TV & Computer Solution Friday, February 06, 2009

Many schools I have visited around Ireland have large TVs in each classroom, and I have been asked how easy or what do I need to hook a laptop to the TV. I have put together a quick suggestion list for doing this below; in general you have three choices depending on TV and laptop.

1) Most laptops have S-Video out on them, and these can be hooked up to any TV via s-video or scart. The down side is the quality is not the best, but it's cheap and will work with old laptops and tvs, even non flat screen. You will also need a cable to output your audio from the laptop and into the TV.

2) HDMI, all new flat screen TVs have HDMI input. This is the best option with by far the best quality. Your desktop or laptop can either have DVI or HDMI output (Not VGA). Most new Dell, HP and Lenovo laptops have HDMI output, but check before you purchase. Almost every desktop computer now has DVI output.

A DVI to HDMI Converter costs only €10, HDMI cables are about €15 in Aldi, but make sure it is long enough. The benefit of HDMI is that it offers excellent image quality, better than most projectors and in full HD, and it outputs both video and sound. DVI to HDMI all in one cables are also available.

3) VGA, very few new LCD TVs have VGA input, I would not recommend this option for new equipment. You should be purchasing laptops with HDMI or DVI output as it's the newest standard. VGA does not work with HDMI or DVI as it's an analogue signal, not digital. This requires an expensive converter that costs over €200. So only use VGA if your current TV already has a VGA connector.

From what I have checked most Dell laptops either have HDMI or it’s an option at time of purchase, in my local store the cheapest laptop with HDMI was a Lenovo for €550. All Apple computers can output DVI, HDMI and s- video. Most Sony and some HP laptops also have HDMI but check before you purchase.

TV, make sure your LCD TV is HD-Ready and can display 720p signal, the shop assistant will know this, if you have the budget for it purchase 1080p Full-HD, but you will only notice the quality if the screen size is greater than 40 inches or greater. 720 and 1080 refers to the resolution and thus the image quality, 720 or 1080 is the number of vertical pixels, your computer screen right now will be at least 1024x768, and the 768 refers to the vertical pixels. A standard TV has 480i pixels, the “i” refers to interlacing, which switches half the lines when refreshing, “p” is progressive, better quality.

HDMI cables can be purchase from Argos, or even Aldi. has great prices for the audio, s-video and HDMI cables.

In relation to VGA, I was asked that a lot of projectors require VGA and so some thought this was necessary for their laptop; DVI can be easily and cheaply converted to VGA using a low cost converter for only €10. This will take the digital signal and convert it to analogue, but converting from analogue to digital is much more expensive, and requires an up converter that costs €200. Most laptops will still have VGA out, so don't worry if that is included as well.

UPDATE: 09 Feb 2009
Today I was in Currys, they have some great deals on laptops. One that I noticed was a Compaq CQ70, this is a 17" Laptop 2GHz Dual Core, 2GB Ram, HDMI Out, 160GB HDD and Windows Vista Premium all for only €499. This is great value for a very nice spec and a big screen, highly recommend.