Every once in a while, a new technology pops up that is so cool and so different that it has to create its own market. Sharp's sexy-sounding two-way viewing-angle LCD technology is just such a thing. It allows for diverse and unique uses that were previously not possible—or at least difficult.
I'm sure many of you read over the measurement boxes in our video reviews, take what you need from them, and move on. But what does it all mean, really? Why do we do it the way we do? For those of you new to the magazine or video displays in general, what does any of it mean? These are excellent questions.
You know those little plastic plug thingies you put in electrical outlets so that kids don't stick their fingers and such into them? Turns out, they're there for a reason. My parents dutifully put these in all the outlets in our house, and, when I was just past the age where they figured I couldn't possibly be stupid enough to stick anything into an outlet, I found an innocent little piece of copper wire. At this point, you can see where this story is headed. Lacking any polyvinyl chloride polymer to impede my process, and always having an inquisitive mind, I inserted said wire into said outlet. The results were predictable. I believe vaporization was involved. Since then, I've had a healthy (ahem) respect for electricity.
Computers are everywhere, from our desktops to our phones to our planes, trains, and automobiles. If we look at movies like I, Robot (strictly from a conceptual standpoint, not a why-did-Hollywood-ever-make-this standpoint), there is a possible bleak future ahead of us. I prefer to look at Star Wars, where machines help, even if they can be annoying know-it-alls. Granted it's not our galaxy, but it is a lot more fun to watch than I, Robot (no disrespect to the Fresh Prince).
What better way is there to improve your home theater experience than the addition of a PC? But what should you look for when setting out to buy one?
When shopping for an HDTV, know what you're looking at.
OK, so you're finally ready to take the plunge and buy an HDTV. I'll leave the decisions regarding technology, screen size, and other matters for another time. For now, I'll concentrate on how to judge the performance of the display's video processor, which is a primary factor in determining the quality of the image you see on the screen.
If it gets your signal in or out, it's probably here.
Talking about connections isn't very exciting. Cables themselves are about as sexy as hair clippings. Both are crucial, though, in getting the best-quality signal from your source components to your playback components. (This doesn't include hair clippings). So, here is a list of all the connections you're likely to come across and how they do what they do. They're also arranged in order from worst to best. Keep in mind that, in some cases, the connector and the signal share the same name; in others, the connector isn't exclusively associated with a particular type of signal.
MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding (AVC) is a next-generation video codec (coder/decoder) that's about to change the face of digital television—slimming it down, enabling it to move into narrower channels, and probably changing how it looks. I can almost see your eyes glazing over: Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do.
Acoustically transparent projection screens let you put the voices where the action is.
When you see a movie in a commercial cinema, it's easy to suspend disbelief and pretend you're watching the action through a window. One important reason for this is the fact that the sound of the characters' voices seems to come from their apparent location, rather than from above or below the screen.
We frequently get e-mails from readers asking why they should spend big $s on a home theater product when they can get a similar product for much less. Good question! So, this is the first in a series of GearWorks in which we'll discuss that very topic. We'll start with perhaps the easiest component to track: projectors. Where does the money go?
It's no secret that, if you have a new projection display (front or rear), you'll eventually need to replace its light source. Take one look at them, and you'll see that these aren't your ordinary 100-watt bulbs—that, and the fact that these light sources cost hundreds of dollars each.
In my GearWorks column in our January 2005 issue, I talked about how, depending on your viewing distance, the resolution of your display may not matter. To sum up, your eye has a finite resolution (like a digital camera), and, as objects get smaller with distance, there is a point where your eye can no longer distinguish between bigger and smaller pixels. Over long distances, this is obvious, but it surprised a lot of people that it could be so noticeable in shorter (in-room) distances.
I must admit, onboard video and audio have come a long way. It used to be that they were just a line item on a features list. Now both are far more capable. Compared with what you can get as a separate card, though. . .well, let's say it's not worth comparing (although I did, of course).
I like to think of myself as a do-it-yourself kind of guy. I'd like to think of myself this way, but, in reality, this is not the case. I don't change my own oil (you want me to go under where?), I'm on a first-name basis with my mechanic (honestly, what Ford owner isn't?), and I call my landlord when the kitchen sink leaks (hey, that's why I pay rent). The two things I do myself are haircuts (thank you, King C. Gillette) and computers (sorry, no funny joke). I've been fascinated with computers since my parents bought me an Apple IIc in the mid-1980s. Since then, I've been modifying and building my own. A few months ago, some part of my brain came up with the idea to build a home theater PC from scratch—and make it silent. Keep in mind that this was the same part of my brain that thought it would be a tremendous idea to build a 13-foot-long subwoofer. Thanks to the deluge of e-mails I received after that piece (one—thanks, Mom) and the difficulty in finding a company that makes an HTPC (last count at CES, there were only 13,002 or so), I figured I'd design and build Home Theater's HTPC, the ugliest and quietest ever.