LCD Monitor and HD PVR for the watching of digital TV

As this is the third time I’ve been asked this question in as many weeks, this is my answer to “What should I get to upgrade my old 14″ CRT television set now that Digital exists?”

Unless you’re in the market for a large television, I recommend a reasonably large LCD monitor instead, their LCD panels tend to be much higher quality than an LCD TV and are also generally cheaper because they don’t have unnecessary rubbish inside like TV tuners and remote control receivers. Why these are unnecessary will be introduced in just a moment.

The choice of monitor should be limited to those with a native resolution of 1920×1080, or just “1080p” in current parlance, it allows you to use the same device to watch TV, play XBox and run your computer though and generally saves space, money and the planet. This year has seen the release of a lot of 21.5″ LCD panels that run at this resolution, but I’d pick one with a larger pixel size because you’ll be watching it from a few feet away.

These are a few options in various sizes:

Watching digital TV without the help of a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) is missing out on some major opportunities, such as recording two channels at once whilst watching a third, pausing live TV whilst you answer the [phone/oven/small child], and series link recording. Series Link is one of the most misunderstood techologies out at the moment and people usually expect miracles, even though they didn’t when they used VHS or DVD recorders. The implementation also varies between different Manufacturers, so you must read and understand how it does it.

Anyway, the current PVR I recommend is the Topfield TF5810. As long as the PVR of your choice has an HDMI output and contains a function called an ‘upsizer’ which just takes normal TV and scales it up to fill a HighDef screen, you’re good. Be careful, upsizing is a generally a software function and a lot of them are of an unwatchably low quality.

Unlike the Humax 9200T that I’ve been happy with for years, the Topfield’s menu system is fast to use, its USB download to computer function doesn’t crash it and, most importantly, the software is customisable. Which means that the community supplies user interface improvements way faster than the manufacturer can. http://www.toppy.org.uk/ is the place to start looking, but if you just get the addon (or TAP as they’re called) called MyStuff you won’t go far wrong. Download MyStuff.

Finally, don’t forget a good quality spare HDMI cable to connect things to the monitor with:

This setup isn’t for everybody because monitors generally don’t have as many video inputs as TVs, neither are they as large, but this article is just to point my friends and family towards and they can cope with moving a plug when they want to change inputs over šŸ™‚

Edit:

I’ve been reminded that I forgot sound. In which case, pick one of these monitors with built in A/V switches and tinny little speakers: