Networking Entertainment Systems

The line between computers and entertainment systems such as televisions is blurring. With television and other entertainment now being offered via the internet it is now just as easy to watch a television show on your computer as it is on your television. At least that's the situation in so far as the setup pf your computer is concerned. Of course if your computer is on a desk in an office like environment then it isn't so convenient for you watching television on the computer as it would be to watch it in the more appropriate environment that can be found in the room where you have your television. So finding a way to transfer the picture from your computer to your television will make things far more comfortable and convenient for you.

There are a number of possible solutions to this depending on exactly what equipment you have and the price of the various solutions as well as their convenience can also vary quite significantly so what is a suitable option for a particular person may not be the solution that suits someone else. You may even switch from one solution to another as you upgrade your equipment. Let's look at all the alternatives so that you can consider each of them with respect to the equipment you already have and how much extra equipment you might need.

Some televisions have aVGA or DVI socket on the back. Where your television is not too far away from the computer you could install a splitter cable to the video output from your computer and run a cable from there to connect to the television. This would allow you to show the same content as you have on your computer screen on the television. Not practical if the television doesn't have such a socket or where the two are too far apart to conveniently run a cable between them.

If the television has a USB socket then depending on what the television allows you to do with devices connected to that socket you may be able to transfer files from your computer onto a USB device and then play those files on the television. This will only work where you are able to download the files to the computer in the first place and will not work where the video is streamed to your computer without allowing you to save it.

If your computer doesn't have a USB connection then a set top box attached to the television that does have that capability would provide the same facility as well as providing you with the opportunity to record one television channel using the set top box and USB device while watching another on the television. If the set top box has a hard drive built in then this slightly increases your flexibility but you'll still need a separate USB device to transfer files to it from your computer.

Such a box with a network socket will allow you to connect that device directly to the network. This may or may not increase your flexibility with being able to transfer files as some devices only allow the network connection to be used for accessing the electronic program guide online so as to provide PVR functionality where you can tell the device what show you want to watch and it finds out when the show is due to start and finish. The network connection may also provide access to specific web sites.

You need to check the exact specifications of your device to check whether it provides any sort of access for being able to read files from your computer across the network. Some devices including Xbox360 and Playstation3 will allow you to play files onto your television off of your computer provided that the computer is running a media server. Most such devices do not allow file transfers between the computer and the device though in either direction so if you require the device to be fully a part of your network you will need to find a device that allows itself to be completely integrated into your network and which allows files to be transferred in both directions.

Another device to consider when you are networking your entertainment system is to add what is known as a NAS to your network. This is basically a small box containing one or more hard drives that has its own processor built in and a small selection of programs that it can run - such as a media server. By saving all of your media files to the appropriate folder on that system you will then have all of them avalaible to play on your television without needing to turn on your computer.

The price you will need to pay to get all of the devices you need to set up the most advanced of these configurations will be far higher than if you go with one of the less flexible alternatives. The cheaper alternatives are less convenient as they might mean carrying USB devices between different locations. Which you choose therefore will depend to some extent on what equipment you already have and how much you can afford to spend.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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