FYI, here’s a better breakdown of this post. Leaving this here for context.
Sooo, I just got a 4K monitor to use as a dedicated display for my Nintendo Switch. Previously I had the console plugged into an HDMI switch, which also connected my laptop and Windows desktop to the same monitor.
The display situation worked great for lazy people, but in order to have audio come from the Switch, I needed to manually plug speakers into the audio port (because, noooo my monitor does not have speakers. I get this question a lot for some reason). I have a Y-adapter that splits the audio cable between my desktop and laptop. And in order for my Switch to have sound, I would unplug the laptop audio cable into the Switch. And because the cable wasn’t long enough, I had to move the Switch dock onto the space where my desktop mouse lives. And would have to move it aside when I needed to use my desktop. So I decided it was time for an upgrade.
This was the monitor I ended up getting. It supports up to 4K, and ironically the Switch doesn’t do 4K. 😀 But it’s working great so far! I finally get to have a “TV” in my room!
Why a monitor and not a TV?
I chose a monitor instead of a TV, because well…I don’t have a lot of space. And the only decent TVs I could find where the giant 55in displays. The space I had planned only had room for 32in.
Also, I learned that there are no “dumb TVs” anymore. All TVs made these days come with its own built-in OS and media player. I never use the built-in media player on my parents’ smart TV because quite frankly, it sucks really bad. The Crunchyroll app is pretty garbage (to be fair, the Crunchyroll app on PS4 is also garbage). And the general consensus is to never use the built-in media player on smart TVs, because eventually the hardware will show its age and no longer be able to support the newer OS versions. And then what? Get rid of the entire TV for a new one because it can’t run the latest OS? It’s easier and cheaper to just upgrade your Fire TV or Chromecast than the whole TV. So why have something installed if I’m never going to use it?
And then came the Roku
And then I decided “I wonder if I could make it more TV-like. 🤔” I settled on Roku players, because:
- They’re pretty mobile OS agnostic, but support iDevices pretty darn well.
- I have a laptop made by Apple, a phone made by Apple and 2 tablets made by Apple. Music streaming service is also from Apple, so I think it’s not a bad idea to have a little brand name variety. (Smart speakers aren’t made by Apple btw, but had to feed money to Bezos to get them. But they work well with Rokus 👍).
I went with the Streaming Stick 4K. The monitor I just bought has 2 HDMI ports, which is great because I put my spare HDMI switch down somewhere and it disappeared. D: And here is where the fun starts.
Things I learned
When I first tried turning off the streaming stick with the remote, it said something about enabling CEC on the “TV” with instructions to go to a help article on their site. (So when powered off, the TV would also turn off along with the Roku. And if you turned on the Roku, the HDMI input would automatically change over to the port the Roku was plugged into.) So this was enabled by going into the TV settings (in the TV’s OS). I thought I would find this under the monitor settings, but no dice.
And also, it wanted me to turn on ARC, which lets the player control the speakers. But uhhh….yeah, found no such thing. So, the sound comes through the speakers quite well. I just can’t control the volume with the remote. I have to adjust it with the monitor’s built-in toggle. (Luckily, I’m sitting right in front of it whenever I use it, because bed is too faraway, so reaching over to adjust it isn’t the worst.)
Because there is no CEC support, I can’t actually turn off the Roku. I found that I can just let it go to sleep. Eventually, the monitor goes to sleep as well and when I want to watch something, I just need to press the OK button (right in the middle of the D-pad on the remote) to wake it up. The power button will just be ignored.
You know, most modern game consoles have media players built right in?
The only game console I have is the Switch (and before that, I was 100% a PC gamer). And it’s like I can find a PS5 or XBOX Series S/X right now. :/
So yes, this is possible. But here are some things to think about first:
If you want sound, either:
- find a monitor with built-in speakers (with fancy ARC support, if you want to control the volume through your HDMI device)
- use a media player with a built-in speaker (ex. Roku Streambar). Someone did just that and found it worked great.
- get an audio extractor, which is like a splitter but for HDMI and audio ports, and then plug the speakers of your choice into the audio ports
If you want your media player to control HDMI on your monitor, look for a monitor with CEC support. Apparently, they exist(ed–post was 3 years ago, so dunno if they still do). Otherwise, when you’re not using the media player, let it (and the monitor go to sleep) and when you want to use it, press OK on the remote. If you want it to turn off right away (because let’s say, the monitor is in your room and you want to sleep without this bright-ass display glaring at you for ~10 minutes), you can just physically turn off the monitor itself.
(Sidenote: A lot of HDMI monitors support DDC/CI as an alternative. It’s what makes the monitor plug and play, instead of the user having to install drivers. The monitor supports it, but apparently neither the Nintendo Switch nor Roku devices know what to do with it.)
[EDIT: 2021/11/27] Updated to mention that fancy ARC support (or whatever it’s called) is needed if you want to control the volume with your HDMI device (Switch or media player). Barebones ARC support is what lets HDMI send audio signals to the display. (source: Wikipedia)