Sunday, October 12, 2014

Apple TV with PC Monitor

Apple TV is a great option for high-def video streaming to your TV.  We have it and love it.  But often forgotten is that Apple TV is a computer in and of itself.  What can Apple TV do if you untether it from your TV and get a little creative?

Apple TV on its own can handle the streaming and wifi connectivity part of the equation.  So if you take away the TV, you need display and sound capability, and a way to connect these to your Apple TV device.

Hmm.  Would Apple TV work with only a PC monitor? To test this,  I took my Dell monitor, connected it to Apple TV with an HDMI cable.  Turned on the Apple TV remote, and big as life the Apple TV start screen showed on the monitor!  The remote worked just like with a TV display, I could start up Netflix and stream a movie.

Now for the sound.  If your monitor has built-in speakers, your hdmi cable connection will bring both video and audio and you're set.  But my monitor does not have speakers.  However, looking at the back of the monitor, it did have a 3.5 audio out port.    Took a pair of PC speakers, plugged the green ourput 3.5 male plug into the monitor's audio out port, and tada: sound!

Here's my working bare-bones Apple TV configuration:

  • Apple TV
  • HDMI cable
  • PC Monitor
  • PC speakers (with audio out cable)

What if your monitor does not have an HDMI input?  Although I did not test it, using an HDMI-to-VGA cable should do the trick.

A little trickier is if your monitor doesn't support sound at all, i.e. no audio output. In this case, you have to connect speakers directly to the Apple TV device.  Not easy, because Apple TV only supports Digital Audio output. You need:

I have tested the above sound configuration and it works fine with Apple TV and PC speakers.

Where might a minimalist Apple TV setup come in handy? It could bring video streaming to rooms in your house where it would normally be impractical. Obviously, you don't want to be carting a 50 inch TV around the house - but moving a 24 inch PC monitor is no big deal. For example you could set up temporary video streaming for party purposes in non-TV rooms or outside.

Apple Airplay and mirroring works fine with this altered Apple TV setup. By adding an iPad or iPhone you could stream selected photos, videos or apps. Again, great for parties or other temporary setups.

Old PC that doesn't really handle video streaming?  Apple TV and a monitor could be a stopgap alternative.

Of course, Wifi is needed for all these options.