I’ve detailed my entertainment setup a little bit before in previous posts and today’s another part of figuring out the puzzle for the perfect system. At one end of the house, I’ve got an HDTV with a PS3 connected. The HDTV can play Xvid files from a USB key or display the video from a PC using its built in VGA connection. The Playstation 3 also assists by playing DVDs/BluRay Discs, streaming Netflix titles, or streaming videos off my computer across the network using the PS3 Media Server.
At the other end of the house, I have a standard definition TV with a Nintendo Wii and a VCR/DVD player connected. I can obviously watch TV, play DVDs, and even stream Netflix with the Wii but I was at a loss for how to easily enable streaming videos from my PC to the TV. With the PC in the center of the house, I wanted to be able to watch both downloaded videos and shows streaming from sites like Fox, ABC, and others. I previously wrote up using DVD Flick to get those downloaded shows on the DVD player but it became tedious and wasteful to burn a DVD each time I wanted to watch a show in the other room.
That brings us to the latest find which is working well and I didn’t realize how much I was missing it. Using the VideoSecu VGA2TV Converter, for under $20 I can adapt the VGA out of my laptop to the RCA input of the TV or VCR. There’s also the option of using the converter’s VGA out or S-Video out.
The converter comes with the three cables it needs: A VGA cable for connecting your laptop to the converter, a single RCA component cable for connecting converter to the TV, and a USB cable that you plug into the laptop and the converter for power. The converter also has a menu that can be used to optimize the picture and two dipswitches to control the output. You want both dipswitches flipped down for most American TVs.
To get the video from laptop to TV is really simple. It follows the same procedure as connecting a projector. For my laptop, I was able to just connect the laptop to the converter and with the TV on the right channel for input, my desktop appeared on the TV and the laptop simultaneously. You can adjust the resolution of the second monitor but I haven’t bothered even though the desktop and text don’t look good because full screen video looks excellent. My wife’s laptop also works with the converter but requires an additional step. After connecting the laptop and converter together, she has to hit the keyboard combination (Fn+F4 for her laptop) to cycle through the options of having the display on just the laptop, just the TV, or both.
The converter only handles getting the video signal from your laptop to the TV. For audio, we can use something else so it’s not just playing through the usually-tinny laptop speakers. My old Sony Vaio laptop had a 3.5mm jack that output to RCA component video, so I previously collected a setup that allowed me to use the headphone jack to output the sound to the TV as well. I was using a male 3.5mm stereo-to-2 female component adapters and then a component cable to connect to the TV. Now, it looks like they’re making cables that take care of all of this for cheap.
Right now, I’m just connecting my laptop each time in order to access the network where videos are stored on other computers in the house or to stream shows in full screen from websites. To optimize the setup a little bit, I’ve been considering getting an HTPC or Nettop with VGA output so I don’t have to connect a computer each time and dedicate the machine to its entertainment responsibilities.
Christmas is right around the corner…