Posted by Richard Budman on Monday, October 18, 2010 · Leave a Comment
Finally tackled a home improvement project this weekend I’ve been thinking about a while. And now, a couple of days into using my new internet connected big-screen TV from the couch of my living room area – I can clearly see it’s a game changer for me and my work.
Pretty sure if your reading this your probably like me in increasingly living your life online. This certainly isn’t a bad thing to me. I have fully embraced a huge range of online services that benefit my life – both personally and professionally. It’s really become more a question of creating the connectivity points to where I access these services.
Before the weekend, my three main touch-points for accessing my online life have been a home office desktop PC, a netbook, and my iPhone. When I’ve wanted to bring the net to my living room couch for myself or when entertaining with friends the biggest screen would usually turn out to be a friends MacBook.
So I had this idea about adding a new 40″ big screen TV to my living room area – and not for the “TV” – I have been without cable television for a year and certainly don’t miss it (or what I consider the overcharging of it.) Online streaming of tv shows and news content has more than satisfyed me when working – usually in my home office. The challenge to bring a new online window to my living room area was figuring out a way to clone my office monitor already running my home PC to a brand spanking new 40″ full HD (1920 x 1080 resolution) LCD TV.
Because I was adamant about not adding any more computer boxes – besides the TV, the only other device I wanted present in the living room was a DVD player (I was serious about NOT adding a bunch of new boxes and cables and all that mess.) In my perfect world, I needed my new living room big screen TV to output content from just TWO sources – standard DVD’s (which I have a wealth of) and my already connected home office computer desktop.
The first big questions on my quest were; What brand of TV? And should it be Plasma or LCD? Some quick online research quickly revealed best results when using a HDTV as a computer monitor would most likely come from LCD (mainly because of a burn-out issue Plasma sets can get from computer screens that remain static on screen for long periods of time.)
So I knew I was looking for a 40″ LCD – but which brand? what model? There are a wealth of big screen LCD screens on the market today, many made from brand name manufacturers you’ve probably heard of (Sony, Samsung, LG, Toshiba) and many coming from cheaper China made brands you probably hadn’t heard of. I wanted to stick with what is usually the better made brand names.
I quickly zeroed in on the Samsung line of hi-def LCD televisions. I have been using a 24″ Sumsung monitor in the office which has treated me well the last couple of years, but more importantly, their line of big screen TV’s always seemed to look pretty good to me in the stores.
I ended up getting real lucky and scooping up an open-box special on a 40″ Samsung SERIES 6 LCD for a little over $700. This proved a good decision – spending a little more and going with a Samsung Series 6 LCD over Series 5 (where you see a lot of the Series 5 on sale today.)
Every few years, almost all brand name television manufacturers are improving at making these big screens televisions look better (namely in the areas of improving contrast ratio and how fast-moving video content, like sports, render on these big screens.) There is a noticeable bump in quality that Samsung has managed in moving from Series 5 to 6 and many of these improvements directly tie into making these types of full HD LCD’s ideal choices to mimic computer monitors now.
So now I had the big screen in-house, it was time to secure the connection to get from home office computer onto the new living room LCD. A couple of months ago I boosted the RAM in my office desktop and while I had the attention of my friend who guides me through much of this hardware techy stuff (and in anticipation of this living room big screen idea which was gelling in the back of my head) I upgraded my computer video card to a dual display card. It’s this added second monitor port that now serves as the LCD display in the living room. The upgraded video card was just a little over $50 and it would be a DVI to HDMI cable that connects the big screen LCD to home office computer. But it should be noted; the new DVI output on the back of the computer only carries video to the living room big screen. I still needed to get the audio and ended up using my computers mini-jack speaker out to a mini-jack audio PC in (which the Samsung LCD’s beautifully have!) I managed to find from the good folks at Canada Computers on College st. a DVI to HDMI cable which has a mini-jack audio cable built into the casing. (I just found it challenging to find a long one, 20 feet or so.)
Once we had the video and audio cloned from the home office monitor to the new living room LCD big screen – the KEY question now becomes which keyboard / mouse? How to control the whole damn thing?
I wanted something slick and wireless to control the big screen from anywhere in the room. The boys at Canada Computers really helped with some good advice (namely, must go bluetooth over regular wireless technology) and the store on College st. did have a large, in-stock variety of cables which you always need a few of to get everything hooked up.
Ended up getting the Logitech cordless MediaBoard Pro ($70) with a cool built-in touchpad (the keyboard says its for a Playstation 3, but it can be used on a PC just the same.) One final step was just needing to add bluetooth connectivity to my PC and this Belkin mini bluetooth adapter for under $20 was great for this. (though, of anything in my little project, getting the bluetooth thing going proved most challenging and took a few hours of software tinkering. But when it got going, it worked great.)
One of the first places I went to get a sense of how streamed entertainment would look on my new living room big screen set-up was my netflix.ca account. About five minutes into watching a widescreen HD episode of Mad Men I knew I was seeing NOW the likely future of content delivery into most people’s homes.
Mad Men looked and streamed amazingly. The computer desktop, icons, and text are as sharp, clear, and readable as my office monitor (just much bigger!)
The BACK my new internet connected big screen. I wanted to ensure things were clean and simple. Didn’t want new boxes and cables everywhere. With just two simple cables (The AC power and HDMI computer cable) and with a TV stand I added wheels to – my new online TV floats into different positions in the living room area.