Watch PC Content on a Plasma HDTV

Phillip writes, I just got a Panasonic TH-42PX500U Plasma TV that can be used as PC Monitor. How can I play games & stream music through the new Plasma? I currently have a Wireless Network set up with a Linksys Wireless-G Router. Any help greatly appreciated.

The entire Panasonic line of plasma screens will support 1024x768 resolution output from any computer. The simple solution is to connect the standard VGA output on your computer's video card to the VGA connector on the plasma screen, which will give you all the advantages of a massive screen with minimal hassle. Most electronics stores offer a variety of cable lengths depending on how close your screen and PC sit in proximity. If the computer video card has a DVI output connector, a number of options exist for cabling between DVI out on the PC and HDMI in on the back of the TV. However, it sounds like you're hoping for a solution that will connect your PC to the television remotely, which means you ultimately need a go-between to get your computer content tied into your home theater.

If you don't want to have the computer and plasma screen in the same room, the single best purchase you can make is an Xbox 360 console. For either $300 or $400 you get an interface optimized for navigating PC content connected over your home network for playback on an HD screen. In this scenario, you're connecting the Xbox to your home network either wired or wirelessly and using either Windows Media Connect or Windows Media Center Edition to manage music, movies and photos on screen. Even if you're not interested in ever purchasing an Xbox 360 game, the user experience for getting content from your computer to the Xbox is actively being improved by Microsoft and will become more seamless once Windows Vista finally ships.

The second option would be to purchase a third party media controller box. Linksys and D-Link both make models priced around $200, which integrate with your home theater and handle all the browsing of movies, music and photos across your home network. I personally don't like this experience as well as what Xbox 360 delivers, but it is cheaper and offers most of the same advantages.

A third and more complicated option is to get a second computer that's connected directly to the plasma screen via one of the methods above. Share your movies and music with this computer and use Windows XP as the control interface for playback. Without investing in some kind of media management software, you're going to be mousing around the interface instead of comfortably selecting content from an interface optimized for browsing via remote, but it will get the job done.