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HDTV, HDMI, DVI alphabet soup's Gary Krakow answers questions about using an HDTV as a computer monitor, the difference between 480p and 480i and whether or not there is such a thing as a laptop boom box.

Jim O’Neill of Sammamish, Washington wants to use his HDTV as a computer monitor, but is having problems:

“I recently got a nice Sharp LCD with HDMI input, only to be disappointed that I could not use the DVI output from my computer in the TV’s HDMI port (via a DVI-to-HDMI cable).

I did some web research but perhaps you could distill how to hook up a PC to a HDTV if the HDTV does not have a DVI connector.”

First, we need to translate those abbreviations into English.

HDTV means High Definition TV.  It could come from a flat-screen plasma or LCD monitor or it could have a picture tube. HDTVs are capable of providing much improved video over standard TV sets — the ones we’ve been watching for more than 50 years.

HDMI is short for High Definition Multimedia Interface. It’s the strangest-looking connection you’ll find on the back of your new high def TV set and other home theater products. It’s a little multi-pin connector that handles both digital audio and video signals.

DVI stands for Digital Visual Interface and is the current standard for connecting your computer’s digital video card to digital flat-panel monitors and projectors. Most modern high-end computer video cards come with DVI and the ever popular VGA connections.

So, what Jim was asking was why he couldn’t connect his computer’s digital output to his flat-screen’s digital input. I have to admit I wasn’t sure whether it was possible to successfully make that kind of connection like this so I asked the people who should know — the experts at Sharp.

Their answer is probably not what Jim wants to hear:

“Sharp’s AQUOS LC-TVs (Liquid Crystal), and most other devices from any manufacturer, up to now have been using HDMI version 1.1, which is not compatible with a PC signal.

The specifications standards for versions 1.2 and 1.3 have recently been finalized and these have no PC limitations.

Our late 2006 models will include version 1.2, and 2007 models will include version 1.3.”

One last thought: You may see all sorts of HDMI-to-DVI adapters for sale on the Internet.  They may carry the signal from one end to the other — but according to Sharp your current HDTV won’t be able to process it.

HDTVs that conform to those new HDMI standards should be available later this year.

In a similar vein, jimbeaux30 wants to know:

”What is the diff between 480p and 480i and which should I use on my HDTV?”

TVs in the United States, throughout their history, have always presented interlaced video.  That means your TV is reproducing every other line of video being broadcast — 60 times per second. That system is now known as 480i (480 lines, interlaced).

New digital TVs can reproduce video progressively — or all 480 lines of information presented 60 times per second.

That means if your TV set is capable of 480p (480 lines, progressive) you’ll be watching video that’s approximately twice as sharp as 480i sets.

I would say that if your TV is capable of 480p — watch it that way.  If it’s capable of higher resolutions, like 720p or 1080i or 1080p — I would watch that too!

John Palacios of South Houston, Texas wants to know:

Anybody make a laptop boom box?”

I did an extensive search and couldn’t find many manufactured models — but there are plenty of people who have tried to make one themselves.

Then again, you could just take the output of a small, portable computer, such as the OQO and hook it into any boom box of your choice. This will not be cheap.

Or, you can carry a laptop in one hand and a boom box in your other hand — and have a cable running between them. If the cable is long enough you could use it as a jump rope and exercise as you walk down the street.

There are also many speaker systems on the market that you could plug a small portable music player (like an iPod) into.  That way you could listen through headphones or blast your sounds through the neighborhood.  The best of both worlds.

Finally, a question from a person hailing from Redmond, Wash.:

“I have three cell phones (2 for work), a GPS handheld unit, a blueberry PDA, a mobile fax in my company vehicle, two laptops, 2 iPods (one for car use only), and a satellite phone.

I’m not afraid of lightning but my wife is worried I may be too plugged in. She wants me to unplug “everything” for an hour or two preferably for a nap in the afternoon and smell the roses. What do you say? Do you yourself ‘go dark’??”

I agree with your wife.  You should unplug as often as possible.

Personally, I don’t have to unplug.  Friends think I’m in the dark all the time.

Keep those questions coming.