With our new IT build, we pretty much have a large smart TV in every place imaginable. Aside from our break room (which merely uses Wi-Fi to stream movies and such), each smart TV is wired to a nearby PC via an HDMI cable; while this method enables us to effectively display anything we need to during meetings, the exposed wiring can be somewhat of an eyesore. Even with designing each TV location to have power and data connections behind it, there is still the annoying HDMI cable showing; it is much worse in our main conference room, as the power and data connections are far below the TV, leaving little options for hiding the wires.
In the past, one would use some simple wire management/concealment methods to collect and hide the cables if they couldn’t run them through the wall. However, being the tech nerd that I am, I realized that there must be a better way to enjoy PC connectivity on a smart TV, without the hassle.
Let’s start off by briefly going over some of the options that are available to us.
Mentioned before, I won’t go into detail about how this works; unless you have been living under a rock, you should be somewhat familiar about this process.
Wi-Fi (Using a Smart TV’s Built-In Web Browser)
This is the magic of smart TVs. Your TV can connect to your Wi-Fi internet relatively quickly, allowing you to (depending on the model), stream movies, use apps, and some even use some form of a built-in browser. While smart TV’s capabilities are pretty amazing, they still do not solve the problem of not being able to use my computer in a conference room to display one of my meticulously crafted graphs to my coworkers (horrible, I know). Earlier today, I was playing around with our main conference TV, an LG – 65″ Class – LED – SK8000 Series – 2160p – Smart – 4K UHD TV with HDR, to see if the built-in web browser was sufficient to run/access my files in Google Drive. Even with a wirelessly connected keyboard and mouse (which one would have to buy separately and precisely for that TV), files were difficult to access and ridiculously slow to load; with a WAP nearby with fiber internet, it’s safe to say that the issue was with the TV hardware and not the network.
Wi-Fi (Connecting a PC to the TV)
As I just mentioned, the issue using the TV’s built-in web browser seemed to be the hardware itself; due to this, why not use a Wi-Fi enabled PC to handle the load? While the PC we are using currently in the conference room has no Wi-Fi capabilities, this can be solved using an additional wireless card, USB dongle, a transmitter/receiver kit, or using a different Wi-Fi enabled PC/Laptop (which is an option for us, but more of a last resort). For our LG TV, the ability to display your PC on your TV is called Screen Share (Screen Mirroring), which allows you to view your entire PC screen on your TV.
Wi-Fi (Chromecast, Chromebit, etc.)
Google’s Chromecast is a small device which enables your TV to stream video and use a vast number of apps, however, aside from being able to broadcast a tab I have open in Google, I have no real ability to access my desktop PC from my TV. Chromebit is pretty much the same thing, providing you with Chrome OS in a tiny package. The great thing about Chromebit is its internal performance. Featuring 2GB of memory, 16GB of eMMC storage, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and both USB and HDMI ports, the Chromebit should be able to display anything I want with ease. While our company does tend to only use Google’s products in meetings, such as Google Docs, Calendar, and Gmail, I would still like to be able to actually access my computer.
Wireless HDMI Connection
Wireless HDMI replaces the length of an HDMI cord with two devices, a transmitter and a receiver, that both connect to your PC/TV using HDMI connectors; I have never personally used these, however, have heard good things, besides some video lag and inability to display specific resolutions. In my case, if I am really just trying to get rid of ugly wires, a wireless HDMI connection might be my best bet.
Smaller PC/Raspberry Pi
For those more mechanically-inclined, a Raspberry Pi board can be rigged to run a full version of Windows 10, and then (due to its small size), can be placed behind your TV. Using a Raspberry Pi is probably one of the cheaper (and most enjoyable) options, depending on your skill level.
I have been slowly replacing many of our full-size desktop PCs with smaller models, such as the HP ProDesk 400 G4 Desktop Mini PC; this computer could theoretically be placed behind the TV and not have to require any form of wireless connection.
I am sure there are other ways to connect a PC to a smart TV in an aesthetically-pleasing way; however, the methods I have listed are the most common. We decided to go ahead and order a Chromebit to see if it will satisfy our requirements, and until it arrives, I brought my wireless laptop to see how the LG’s Screen Share/Mirroring performs.