Recently I had purchased a refurbished Benq RL2455HM computer monitor via a sale by Benq Direct. Although the highly-praised screen is made more for gaming with its 1ms response time, we had used it with an Amazon Fire TV Stick as a TV for the kitchen. The RL2455HM works well for that purpose, but unfortunately it is a real pain in the butt to change the volume as you have to literally press different buttons 10 times reach the menu to do it.
Overall, even though that was a pretty nice setup, obviously the new Apple TV 4 is the better video streamer, especially with its support for apps. I had the Apple TV 2015 connected to a big screen Samsung TV in the living room, but ironically we were watching shows on the Benq 24" monitor more and more lately, so I decided to make the switch for several reasons:
- I was thinking about cancelling Amazon Prime. This decision certainly is not based on the terrific customer service Amazon provides, but rather because of Prime's dwindling benefits for me. Its video service doesn't have a great selection of shows, and the ones we have pretty much watched most of the ones we liked as a family, such as The Amazing Race (yes, all 27 seasons worth!) Prime Music is meh, and the unlimited photos storage is not a good experience to upload from the PC (lots of hiccups during uploading) and access from apps (slow loading the photos).
- Slow Plex streaming performance on the Amazon Fire Stick for HD videos recorded with Windows Media Center. I still have not upgraded my main PC to Windows 10 yet from 8 because I still use Windows Media Center to record over-the-air (OTA) shows such as MasterChef. On even the iPad 3 I can reliably stream those shows via Plex from the PC, but the stream is unwatchable via the Fire Stick.
- Siri. With the power of Siri at the easy reach of the Apple TV remote, it would be nice to ask her questions about the show being played, etc. Amazon has Alexa, but the remote that came with the Fire Stick doesn't have a microphone. Of course the new Apple TV costs 4X more, but ultimately I want to use the box where we do watch TV the most.
So I began the swap, thinking that it would be an easy process. I was only half right- it was a breeze to connect the Fire TV Stick to the 55" Samsung- I was even able to supply power to it using a nearby built-in USB port on the TV, obviating the need for the small black Amazon power brick. Getting the Apple TV to work with the Benq computer monitor- that quickly became a nightmarish process.
Basically, the screen was blank. I restarted the Apple TV several times, tried both HDMI ports on the RL2455HM- nada, nothing. I couldn't even access the monitor menu while the Apple TV is connected. The monitor senses the connection, but there is simply no picture.
Next I tried the Menu Key + Volume Down combination which is supposed to get the Apple TV into a mode that switches to a different resolution every 20 seconds. I would get a flash on the screen for a split second, but then it went blank once again.
Then I tried an older 19" LCD TV, and it kept showing a blank white screen instead, while flashing a 800x600 resolution indicator. So I thought perhaps I had screwed something up on the Apple TV, so I re-plugged it into the Samsung 55" TV, and it was just fine.
Exacerbated, I was about to re-plug the Apple TV back to the living room big screen and reset it to the factory default state. I though perhaps that would clear out whichever settings that may be causing the problem. But before doing that, I decided to swap out the HDMI cable first. I had been using a 30 AVG short 1.5 foot HDMI cable by Fosmon from Amazon that I bought for a bargain price just recently. In fact, I bought 2 for the price of 1. A short cable was perfect for my purpose because the Apple TV is to be right next to the Benq monitor. I didn't think it would be the cable because the same Fosmon cable was what I used when I re-tested the Apple TV with the Samsung 55", and it worked just fine. But guess what? After I replaced it with an old 3 foot HDMI cable, voila, the Apple TV worked beautifully with the monitor.
So lesson learned- sometimes, despite a huge number of 5 star reviews (many of which may be fake), you probably will get what you pay for, LOL. In this instance this cable wasted over an hour of my time, and when I went back to the product page for this Fosmon cable, I saw several 1 star reviews complaining of it not working with Playstation 4 or WDTV. To be fair, however, I tried out the second Fosmon HDMI cable I got on in the 2-for-1 deal and it did work with Apple TV. So it seems to be some sort of quality control issue. Why did the first cable work with the big TV but not the computer monitor nor the small 19" TV? I really have no clue. I always thought that HDMI cable quality from one to another were some sort of myth born out of marketing, but this was clear proof that myself that it could mean the difference between working or no picture at all.
So if you ever have problems with a blank screen with your new Apple TV 4, please do try swapping out the HDMI cable first. It may just save you a lot of time and frustration!