Bringing the PC into the living room
Is your Windows PC still stuffed away in a back bedroom or office, used only for writing letters, homework and web surfing? Why not give it a new lease of life and bring it into the living room and onto the big screen TV?
In the past, PC monitors and television sets were somewhat different from one another. PCs have been high definition before most people knew what high definition was, and displaying your Windows PC on an old tube television was difficult and often disappointing. Now in the era of flat screen HDTVs, connecting your PC to your living room TV is easy and, especially if you have a laptop PC, a lot of fun too. Simply use a HDMI cable from your PCs graphics card or HDMI output, switch your TV to the relevant HDMI input and you’re away. Almost every PC made in the last decade now offers HDMI output options.
That’s not all, if you’re lucky enough to have a surround sound/home theatre system, then most PCs will connect to that too, again, simply by using HDMI. Once connected to your home theatre, you only need to right click the speaker icon in the notification area and choose the appropriate speaker configuration.
So, now you know how you can bring the PC into the living room, the next question is why would you want to? Turns out there are several good reasons…
Games – Windows PCs have a selection of games that span decades. The kind of collection that would make any games console owner jealous. Simply plug in any Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller and you can enjoy a huge library of games at all price points (including free!).
There are games for all ages and abilities too. Why not get the whole family around the TV screen for a puzzle solving/adventure title? Solving the puzzles together can be fun, while younger children can help by moving the character with a mouse or track ball. Some of our favourite adventure titles include Loom and Secret of Monkey Island.
Don’t worry if your PC isn’t the fastest on the block, these games work on even older or slower PCs just fine.
Movies – Nexflix, Amazon Prime, even good old DVDs can all be played on your Windows PC when loaded with the right software. To play Netflix, use the app in the Windows store. For Amazon Prime, use your web browser or follow this guide. To play DVDs, assuming your PC has the required optical drive, try VLC Media Player.
A Windows PC wouldn’t be our first choice for playing movies on a big screen. Windows was never really designed for this and apart from it being rather fiddly to work the controls with a mouse while sat on your couch, results are usually not as good as can be expected with a dedicated media playback device. Nevertheless, if you’re in a pinch and don’t have a smart TV or other device, your laptop makes a good stand in.
Music – Smartphones may have taken over as the preferred music playback device for many people these days, but that doesn’t mean Windows can’t still bust a groove with the best of them. With huge amounts of storage space, Windows PCs can comfortably store the entire collections of even the most dedicated audiophiles. Making playlists is faster and easier than on smartphone and there are even apps that let you DJ using your PC.
Add in a media player with visualisations, like the venerable Windows Media Player or Winamp and you can put on a light show for your house party.
Prefer to stream your music these days? No problem, all the most popular streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer work just great on Windows too.
Pictures – Of course, your Windows PC can help you show off your holiday slides on the big screen TV. Naturally, if you’ve been taking movies as well as pictures on your travels, Windows can show those too. Remember, always hold your phone horizontally when making a movie!
Presentations – Got a big presentation coming up at school or work? Why not do a practise run using the big screen TV? If your presentation to the board keeps the children amused, you might just be on to a winner!
Keeping in touch – Most of us are familiar with webcams and chatting online, but how about combining your webcam with your living room TV? This is a fun way to get the whole family in on a video call to friends and relatives in far away places.
As you can see, there are all sorts of ways that your PC can take advantage of the big screen and sound of modern living rooms. Make the most of your investment in PC hardware and home entertainment by bringing the two together, for most modern PCs, literally all you need is a HDMI cable to get started.