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TVs as monitors

Doug Sweetser wrote:
> Hello:
> The land of TV tubes is very competitive.  There is a lot of screen
> available for a few hundred bucks.  Does anyone other than WebTV
> trilobites use TVs as monitors?  The flat screen ones sure would feel
> like any Joe monitor.  
> What would be required to control the TV?  Could it be done with
> S-video input, whatever that is?  It would be a cool upgrade to go
> from 15" to 27".

TV-out is a popular option among gamers these days (sometimes it's fun 
to see things BIG), so it is pretty easy to do, and it doesn't have to 
be expensive. If you already have a suitable TV, you can make the leap 
for under $100.

As many others have already pointed out, TV monitors are lacking in 
resolution. If you use S-video connections and a good NTSC TV, you can 
get a reasonably sharp 640x480 from one; composite video won't even 
manage that. Don't even think about trying an RF connection, or using a 
TV that lacks video input connectors. Some cards will let you run 
800x600 or even 1024x768 to a TV, but those will be down-converted by 
the video chipset, and don't really give you any more resolution than 
640x480. (You might actually get a bit more horizonal resolution with a 
really good TV, but the vertical resolution is limited by the 525 scan 
lines used by the TV, not all of which are visible. People outside North 
America will get 625 lines from their PAL TVs, but might get headaches 
from the lower 50Hz refresh rate.)

The easiest way to get output to a TV or monitor is to use a card with 
video out; they're readily available now, with both ATI and NVidia 
chipsets. (For instance, I just picked up an eVGA FX5600XT card at Micro 
Center for $100; I got it to support two monitors, but it also has an 
S-video output that I haven't tried yet.) In the past, ATI has had 
better TV-out quality than NVidia; I haven't looked recently, so this 
may no longer be true. Avoid cheap clone cards with ATI chip sets; they 
usually have lousy analog circuitry and give poor display quality, both 
on monitors and on TV sets. Real ATI cards are excellent, though the 
most expensive option; I suspect that the name-brand ATI-based cards 
(Diamond, etc.) that have started to appear are also good.

HDTV-capable monitors are an entirely different kettle of fish; they 
should be able to work respectably as computer monitors. Some have RGB 
inputs; they're easy to connect to computers. Others have component 
inputs; you'll need an RGB-to-component transcoder, or a video card that 
can produce component video. (ATI Radeon 9600, 9700, and 9800 series 
cards support it. You also have to buy an optional adapter for $29 plus 
shipping, but it's included with some high-end All-In-Wonder cards.) 
Some HDTV monitors also have composite and S-video connections for 
legacy sources (VCRs and so forth), but you don't want to use those to 
connect your computer!

CRT-based HDTV monitors are likely not to be quite as crisp as displays 
designed for the computer market, but they are also considerably cheaper 
for a given size. They also tend to lack some of the fine-tuning 
adjustments that computer displays have - size, geometry, etc. 
(Actually, they have them, but they're buried in service menus that 
aren't accessible to normal home users.)

Digital monitors (LCD, plasma, DLP) are really computer displays in TV 
drag, so you should get excellent results from them. But any of these in 
a large size costs at least $2,000.

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