Although computer monitors have higher dots per inch (DPI) ratings than televisions, a high definition television (HDTV) can be quite impressive for applications like gaming, movie editing and other graphics and multimedia applications. Unlike standard TV, HDTV is capable of finer resolutions that can better display computer output. A standard TV can also be used as a monitor, but the resolution will be sorely lacking compared to an actual computer monitor.
Driving an HDTV requires a decent graphics card with resolutions that will support the HDTV of interest. These cards will feature a video-out port such as DVI-out (Digital Video Interface), UDI-out (Unified Digital Interface), DisplayPort, or HDMI-out (High Definition Multimedia Interface). HDTVs use HDMI interfaces, making the HDMI-to-HDMI connection best. UDI, DisplayPort and HDMI carry both digital video and audio signals, eliminating the need to run separate RCA audio cables.
Traditional graphics cards do not carry sound, but graphics cards with built-in HDMI work a little differently. Some, for example, utilize SPDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format) to channel audio from the motherboard directly to the graphics card to output through the HDMI interface. This keeps all signals digital, taking full advantage of HDMI capability.
If your graphics card does not have built-in UDI, DisplayPort or HDMI and features pure DVI-out instead, you will need a DVI-to-HDMI cable. You will also need to run separate audio cables from the computer to the HDTV, as the DVI standard does not carry audio signals.
Analog video-out options such as composite, S-Video, and component video can also feed an HDTV monitor, but you will be feeding a lesser quality stream by using non-digital technologies. You might also have to route analog video connections through a VCR or receiver, if the HDTV lacks analog inputs. The ideal, however, is to go directly from your computer to the monitor itself. This avoids potential signal noise introduced by middleman components.
If the HDTV will be running as a secondary monitor, in addition to cabling you will need to configure the graphics card to enable multi-display functionality. In Windows operating systems you can access video applications by opening the Windows Control Panel and looking for the relevant video interface. Often a quick-launch icon to video settings can also be found in the system tray.
Many people who use an HDTV monitor point out that the size of it is far less important than the distance you will be sitting from it. If this will be your primary monitor, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Smaller screens also have an advantage of being sharper than larger screens, all else being equal. Therefore, if the HDTV will be on a desktop right in front of you, you can save considerable money by buying a moderately sized monitor. If you’ll be sitting at a distance of 10 feet (3m) or more, your wallet can likely be the judge as to size.