You’ve heard all about it, and now you want to do it too: watch TV on your computer. But does your computer — and more importantly, your internet connection — have what it takes to make this an enjoyable experience for you? Let’s take a look at the basics of watching TV on your computer so you can get started the right way.
Speed, speed, speed
The first thing to take into consideration before even thinking about trying to watch TV on your computer is your internet connection speed. Slower speeds that are usually experienced with dial-up services, satellite internet, and some DSL services will not work for a streaming video.
While some services claim to be able to stream video with a connection as slow as 300Kbps, it’s not highly recommended. This will result in buffering of the video, which will cause hiccups and delays while your computer loads portions of the video into its memory. For a baseline requirement, you should consider 1.0Mbps the minimum for video streaming, although faster connections will allow better quality video such as 1080 HD without any hiccups or delays. If you’re unsure of your connection speed, ask your ISP, or check it yourself at Speedtest.net.
What your computer can handle
The next thing to look at is your computer itself. Processing streaming video requires a certain amount of raw CPU power, RAM, and video card oomph to connect all the dots. If you’ve got an older computer (which is anything over 2 years old these days), you will want to check your system specifications to make sure it’s up to the task.
Most modern CPUs are capable of handling streaming video at high rates of speed, depending on the quality of the video. The higher quality video, the better system you will need. This is usually more of an issue with notebook PCs rather than desktop systems. The minimum CPU speed you should look for should be 1.0GHz or higher, with 2.0GHz highly recommended. Anything less will be a hindrance to your internet TV viewing experience.
System RAM is another important component that can impact streaming video performance. Even the most basic computer system on the market today comes with at least 512MB of RAM. However, this will probably not be enough for smooth video streaming from the internet. You’ll want to have at least 1GB or more of system RAM, preferably with an addition 1MB or more of dedicated video RAM as well. Many video cards come with this, but if your system is just out of the box without any upgrades, your standard on-board video will probably not carry this option.
A picture is worth
Finally, there is the monitor. What good is having streaming internet TV if you’ve got an old, clunky 14″ CRT monitor, right? Flat panel LED monitors have come down in price drastically in the past few years, to the point that there is no reason you shouldn’t have one. Shop your options, but definitely get a monitor that will support the highest quality video output your computer system offers.
Many services are available, such as the two aforementioned pay services, but there are free options as well. Hulu has a free option with limited access to current shows. YouTube also features some shows and movies. ABC and CBS have their own websites dedicated to streaming TV shows online.
The bottom line is that if you take the time to make sure you’ve got a good connection and the right equipment, you can watch TV on your computer using the internet. Once you’re connected, there’s a wonderful experience awaiting you in online TV.