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Using Laptops in Your Home Theater Systems

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/30/2009

Wondering how to hook up your laptop to your home theater system? Read on inside for more information on how to get started.

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    Laptops in My Home Theater

    Using a laptop for your home theater setup is a great way to get more out of it than you would with just a Blu-Ray player or a PS3. The key here is to make sure you have the right notebook, the right TV/projector, and the right software.

    The Right Notebook

    You need three things for making your laptop home theater experience complete on the laptop side. These three are: processor, graphics, and ports. For the processor, considering that you’re going to be throwing the image up on a big screen, you want to invest in at the very least a considerably-equipped dual-core laptop. Make sure to get something over 2 GHz that’s dual-core.

    Of course, the processor is a little less important than the graphics card. Because when it comes to doing the heavy-lifting for creating the massive 1080p image, guess who’s doing all the heavy lifting? I recommend a modern graphics card for the laptop that has something at least over 512 Mb of on-board dedicated video memory. Stay far away from integrated chips and graphics cards that don’t live up to their specs on closer inspections. As much as I hate to admit it, the best laptops for this purpose are the MacBooks, especially the Pro line that each have SLI-graphics with two cards each.

    Finally, the ports on the laptop are of utter importance. You could have an amazing laptop that has no HDMI port, and that won’t help you at all. You need a PC that has at the very least a VGA port to be able to do anything with it. The best equipped laptops will come with a DVI-D and an HDMI port to be able to take full advantage.

    If you combine a laptop that has all this and a blu-ray drive, what else do you really need? Well, here is a laptop that does all this and more.

    The Right TV/Projector

    The right TV (or projector) is just as pivotal to your laptop setup. But here, the choice is rather simple, although a little more expensive. You need a TV that is capable of doing 1080p (this much is a given) as is the fact that you need a television capable of accepting HDMI and DVI-D (or VGA). The TV also needs integrated speakers to be able to play sound out through the same HDMI port.

    If you’re using a projector, you’re going to need a receiver that is capable of accepting an HDMI port and outputting both video and audio. This is going to be a bit more difficult to do, but if you have surround sound and a projector, chances are that your receiver system already does this reasonably well.

    The Right Software

    Boxee is a great place to start now that it’s finally available for Windows as an alpha version.

    With Boxee, you’re able to quickly and easily surf through several different channels on your set-top box using just a simple remote. The channels are easily organized and everything works rather well. The one notable absence from this perfect formula for getting rid of your cable is the fact that Hulu is conspicuously absent.

    However, if you’re looking for a unified solution that allows you to access all your media across a network, Boxee is the solution you’ve been looking for. It works incredibly well, as I can tell you from personal experience and provides what is undoubtedly the most user-friendly experience out there.