An easy and cheap way to connect any laptop with a VGA-out
port to a TV or home theater receiver. Use your TV as a big
computer screen or watch movies.
This won't be a big deal to ace multimedia gurus, but it's a
medium-big deal to me. It's been on my to-do list for a long time
to make a multimedia PC to serve up music and movies to my home
theater system. There are all kinds of great media servers in
Linux-land, like MythTV, GeeXbox, XMBC, LinuxMCE, and many others.
Until I build one of those, I wanted a simple way to play movies
from a laptop, especially since I discovered that VLC will play
movies from .iso files. This is perfect, because I can copy my
movies to disk for both playback and backup.
The hardest part was finding out what hardware to use. Maybe
I've been looking in the wrong places, but getting the straight
story on hardware has not been easy. Finally I corraled a smart
person at my local electronics store, and he said get a cheap
VGA-to-TV converter. So I did, the
Sewell PC to TV (VGA to RCA) Converter. This works with any
computer than has a VGA-out port, which most laptops have. (If your
computer has a TV-out port then you don't need a converter.) It
comes with a decent manual that shows how to connect it, and pretty
good instructions, though they are obviously translated. Like this
example from the troubleshooting section:
"Hems of the PC screen not displayed on TV or black
hems found along TV screen."
I believe they mean "borders", though I rather like hems. They also
refer to "Wry screens." Wry can mean twisted, so it makes sense.
It outputs to S-video and RCA video, so this isn't
high-definition digital. But it works fine with my old laptop and
CRT television. That's right, a big old heavy low-res picture tube
TV. My hi-fi receiver has S-video, RCA video, and RCA stereo inputs
on the front panel, so I hook up the laptop when I want to watch a
movie or two, then put it away. It goes like this: USB from Sewell
to Thinkpad. VGA out on the Thinkpad to VGA in on the Sewell.
Yellow RCA video from the Sewell to my hi-fi. Stereo Y-splitter
from headset port on the Thinkpad to left and right stereo ins on
The converter gets its power from the USB port. First hook up
everything, and then reboot. You have to reboot first or it won't
work, which is an important bit of information not in the
instructions. When your computer comes back up you should see your
computer desktop on the TV. It may be at a different resolution; on
my Thinkpad it runs at 1024x768 on both screens. Both KDE and Gnome
have display managers to control resolution and which screens you
want to be active. The Sewell has an onscreen menu that only
appears on your TV, and you can use this to size and position the
If your TV or receiver doesn't have RCA or S-video inputs you're
out of luck.
The Sewell doesn't need any client software, so it works on any
computer, and it comes with all the cables you need. All in all,
it's a pretty nice deal for $25.00.