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Laptops

Unwrapped: Tips and tricks for your new laptop

You were extra good this year and got a new laptop ... so that you can work from home (oh, joy!). Here are three ways that you can also have some fun with your laptop in 2007.

You were extra good this year and got a new laptop ... so that you can work from home (oh, joy!). Here are three ways that you can also have some fun with your laptop in 2007.

Tip 1: Watch HDTV on your laptop
Tip 2: Transfer YouTube videos to your HDTV
Tip 3: Watch DVDs on a long flight

Tip 1: Watch HDTV on your laptop
Did you know that you can watch your favourite TV shows without a TV? With the right accessories, you can watch high-definition television on a laptop.

There are many portable high-def tuners, receivers, and antennas available for laptops. Also, you can usually find plenty of HDTV content choices on the road. A common misconception is that high-def signals are available only via cable and satellite transmissions. However, all free-to-air TV stations in Australia are now broadcasting HD signals. This excludes cable favourites such as The Comedy Channel and National Geographic, but at least you can get your HD Sunrise fix.

The NetComm Banksia Digital HD USB TV Tuner, Elgato EyeTV DTT Stick and the ComPro VideoMate U3 DVB-T Stick cost between AU$100 and AU$200 and offer an array of DVR functionality. You may want to check signal availability in your area before purchasing one. Like when you're dealing with old-fashioned rabbit ears, signal strength varies depending on topography and atmospheric conditions.

Tip 2: Transfer YouTube videos to your HDTV
You could watch Internet video on a tiny laptop monitor. But why not hook up your laptop to your state-of-the-art HDTV and watch that ridiculous YouTube video in the living room?

There are many options for connecting your laptop to your HDTV, but you may be limited by outputs and inputs. Unless your laptop was specifically built for home theater use, it probably doesn't have multiple ways to output a video signal to an external display such as your HDTV.

Look at your laptop video card and match up the best connection option that both the display and the laptop share. DVI is becoming more common (replacing analog VGA); it's your best bet for a high-quality connection (that is, HDMI connections on your HDTV). S-Video is another likely option; it appears as a single, black, four-pin cable. It is a few rungs below DVI in terms of quality, but it's far from the worst. The bottom rung in terms of video quality belongs to the composite-video connection (the yellow cord, usually accompanied by the red and white audio jacks).

If you are restricted to a composite-video connection on your laptop, you may prefer to upgrade your laptop if you plan on watching a lot of Internet videos on your TV. Consider a Windows Media Center laptop, such as the Toshiba Qosmio G30. Standard component cables (red, green, and blue) are common with HDTVs, but they're limited to higher-end home theater laptops and PCs.

Tip 3: Watch DVDs on a long flight
Imagine that you have an eight-hour flight with only your laptop and a few DVDs to pass the time. Unfortunately, you can't get enough juice out of the battery to cover your journey.

The powers that be have heard your anguished cries of boredom and have implemented a useful new feature in current-generation laptops. Shell programs allow you to play DVDs and music CDs and to browse media files, saving battery life and skipping the hassle of booting up the OS each time you want to watch a movie or listen to some music. Check with your laptop's manufacturer to see if it offers a proprietary shell program for playing CDs and DVDs.