HDMI and Windows PCs

HDMI and Windows PCs

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Lately, folks have been talking a bit about HDMI. HDMI is a special type of connection designed to deliver digital content from one device to another audio or video device through a single connection. That content can be standard definition (SD) or high definition (HD) movies or something as simple as MP3 music. HDMI is a completely digital connection, as it transmits uncompressed digital data. It is a standard that is replacing the old-style analog connections such as S-Video and VGA. A common use for HDMI today is connecting devices like a PC or an Xbox 360 to a HDTV.

As I had been seeing a lot of talk about HDMI, I realized that HDMI is very common today in Windows PCs. In looking at the PCs I currently have in my office and at home, the majority of them have HDMI. Those PCs include my Dell Studio 1555, Dell Inspiron Zino HD, Acer Aspire Revo, Toshiba Satellite E205, Acer Aspire 1420P (the “PDC laptop”), ASUS G71Gx, HP TouchSmart 600, and HP Envy 13. These PCs span a variety of form factors from small “nettops” to full-blown all-in-one PCs. Even netbooks are now shipping with HDMI (it’s smaller than the VGA connection).

All the above mentioned PCs are running Windows 7 of course. What’s great about Windows 7 and HDMI is that when I plug any of these laptops into a HDTV via HDMI, it recognizes the display and sets the screen resolution correctly. And because HDMI does not just do video but audio too, it also brings in the audio. During the holidays while visiting my parents, I connected the HP Envy 13 I was using at the time to my dad’s 52” HDTV. We rented several movies from the Zune Marketplace and watched this in full HD on his HDTV.

Of the PCs I mentioned above – the Acer Aspire Revo and Dell Inspiron Zino HD are prefect little Home Theater PCs (HTPCs) with Windows 7 and Windows Media Center. And with HDMI – a single cable connected to an HDTV is all one needs to watch movies, play music, go through family photos, watch DVDs, or even watch live TV*.

*You’ll need a TV tuner to watch live TV in Windows Media Center. Some PCs are so small they don’t support any additional hardware inside the actual system. Not to worry! You can pick up a USB TV tuner which works just fine! I’ll talk about this in a later blog post.

You can also add HDMI to existing desktop PCs (for the folks out there that like building their own desktop PCs) fairly inexpensively. Many graphics cards today are shipping with HDMI built in. Earlier this month, I blogged about 2 new affordable DirectX 11 graphics cards from AMD: the Radeon HD 5570 and Radeon HD 5450.Both these graphics cards come with HDMI.

Many Windows PCs ship with Blu-ray playback capabilities. You can use your PC to play Blu-ray movies. With HDMI, you can connect a Windows PC to an HDTV and watch Blu-ray movies on your HDTV without having to go out and buy a standalone Blu-ray player. Most of Windows PCs that ship with Blu-ray also ship with software for Blu-ray playback. I also did a blog post about Corel WinDVD Pro 2010 last December which is Compatible with Windows 7. Corel WinDVD Pro 2010 is an excellent application for Blu-ray playback in Windows 7 as well.

11 Comments
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  • Gotta love HDMI, in the long run less cables once HDMI becomes more common, and HDMI ports are small enough to put on small notebooks which is great.  No doubt by the time Apple revises its iPad to something with more powerful it will get a HDMI port.  Until then its a selling point for Windows PCs.

    My in-laws use a notebook with HDMI out to watch Netflix on their HDTV and its really very good.  Setup with Windows 7 was very easy to do even though we had to use a HDMI to DVI adapter cable to get it to work with the older HDTV.  Monoprice is your friend if you need a cheap cable for this.

    Luckily we didn't have any HDCP issues which I was kinda worried about running into given that the HDTV was a few years old which was lucky.

  • James
    2 Posts

    Thanks Brandon, that was it. I ignored it all along because it said DVI setting.

  • Brandon,

    I have been having a problem with my Hp Probook 4710e laptop ever since I upgraded to Win 7. My blu-ray player will not recognize blu-ray discs. It says something like" This disc cannot be read". I figure it must be a driver that I'm missing or maybe some sort of setting I don't have right. Can you tell me what to do?

    Thanks!

    Rick

  • This is really amazing and I am glad to get this setup done on my AMD PC which has inbuilt HDMI slot on the motherboard.  However, sometimes I get into a unknown problem which occurs randomly.  My display settings of LCD monitor gets changed automatically and I don't see the preferred resolution (i.e. 1440x900) listed in Display Properties.  When this happens, the dual mode display behaves really strange.  Normally, I pull my video/window to left, to place it on my secondary display(LCD TV).  But when this problem happens, the video/window moves to secondary display from right side!

    After a reboot or the second day, this problem disappears automatically!

    This is a ASUS Motherboard and I am running Win7-x64 Ultimate and Windows Updates are up-to-date.

    Also, when I move the Windows default Photo Viewer to LCD TV and play the slide show, it sends the slide show back to LCD Monitor(set as default display in properties).  

    Other than these issues, HDMI rocks.  I can play any video/media on my LCD TV using Windows Media Player and VLC Player.

  • @diveatlas, nice to know it's not just me that's wanted to do this! I've got a setup whereby I have media centre pc -> HDMI splitter -> Sony HD TV in my lounge *and* Iiyama T2250MTS (touchscreen!) in my kitchen. The bit that drives me barmy is when Windows refuses to let me choose the right resolution, or more annoyingly refuses to let me save the resolution. Aaaargh!

  • @jpfree, when I've tried to play a Blu-ray movie from a Windows PC connected to my HDTV via HDMI and get some sort of "display is not authorized" message, I find that I need to right-click on the desktop, choose Screen Resolution and choose instead of having the displays duplicated (drop down box next to Multiple displays) I choose to just display on my HDTV. This might help with your issues.

  • jpfree
    1 Posts

    HDCP really is the devil incarnate. I detest the studios for it, and their partners.

    It's bitten me so many times, put in a blu-ray get a message saying my display isn't authorised. I end up ripping it with AnyDVD just to make it work.

    I'm a paying customer, why must I be punished!

  • 7flavor
    352 Posts

    So can Windows determind which revision of the HDMI spec the device supports? 1.3? 1.4? Most manufacturers or OEMs don't mention this.

  • This is quite the feel good story.  I really like the concept of HDMI.  Unfortunately the HDCP problems that it presents when trying to do atypical setups is a complete pain.

    It's all digital right?  I'm trying to do a whole house video setup with an HDMI splitter.  It works perfectly fine in some cases, doesn't work at all in others, and will do video and not sound in another.

    There is no rhyme or reason to it.  It all boils down to HDCP.  If you could get HDMI functionality without the HDCP issues, then we'd be on to something.  Until then, it's just hook it up and pray that it will work.  Endless hours of frustration.

    I don't want to have a device at each TV to stream HD content.  I want to have one device and stream it through a 4x4 HDMI matrix.  Why do they even make these devices when they don't work?

  • @James, in the ATI Control Panel, you need to look at adjusting the scaling for your display. I had this issue one time and adjusting the scaling and it fixed the issue. I don't have the exact steps on my right now - can check in a bit when I get to one of my PCs with the ATI Control Panel installed.

  • James
    2 Posts

    I connect my Windows 7 PC through a home theater receiver and I get bars all around it. I could blame this on ATI driver but in the end I have a reduced experience. Out of the box Windows 7 installation did not have the bars and perfectly displayed in full 1080p. At some point ATI driver got updated through Windows Update and since then I could not get rid of those black bars around. It is connected using HDMI. My Xbox 360 and PS3 displays full screen without any problem.