. That port can be easy to identify since it uses a plug with 15 very small pins. Look on the side or the back; I am sure you will find it. It is also called an external monitor or projector port. Again, many new TVs have a VGA input. All you need to connect your laptop to your TV is an inexpensive VGA cable.

In both of the first two options, you still need to run a separate audio cable to your TV in order to get the audio to play from the TV. This can be a hassle.

If you are in the market for a new TV you might want to consider one that already is Internet ready. This means that you can connect the TV, via either a network cable or
your home wifi network, to the Internet. These TVs have a special remote control that allows you to select between off air, cable or internet sources. All are displayed on the large screen. Deciding to watch a video from the Internet is just as easy as changing the channel on your cable box.

Since many network programs are now available on the Internet, more and more people are reconsidering the monthly cost of cable or satellite. Broadcast TV has increased the number of free over-the-air channels in the Cincinnati market from seven in the analog world to more than twenty in the digital world. There is a fee for some Internet based services like Netflix, but considering that these programs can be watched virtually on demand with a monthly cost well below what most of us pay for cable, it is not surprising that some viewers are seriously re-evaluating the price of cable or satellite services.

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