Use an LCD Monitor as a TV

For anyone setting up a home theater, the display device is going to be one of the bigger costs. Although LCD and plasma televisions have been reduced in price with the shift towards the new 3D sets, you would still expect to pay well over $1000 for a large, good quality LCD TV for example.

Meanwhile, due to the much higher turnover and production volumes, LCD monitors have been tumbling in price, These are now at the point where using an LCD computer monitor as a TV screen is a commercially attractive, real possibility! The LCD monitor – TV idea has been popular among PC gamers for some time, with the PC becoming a media hub for more and more people. But there is no reason that any traditional home theater enthusiast can’t use an LCD monitor in this way too. You can buy a widescreen LCD monitor like the Asus MT276H for around the $500 mark, and some models are even cheaper. While the monitors at this price might not match a flatscreen TV in inches, they have some compelling advantages beyond just price. Improved resolution is the biggest drawcard. High Definition (HD) TVs come in a range of resolution standards such as 720p or 1080 i/p with the number in each case being the number of horizontal lines (or pixels) on the screen. A widescreen HD TV capable of 720p has a native resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, while an LCD monitor like the Acer above has 1920 x 1080 pixels, the equivalent of the highest spec HD TVs right out of the box.

There are a few points to be aware of when using an LCD monitor for TV, so let’s run through a few of the things you should be aware of:

  • Your media device (eg your DVD player, amplifier or TV tuner) will generally need a DVI output or a HDMI output. DVI is the format commonly used to connect standard computer monitors, a skewed rectangular shape with 29 pins. HDMI is a standard more commonly found in home theater use. If your media device only has HDMI, you can find a DVI to HDMI converter to get around this problem, but it’s worth noting that since DVI does not carry an audio signal, you will need separate audio cabling – not a problem if you are using external surround sound speakers of course.
  • Depending on the type of content you will play, you may need a High Definition Content Protection (HDCP) display. Check this in advance with the monitor manufacturer.
  • As the great majority of PC monitors don’t have remote controls, you have to manually power the monitor on and off. A workaround to this is if you are using a home theater PC that has a built in power-out for the monitor, in which case shutting down the PC will turn off the monitor too.
  • No audio – most monitors don’t have sound built in, or if they do it isn’t great quality.
  • Most LCD monitors don’t have a TV tuner built in, so you are relying on your media player to have a built in tuner (most systems do).

Allowing for some of these negatives, the savings, often in the hundreds of dollars, make using and LCD monitor as a TV an attractive proposition for many consumers. And if you decide to upgrade later, the monitor isn’t wasted – just plug it into your home PC and enjoy a widescreen upgrade!

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