106 inch HDTV Home Theater with PC for around $1000
February 21, 2008 Reviews
I am going to write some tips for 2 groups of people. One group is the group of people who are planning on making a home theater. The other group is the group of people out there, that already have a decent TV, but they don't have a computer hooked up to it.
|If you know what to buy, you can get an amazing home theater for very cheap! Here are some tips on putting together a great 106" HD system with computer, for around $1000.|| ||
I am actually SHOCKED at the number of people that DON'T have a computer hooked up to their TV, its a very cheap and easy thing to do, especially if you already have a TV that supports a PC connection. There are many advantages to doing this.
Advantages to having a PC hooked up to your TV
- YouTube and Email. Many people out there, on a daily routine, check their email, then hop on YouTube and watch some random clips. If your not the type to check your email often, you'll realize how convient it is to have your computer hooked up to your TV. When your friends forward you those funny videos via email, you can now watch them full screen on your TV. Almost all video web sites out there has a "full screen mode" where if you click it while playing the video, the movie will play full screen. If you have your PC hooked up to your TV, you'll wonder why you've never done this before. Now obviously, YouTube is very low resolution. They are planning on upgrading to HD soon, and there are also a lot of high def sites out there already, like Stage6.com.
- Download your TV Shows. Almost every TV network puts their Primetime TV shows on their web site usually the next day, and they show it in a decent resolution, that ends up looking great when watching it full screen hooked up to your TV. If you don't like watching TV shows from the networks site, there are sites like TVTorrents.com that has a huge collection of every tv show ever.
- Most computers have a DVD drive. If you are still stuck in the DVD market (I don't believe in physical media), then you can always stick your DVD in the computer and use the PC as your DVD player.
- Movie Downloads. New services are cropping up every other day that are offering movie downloads, like Netflix and iTunes.
- I don't recommend using any "media center" software. People are already used to their computer, they're used to checking their email, surfing the net, and playing videos in their favorite media player. I recommend Media Player Classic with the FFDSHOW codecs installed. With this software setup, you can pretty much play any file you download without a problem. Media Player Classic helps with being able to change the aspect ratio of your movie, and it will help control the size and porportions of the video on your screen. When you install a "media center" to control your PC on your TV experience, it might be fun and neat at first, but you'll quickly lose desire to use it as frequently as you would if you just left it as a PC running XP.
Another expensive computer? Think again!
Now, a lot of you might be thinking, "Why spend another $1000 on a computer for my TV. I already have a computer!". Well, you don't need a $1000 computer for your TV. You can pick up very decent computers on eBay for $100 - $150. Decent enough to play HD movies. Get one with XP and at least 512mb ram. If you plan on downloading movies that are 720p (mkv files), then you need to get at least a Pentium 4 3.0Ghz machine. If your planning on downloading or watching just standard def shows, or youtube, or just DVD's, you can get an even slower computer. I have a bunch of 2.2ghz PC's around my house with 256 megs ram running XP that I bought for $100 each. Its fast enough to use as a TV computer to check email, and watch movies.
DLP Projector with 106" screen
Now... as we get to the part of the blog about the actual TV, Iím going to talk about getting a Projector. If your going for the cheap, you can use your wall. If you want a pull down screen, you can get 106" 16:9 screens for $99. For the actual projector, if your not planning on downloading 720p HD movies, then all you need is a projector that support 800x600. All your movies are going to be smaller than that, so you won't need a higher resolution projector. Get a projector with at least 2000 Lumens for your brightness. My first projector was $499, it was 800x600.. and I still use it today. The very cheap ones like the one I bought can still scale to 16:9 and still look amazing when watching movies. I bought it a couple years ago. I picked up a 16:9 widescreen 106" pull down projector screen at Circuit City for $99. If youíre putting this screen in your bedroom, often you can just use a plain wall, the picture will still look great. You want to try and make sure to put the screen facing the feet of your bed so its more comfortable to watching while laying down. When I first had my bedroom setup, the screen was to the left of our bed, and we slept on our side watching it. It wasnt very comfortable, so we moved it. The projector sits on a little shelf above the head of the bed, and the screen is bolted to the ceiling on the other side of the room. These little projectors are a lot better than people realize. The only down fall is that you definitely want to be able to control the lighting in the room. You might need to put up curtains that block the light. In my case, I have my projector in my bedroom, and I only watch shows in my room at night, so I have no light problems at all. If your planning on having this in a living room with windows, your going to want to go with a plasma. For the same price as the projector and the pull down screen, you can find a 42" plasma at Costco or something, for a couple hundred more you can get a 50Ē (well worth the upgrade).
I wanted to start watching 720p shows on my projector, so I just bought the Dell 1800MP projector for $649. Its 1024x768 (which is the minimum native resolution you want for watching 720p movies (1280x720). And remember, your computer will need to be at least 3.0Ghz or better in order to play your 720p downloads without having audio sync problems. These computers can be found on eBay for about $150 bucks. If your theater is in your bedroom, you can get away with simple computer speakers by your bed (one on each side). I only recommend this if you have sleeping kids in the house. With surround sound, you get a lot of bass that can be heard throughout the house. Also, you usually have to turn up the volume quite a bit since movies tend to have extremely quiet talking scenes, then they play a super loud explosion or car chase. With little computer speakers, you have much more treble without the bass, making it so you can hear the quiet talking scenes and the loud car chases and explosions are still quiet enough to not wake the kids or be heard in the next room. If you don't have the problem of kids or neighbors, you can get a surround sound setup. These will only cost you between $150 - $200 for a 1000 5.1 surround sound system with DVD player. There will be some type of auxiliary input, which you will use a regular 2.5mm stereo jack cable to go from your computer speaker plug to the input on your surround sound system. If the aux is 2 stereo RCA ports, you can pick up a head phone to RCA adapter cable at the dollar store so you can hook it up to your computer.
Gyration makes a great wireless keyboard and mouse thatís made for a home theater for $59. The mouse is a wireless universal remote, and it has a learn feature on it, so even if you have a really weird device you want to control, you can point the remote/mouse at the original remote and it will learn the command. This is helpful for projectors or off-brand plasmas since usually universal remotes don't work with them. This is a great mouse for using from a couch to control the computer, or from bed.
Below are some pictures from my 2 home theaters. My living room has theater seating, a 60Ē Plasma, a Touch screen computer, and some lighting effects. I have the Nintendo Wii and PS2. I also built a custom Wii box to hold all my Wii accessories, charge, games, computer external hard drives, Wii Guitars, and DDR dance pads. (Follow the link for pictures of the construction of the Wii Box) Iím using the Bose companion 5 computer speakers for my audio. (which I find plenty sufficient. Most the movies I download are in stereo sound anyway, and if whatever Iím watching does have 5.1, the Bose speakers do a great job at faking it.)
My bedroom now has a DLP projector with 106Ē pull down screen. I just finished hooking up a Sony surround sound receiver and I have the speakers surrounding the bed, but still close enough so we can control the volume during any extremely loud parts.