Connecting a Dell Dimension E521 to a Plasma TV

by on November 1, 2007

Q: I want to connect my Dell Dimension E521 running Microsoft Vista to my 50″ plasma TV. I will be using the computer for browsing the internet and some Office/Word stuff. My computer has only 1 VGA output and it does not have an S-Video or DVI output. My TV has S-Video and RCA connections [sic], and I want to know which type of video card I need.

A: Many Plasma TVs come with VGA connectors. If your TV has a VGA input and you plan to use it as your only computer monitor, then you should be able to use your computer with your TV without a problem. Just connect the VGA cable from your computer to the TV and then select the proper input using your TV’s remote control. It is worth testing this before spending the time and money on other solutions.

If you need to use another monitor in addition to your television, you should verify your computer’s current configuration. According to the Owner’s Manual for the Dell Dimension E521, your computer supports integrated graphics as well as several different kinds of dedicated graphics cards. An integrated graphics solution would be soldered into your computer’s motherboard (main circuit board). Dedicated graphics cards are more powerful that integrated graphics and can be removed and replaced with newer cards in the future. According to the description in your question, I assume that your computer has integrated graphics. Here are a couple of solutions for you to consider:

  1. Purchase a KVM switch. Some KVM switches allow you to connect one computer to multiple screens. But there are several different kinds of KVM switches available. So be sure that you purchase the kind that is configured to connect one computer to multiple monitors.
  2. Purchase a new graphics card (a.k.a. video card). The Owner’s Manual for your computer makes a special note in the Connecting Two Monitors section that you cannot connect one monitor to the VGA output of your integrated graphics at the same time you connect another monitor to a port on a dedicated graphics card. What this means is that you will probably have to purchase a graphics card that has multiple video outputs on it. You may or may not be able to use two dedicated video cards, each with 1 port. I personally wouldn’t bother trying multiple graphics cards with your computer. A video card with multiple connections is most likely the easier choice. The combinations are almost infinite. You could do: 2 VGA ports, 1 VGA port and 1 DVI port, 1 VGA and 1 S-Video, 1 VGA and 1 HDMI, etc. NOTE: If you decide to purchase a graphics card with an HDMI port, be sure that it is HDMI 3.1 or newer. You will also want to consider which slot inside your computer you want the graphics card to use. Your computer should be able to accept AGP or PCI Express (x1 and x16) graphics cards. I also recommend that your video card have at least 256MB of video memory (a.k.a. VRAM). 512MB is even more preferable. You can search Dell’s selection of graphics cards to help you get started. But be sure to search other sites on the internet before committing to Dell’s prices.

Before purchasing a new video card, you should consult your TV’s owner’s manual to learn what kind of connections are possible. Generally speaking the quality of picture will be highest with HDMI or DVI. HDMI is able to use audio and video at the same time. But as far as I know, there are not many computer video cards with HDMI sound support. I believe that DVI offers the same quality video signal as HDMI. Next in quality is VGA. I believe that all three — HDMI, DVI, VGA — will allow you to get full 1080p HDTV quality (if your TV supports that resolution). S-Video is not capable of carrying an HDTV signal.

One Response to “Connecting a Dell Dimension E521 to a Plasma TV”

    Another option that you can look at is a VGA to RCA adapter. They are not common but if you search around on google you can find a few sites that have them. This way you can get away without spending the extra money on a video card.