Using a 720p TV with a Mac Mini

The short response is don’t. The long response is it can be done but…

It is  very painful to get the TV to work as a monitor. The resoluton of a 720p TV is supposed to be 1200 x 720 (or fairly close). The aspect is 16:9. Unfortunately up to this point I’ve only been able to get 1024 x 768, which is an aspect of 4:3.

To get there I first wasted a couple of hours fiddling around with the Display Preferences. In order to do so I had to start up using a different monitor. The setting wouldn’t take.  At first I figured 640 x 480 would be an  appropriate size given the resolution of the TV. No such luck. As I said the setting wouldn’t stay. It reverted back to 1280 x 1024 each time. On the up side I was getting to the point where I could see everything up to the point after I entered the password.

I hunted around on the net and found people using the 1080p TVs were having the opposite problem where they were not getting enough resolution. There was a small program for 10.4 which would force the resolution to what the user selected. I was about to install it when I decided to check out the help in the Display Preference.

Only the middle suggestion of the help file was of any use. It suggested using a <Shift> boot and select the appropriate resolution from the list.Miracle of miracles it actually worked! I had to do it twice though. I am able to force the TV to go as high as 1024 x 768 @75Hz before the TV starts to complain. It will handle a higher frequency. The first time through I selected the highest resolution possible and the highest frequency possible, but it didn’t take. The second time through I lowered the frequency and the settings remained after a restart. Tomorrow may be another story though.

The end results are pretty much as I indicated. The computer part of the video doesn’t look too good. I tried to configure the colour settings and they didn’t want to load after the restart. On the up side the TV has a decent refresh rate. Although the games look terrible, the TV is able to keep up. The fonts also look terrible. Video is fine. Animated and black & white are all I hav at the moment and they look very well although all I get is the 4:3 aspect when I run them in full screen mode.

One reason I took so long since the last article was, quite frankly, I was dreading what would happen when I connected the TV to a computer. It turns out I was correct. As a cheap TV it works fine. There are all sorts of I/O connectors and they work really well. Connecting it to an old DVD player or the WD HD box I wrote about last year produces a really good picture.

In the end I wouldn’t recommend the process to anyone who is impatient. I think I’ll reconnect the TV to the DVD player and WD HD box. As to the computer, I’ll connect the other monitor again. I have a couple of Linux boxes. If I can work up the patience I’ll connect the TV there and write a follow-up contrasting the current version of Linux and OS X 10.6.

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