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A tiny PC and monitor will get you way more bang for the buck than a TV and standard dorm cable.It might be tempting to spend hundreds of dollars to have the biggest TV in your dorm, but you might get more bang for your buck by buying an external monitor and small home theater PC (HTPC) instead.

First, the monitor. Large HD monitor prices have plummeted in recent years, and you’re missing out if you haven’t picked one up yet. The extra screen real estate can increase productivity by letting you do things like work on your essay on one screen, while viewing your research on the other. More importantly, having a monitor will encourage you to get work done at your desk with proper posture, rather than in bed. A quick Amazon or Craigslist search should turn up a number of affordable options, so even if you want a dedicated TV, you’ll want to pick one up. 

So how can you turn your beautiful new screen into a full-fledged television? Well, for just a few hundred dollars you can pick up a small nettop (the desktop version of a netbook) to act as your HTPC. This tiny and attractive Lenovo will get the job done for about $300, and won’t take up much of your room’s precious space. Just hook it up to your monitor and start enjoying Netflix, Hulu, iTunes rentals, or whatever else your entertainment needs require at any given moment. If your dorm includes cable, you can even tack on a USB TV tuner for around $50, and use your new setup as a full-fledged TV and DVR. Try doing that with a run of the mill TV set.

Did you skip the TV when decorating your dorm? Let us know how it went in the comments.