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PCs are not suitable for use as TV sets

People spend hours in front of countless PC monitors nowadays. Usually those monitors go dark when work ends. That could soon change in some households.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, Berlin
UPDATED ON AUG 13, 2007 10:11 AM IST

People spend hours in front of countless PC monitors nowadays. Usually those monitors go dark when work ends. That could soon change in some households.

Monitors have other uses apart from word processing and spreadsheets. They can also show movies and soap operas. But a few problems still remain when converting your monitor into a desktop TV.

Many consumers already appreciate one of the flat screen monitor's advantages. Whether as a television or a computer, it saves space. "It's perfect for a student's room," says Dirk Lorenz of Stiftung Warentest, a Berlin-based consumer affairs organisation.

But anyone who thinks they can meet all their needs with one device is deceiving himself. Producers still face a lot of work in merging the TV and computer.

Colour is the first problem. "The PC world uses different colours than television," said Friedrich Gierlinger of the Institute for Broadcasting Technology in Munich.

According to Markus Woelfel, of the Stuttgart-based magazine Video, colours are often pale on analogous television. When transmitted digitally, colours can be too intense and become unpleasant to watch.

"It depends on the model," says Woelfel.

Customers should also consider the downsides of highly reflective screens. These screens are very popular at present, as they look great and show rich colours.

"As a rule, that's often a disadvantage because any lamplight is reflected on the screen, distracting from the picture," says Woelfel.

Whereas some of these screens deliver good PC images, they can stumble when it comes to TV transmissions. "They can display scripts in excellent detail. But motion becomes difficult," says Woelfel. Pictures quickly start looking artificial and blurred.

"PC monitors aren't designed for fast moving pictures," says Dietrich Sauter of the Institute for Broadcasting Technology.

Anyone planning a home theatre with a large screen should not choose a PC monitor, advises Gierlinger. "The screens are too small. It doesn't feel like television."

Most monitors also have tight viewing angles. Anyone not sitting rightly in front of the TV - on the far edge of the sofa - will be unlucky.

There's another drawback, as most PC monitors do not come with remote controls. That means a lot of to and fro.

Sound aficionados will also find PC monitors lacking, as the loudspeakers are not always suitable, says Lorenz. "The sound is not great."

Different screen proportions also make the jump from computer monitor to television difficult. Some devices do not use their full screen size, which is not ideal for television. These formats, 4:3 for computers and 16:9 for television create their own problems.

"The computer's 4:3 format is dying out in televisions," says Lorenz. But flat screen displays with a 16:9 format create odd resolutions for PCs.

Lorenz recommends a 16:10 format. "Otherwise, pictures can be blurred." But investing in upgrades like new pixel technology can have its downsides, says Lorenz.

Text no longer comes across very sharp. Buying PC monitors with TV reception, Lorenz recommends looking for the highest possible resolution, full-HD with 1920X1080 pixels.

Multifunctional devices should also come with connections for Scart, DVD and video recorders. HDMI connections should also be included.

Buyers must decide whether PC or television resolution is more important. TV viewers who value vibrant colours and sharp pictures should stick with standard TV sets.

For everyone else - those without much space in their home and willing to overlook some of the problems with a monitor with a built-in television receiver - there's a compromise solution out there.

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