Video gaming and computer tipsUpdated February 13, 2009
DVD and Blu-ray movies aren't the only non-TV content that's likely to be shown on the television. Here are a few other pointers on what to look for in a set that'll do multimedia duty.
The sweet graphics of the Xbox, the PlayStation, and the GameCube, not to mention the Xbox 360, the PlayStation3, and the Wii, can take full advantage of high-end televisions, but even inexpensive sets do best with a few added features in the mix.
- Front-panel inputs: A set of A/V inputs on the front or side panel of a TV makes hooking up and disconnecting a game console--or a camcorder--much easier.
- Picture preset: Many TVs come with picture presets that affect the contrast, brightness, and other controls. Some presets crank those values sky-high to provide a more intense picture. If you like that bright image, check out sets with Game, Vivid, or Sports presets.
- Component video inputs. For a big improvement in gaming video quality, step up to a TV with component video inputs. The downside is that you might have to buy a special adapter for your game console. Some of these adapters also include connections for digital sound, but you'll need a home-theater system or a surround-sound setup with an optical digital connection and support for Dolby Digital sound to take advantage of the superior sonics.
- HDMI inputs: All PlayStation3s and newer Xbox 360s have HDMI outputs, providing the best-quality video connection to compatible HDTVs. In reality though, most people have a difficult time telling the difference between a picture delivered over component video and one that comes via HDMI.
- Burn-in: Some high-end TVs, namely plasmas, can become permanently scarred by very bright, stationary images that remain on the screen for a long time; think of a paused game or that constant score/life-bar/ammo-count graphic. However, we consider the danger of burn-in to be greatly exaggerated and plasmas and the like can be fine candidates for all but the heaviest gaming situations. Check out Plasma burn-in: Seven things you need to know for more information.
Today's televisions have plenty of connections and capabilities, and plasma, LCD, and most rear-projection usually make excellent computer monitors. If you want to use your TV as a monitor for games, Web surfing, and other tasks, here are a few tips:
- Don't bother with standard-def TVs. CRT-based direct-view and rear-projection televisions, as well as smaller 640x480 LCDs, don't make very good computer monitors. They display only low resolution, and often lack the proper inputs.
- VGA input = good for computers. If you're serious about using your set as a big monitor for standard software, look for a VGA-style RGB input, just like the kind your computer monitor uses (see Inputs and outputs for more).
- HDMI or DVI input = best for computers. The best types of inputs are digital, so if your TV has a spare HDMI or DVI input, you'll usually get the best performance by matching it to your PC's digital output. Often the PC has a DVI output and the TV has only HDMI, so you'll need an adapter cable to make the connection.
- Match the native resolution. As with LCD computer monitors, you'll usually get the best PC picture by matching the native resolution of the TV to the output resolution of your PC. Some HDTVs can't accept PC sources, especially via VGA, at their native resolutions however, which makes them less -than- ideal for use as monitors.