With TV streaming services, On Demand content and TV tuners now more popular than ever, have you ever thought about combining all you media into one place by turning your PC into a TV?
Cheap subscriptions to services like Netflix and Amazon prime, On Demand TV from the likes of BBC and C4 and niche online streaming services like Twitch have all contributed to a huge swing in consumer viewing habits.
Many people are now forsaking the scheduled TV lifestyle for On Demand programs, live streaming and specialist content, paving the way for internet enabled TV and entertainment through PCs.
As PC monitors become larger, cheaper and better quality many people are migrating from the traditional TV set up to a multi-use computer. But how do you go about turning a PC into a TV?
To start off, the easiest way to get live TV on your PC is to stream directly from the internet. You can do this by simply connecting to a website like the BBC/ITV /Sky (subscription required) or a generic Freeview service and then stream away.
Naturally streaming requires an internet connection that is up to a suitable standard. There have been a lot of arguments as to how fast your bandwidth should be; so as a guide the BBC state “2Mbps of sustained bandwidth for Standard Definition (SD) content” and 3Mbps for HD.
Most of the major TV stations offer this service like the BBC, ITV and C4 but be mindful of geographical restrictions. Paid for services like Sky, Virgin and BT also offer great streaming packages, however a subscription is usually needed to even access Freeview channels.
If you are looking for all the TV channels in one place, you could also use third party website like UKfree.tv or TVcatchup.com. [Ebuyer.com do not condone or support any third party applications.]
PC TV Tuner
If you’re looking for a more permanent hardware fix or don’t have great internet access, a PC TV tuner is great way of getting round dodgy WiFi signal.
PC tuners come in number of different forms but are basically a physical plug-in that allows a cable or portable antenna to be connected to your laptop.
TV tuners are peripherals which can connect via USB or internally via PCI. This gives you the ability to view free, over the air, digital TV.
You can get a few different types of tuner from external units, to internal combined graphics cards or stand-alone cards. Quality and signal fluctuates massively with different devices, setups, regions and even locations. Internal cards are usually considered better quality, however they do require setup and you sacrifice the portability of a plug-in.
When you’re hooked up, the PC tuner will usually come with some manufactures specific software to install. This will then become the platform for your PC’s TV planner, where you can select and control the channels you watch.
This one is a simple option for utilizing a bit of old tech you might have lying around the house, the humble Freeview box.
If you find yourself with a spare one of these boxes (or pick them up for about £30), the process of watching Freeview is very easy, as long as you have a free HDMI port.
Simply plug your Freeview into the empty HDMI connector and hook the aerial up to either a portable antenna or the wall mount.
Power up, adjust your setting and find the input, then away you go! Your monitor simply acts as a TV.
You can also find a few miniature Freeview boxes on the market so the unit won’t add too much bulk to your PC rig.
OK, this one is cheating a little as it’s not live TV, but if you find yourself binging on Netflix rather than the BBC, streaming players are a great option for cheap On Demand television.
The market leaders are currently Roku, ChromeCast and Amazon Fire TV. These streaming sticks work in a few different ways. Some like the Roku work as self-contained unit that plugs into the TV. This then runs on its own operating system effectively turning your PC into a smart TV.
The Chromecast on the other hand, is basically a mirroring device. It broadcasts content “cast” from your connected devices like a laptop, tablet or phone. You effectively turn your phone into the media player/remote and beam the video to your monitor
The advantage of this setup is that it feels a lot more like a TV, rather than a computer as you have a remote (or phone) in hand to flick through content.