The biggest computer monitor I've ever seen has a 30-inch display, but 30 inches will seem puny next to a wall-mounted HDTV display.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Got an HDTV? Use it for a giant computer screen

April 13, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   If you took the HDTV plunge for the holidays, you probably got more than you (or Santa) bargained for. If your new HDTV can show 1080p programming, you've got a high-resolution computer monitor that's almost surely bigger and brighter than your present computer screen.
   Small-screen HD sets -- ones with 17-inch or smaller screens -- don't qualify for this honor. (They're made for secondary use anyway, not for your living room.) But big sets are ideal.
   It helps if your HD set has a screen of at least 32 inches. In my initial setup, I connected my laptop to the large LCD set we bought for ourselves in December. At first, the screen looked far too big, but after trying it a half-dozen times I realized the problem was me. I must not have been listening, all those years ago, to my mom's admonitions when she told me not to sit so close to the screen.
   I was only three or four feet away. Everything looked much bigger than life, and I was able to discern all the tiny glitches in the photos I had taken. Even the text on that huge display looked alien.
   But backing away to about six feet solved the problem. Our HDTV set became a computer monitor with ease. I pulled a small desk over to the middle of the living room and worked on it in front of the giant screen.
   Think about this for a moment. If your computer has, say, a 17-inch screen -- that's the size on my laptop -- showing everything on your HDTV screen provides an immersive experience, especially for computer games. The biggest computer monitor I've ever seen has a 30-inch display, but 30 inches will seem puny next to a wall-mounted HDTV display.
   The most exciting part comes each time I show my photo slideshows on the HD screen. The pictures not only look better than they do on my computer screen because of the increased size -- we're talking about photos that are three feet wide in some cases -- they look better because I'm not using my typical method of burning a slide show onto a DVD. DVD video quality is about one-fourth the quality of pictures shown directly on the screen from a modern computer. In terms the amount of detail, my computer is able to show 1920 by 1080 resolution on my HDTV.
   The secret to all this is called HDMI. It stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. Forget the big words. All that counts is that HDMI is a neat way of connecting high-definition TVs and monitors to things like computers, digital recorders and cable boxes. The picture remains digital all the way to the screen.
   If your HDTV set has an HDMI input -- many newer ones do -- all you need is a computer that has an HDMI output port. Sometimes that's just a matter of installing a fancy graphics card in your Windows desktop PC if your PC doesn't have HDMI already. (Drop over to an electronics store that sells PC accessories and explain what you're looking for. They'll probably have it in stock.)
   Because laptop computers are often used for big-screen presentations, some laptops come with HDMI ports built in. All Mac laptops have HDMI ports, and some Windows laptops do, too. Check the manufacturer's Web site or your laptop's owners manual.
   HD televisions come in two quality levels based on resolution. Sets capable of 1080p show more detailed images than sets capable of only 720p. (The "p" stands for progressive display, which is how computers work, too.)
   A quick note: You'll need a fairly long HDMI cable. I've seen 12-foot HDMI cables selling for $99, but don't pay that much. I bought my 20-foot HDMI cable for only $12. Try these sources: www.monoprice.com/home and www.Amazon.com (search for "HDMI cable"). Be sure to check which cable ends you need. There are many variations.