Tired of huddling around the computer to watch a movie or binge-watch your favorite show? Use an HDMI cable to stream to your TV – for less than $10.
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I was resistant to buying a special device to stream movies through my internet connection to my TV. I simply didn’t think spending $100 or more for a Roku, Apple TV or whatever-kind-of-box to interface with my computer was worth that much money. But huddling around a 13-inch computer monitor with my two teenage daughters to watch a two-hour movie was starting to get old.
I have always been a bit of a geek when it comes to technology, so I did some research and found out that a simple HDMI cord was a good option. And it cost less than $10.
Don’t be afraid of the HDMI moniker. It stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. Simple stuff, really, but all you really need to know is that this cord can interface with your computer and your TV or tablet, so you can have a dual-screen movie-watching experience. Here’s how:
HDMI cables can be bought at any electronics store (like Best Buy), big box store (Target or Walmart) and often even drug stores like Walgreens. They come in different lengths – 3 feet, 12 feet, etc. – so you’ll want to purchase a cable that can easily reach from your computer to your TV. No one wants you to have to climb behind the TV stand every time you want to watch a movie. That said. I do need to note that an HDMI cable works best when it is less than 15 feet because the quality of the image on the screen decreases if the cable is longer.
I have a four-year-old flat screen TV and it has an HDMI port. I believe most, if not all, flat-screen TVs have this port (they’re all digital, after all).
My desktop computer, which is about seven years old (yup, still running Windows Vista!), also has an HDMI port.
I bought a 9-foot HDMI cord from Amazon for less than $10. Remember, longer HDMI cables reduce the image quality on the screen, so you need to have a computer that is pretty close to your TV for this set-up to work well and for the sake of your picture quality. (If you have a laptop with an HDMI input, lucky you. You’ll have have more flexible options in your TV watching room. If you’re working with a desktop, better move that puppy close to the TV.)
With computers made within the last couple of years, you can just plug in and watch. But for folks with older desktop computers, you’ll have to set up your TV to “mirror” your computer monitor. Don’t worry, it’s easy and I’ll show you how.
On your computer, choose the “Control Panel” from the “Start” menu. I have Vista on my computer, so I double-clicked the “Adjust Screen Resolution” link in my “Appearance” menu. Other operating systems may have slightly different menu options (on a Mac, go to “System Preferences” from the Apple menu. Choose “Displays” from the View menu or under the Hardware header in the System Preferences window), but the bottom line is you’re looking for a monitor/screen adjustment menu.
I chose the “multiple monitors” option because that’s how my computer’s video card works. Even if you don’t have that exact option, most cards have a “clone” or “mirror” mode, where both screens display the same thing.
If you’re TV still isn’t showing a mirror of your computer desktop, Reboot your computer to apply the changes. This is KEY! I did everything above but the TV wasn’t displaying my desktop until I actually restarted.
It’s time to fiddle with the remote. Navigate to the TV menu and choose the HDMI input option. There’s likely to be more than one HDMI option – you’ll find the right one through some old school trial and error.
Success! Both the TV and the computer screen look the same, which is a good sign. It means all your hard-earned efforts are working!
This really is a nice, inexpensive way to lounge on the couch and have a lot more elbow room while watching streaming services (Netflix and Amazon Prime are my family’s choices).
The downside to the HDMI cable is not having an operational TV remote, unless you have a wireless mouse/keyboard on your computer (remember, your computer is running the show on your TV, not your TV controls). But for less than $10 to set up, it’s a great deal to have this dual screen-watching option.
I have a tablet (Kindle Fire HD) and discovered that there is a special HDMI cord that interfaces that device with my TV as well. It’s a High Speed Micro HDMI cable. Basically, there is a standard HDMI end for the TV and a micro HDMI (like the cord end used to charge the device) that connects to my tablet. This is a wonderful “plug and play” option with no special dual-screen to set up.
I chose to order a longer cord for my tablet (15 feet) than the one I use for my TV (9 feet) because I wanted to be able to control my tablet from the couch. But the picture quality isn’t quite as good as my desktop cord. And, the battery life of my tablet makes my old desktop the preferred method most of the time. But hey, it works when I am feeling lazy and miss the old remote control.