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How to play PC games on your TV

In these lockdown stricken times, as more people are turning their attention to gaming as a way of coping, it is worth noting that you can play your PC games on your TV screen with a few simple (sometimes fairly cheap) solutions.

It took me embarrassingly long to realise that my computer is capable of more than my 1080p screen can challenge it to. It was almost equally annoying to realise that I have a 4k TV just sitting there in the living room, being underutilized on such trivia as uhm… television.

It’s not always feasible to run back and forth between your living room carrying a heavy computer case. Unless you have a capable laptop (which, as you’ll see in a second makes the whole problem really easy to solve), hauling your computer around the house every time you want to play a game will prove quite taxing on your back.

Here’s a couple of ideas on how to connect your PC to your TV set.

HDMI Cables

We’ve all got them. Usually one to three metres long. At these lengths you needn’t worry about the price or the quality of the cable. Just grab whatever you’ve got, or whatever seems the most reasonably priced. Plug your device of choice into the TV and crack on.

However, if you’re trying to connect your computer to a TV that’s in a different room you might need to look into more advanced solutions.

HDMI cables can reliably carry around 7-10 metres. After that you might experience signal degradation. It is less of an issue for digital signals (after all you’re sending over a bunch of 0s and 1s), but what we want is an optimal experience, not the bare minimum.

This solution is great if you already own HDMI cables and your PC is not that far from your TV.

The con is that the longer the distance, the more expensive and less reliable it’s going to be.

This option is also more suited to laptop owners, as they are more portable and easier to move between your bedroom/office and your living room.

CAT 5/6 HDMI extenders

If the solutions above are not viable and you need to send signal for distances over 10 metres (all the way up to 30/60 metres), you probably want to invest in a CAT 6 HDMI extenders.

 You place one of those next to your PC, the other one next to your TV set. Plug the HDMI cables on both ends. The difference is these 2 are going to be connected by a CAT6 cables (otherwise known as ethernet cables).  This ensures that the signal sent over arrives at its destination intact.

CAT6 ethernet cables are widely available, and considerably cheaper than HDMI cables at higher lengths.

Go with this if your PC is located a huge distance from your TV (like 30 metres huge).

The Extenders themselves can be a bit expensive, but the cables itself will be much cheaper than really long HDMI cables.

Streaming Devices (Steam Link/Shield)

If you really don’t want to deal with tripping over long, thick cables every time you move around your house, you might want to stream your PC to your TV. Depends on the TV you own, you probably need an external device to help you achieve this.

So far, I’ve only experienced two of those, the NVIDIA Shield, and the Steam Link.

Both devices work in a similar way. You have your PC on and use a proprietary app (GeForce Experience for the Shield, Steam for the Steam Link), to cast your screen/game to the TV.

The problem with this is decreased image quality, and a huge potential for delay between when you press a button on the controller and what actually happens in the game. This can somehow be alleviated by controlling your computer directly to the device through an ethernet cable, however that takes us all the way back to the cable solutions.

This option is good if you don’t mind lower image quality, and you’re not playing any games that require fast reactions, such as online shooters. Having a very strong WIFI connection also helps.

Keep in mind doing this might also make everyone you live with hate you as it will slow down the network a fair bit.

Plain, old carrying your PC to the living room

In my pursuit of a way of playing PC games on my TV I’ve found this option to be the most viable. If you’re sure your gaming session is going to be longer, and if you are able to comfortably carry your computer (never lift with your back, always lift with your legs) I’d say go for this. You’ll experience virtually no image quality degradation due to poor signal, and you’ll see the lowest delay possible.

Controllers

After you set everything up, and your TV is receiveing signal from your PC, the next thing is controllers.

To guarantee maximum comfort I’d recommend going for nice controller. This is entirely up to your preference, but most people like to go with either the Xbox One controller, or the Playstation 4 controller.

In order for the Xbox One controller to work properly you’ll need to purchase an inexpensive dongle from Microsoft. Other than that you just plug it and play it! (As a bonus this also works with the Xbox One versions of Rockband instruments).

The Playstation controller requires a bit more tinkering. This is best achieved using DS4Windows. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the readme files, or do a good ol’ google search.

If you’re planning on using these with Steam, there’s an even easier way of doing this, as detailed here.

Mouse & Keyboard

If this is your preference, make sure you equip yourself with a decent wireless mouse and keyboard, and something that can serve as a mousepad.

Have fun

Most importantly, make sure that whatever you do is a means to an end of having fun, and doesn’t become an unhealthy obsession which consumes a ton of your time and money. Game on!