Sharp showed two new LCD sets – 32 (LC-32GP1U, $1,700) and 37-inch (LC-37GP1U, $2,000) – specifically designed towards gamers. Called the Game Players Series, they employ Sharp’s Vyper Drive that reduces visual lag time from console to screen to “imperceptible levels.” A Game Mode button enables the new expanded side terminals (including HDMI and component) for quick change between regular television duties and games. As with all the new Sharp LCD’s, these have a 120 hertz refresh that clears up a lot of the motion blur issues inherent to LCD’s. Oh yeah, it’s also 1080p.
Sometime in the next six months, InFocus will release its Play Big In1 – a $500 entry priced projector. The projector can connect to one of two base units. The first has a built in DVD player and two speakers. The second is their gaming dock that has two speakers as well, plus all the connections you’d need to connect a game system like Nintendo’s Wii. There’s also a mirrored attachment that lets you project the image on the ceiling (they got the idea from kids saying they wanted to play their games while lying down in bed). Manufacturer specs list 500 lumens and 1,500:1 contrast ratio. How is this only $500? It only handles 480p.
Ever want to show someone the barrel of the wave you just caught? GoPro’s Digital Hero 3 allows you to do just that. The 4.5 ounce, waterproof camera straps to your wrist and takes 3-megapixel photos as well as up to 54 minutes of 30 frame per second video. You just need to get used to having a camera strapped to your wrist. It’s available beginning of February for $140.
Thermaltake showed a new HTPC case – the Mozart iP – to go with their already released Mozart Sx. The new addition incorporates a front door that opens to reveal an iPod dock (hence the iP name). The iPod nav wheel is still accessible through a hole in the chassis and there are adapters depending on which iPod model you own. It should be available Q2 with pricing TBA.
The big news in 2006 has been the emergence of two new high-def DVD formats—Blu-ray and HD DVD. With greater storage capacity than a traditional DVD, we can now get higher-quality audio and video on the small screen. Depending on the compression used, each release can contain a whole slew of extras—or you can fit entire seasons of television shows, in SD, on one disc. Now, with the introduction of some internal drives for the home computer, you can back up vast amounts of information with a single disc. My personal iTunes music library, which contains the majority of my CDs, encoded as AAC files at 192 kilobits per second (stereo), could almost all fit on one Blu-ray disc. That's three-and-a-half months of continuous music. Add the ability to play Blu-ray titles, and it's the perfect time to move that home computer into the home theater for some high-def goodness. Before you get too excited and run out to buy a new drive, there are a few things that you need to consider first.
Optional module available for wireless surround channels
The HT-Q70 is a step up from the HT-Q45 that convergence editor Chris Chiarella reviewed in our September 2006 issue. While the looks of the ensemble are virtually identical, there are significant upgrades behind the scenes. The total power output has gone up to 1,000 watts (from 800 watts in the HT-Q45). More importantly, at least for the home theater aspect, the player is a five-disc-carousel DVD changer and sports upconversion and an HDMI output (up to 1080i). The player can read CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD, DVD-R, and DVD-RW. On the front of the player is a USB port for utilizing Samsung's USB Host Play. This allows you to plug a portable digital device into the port and play back MPEG video, as well as MP3, DivX, WMA, JPEG, and photo files.
Adjust the setup with Digital Cinema Auto Calibration and the included microphone
Sony's HT-7000DH is a component-style 5.1-channel home-theater-in-a-box. It includes a receiver (STR-K7000), a five-disc carousel DVD player (DVP-NC85H), four satellites, a center-channel speaker, and a subwoofer. The speakers have a black faux-wood finish. Aesthetically, there's nothing about them that stands out, so they should blend in easily among bookcases and shelving units.
The DVD player upconverts over the HDMI connection to 720p or 1080i. It can read all DVD video formats, as well as VCD and JPEG. Being a Sony, it can also play SACDs. As for other audio formats, it is limited to CD, CD-R, CD-RW, and MP3 playback.
Attractive speakers and player have distinctive look
Wireless-surround-speaker ready with wireless adapter (sold separately)
The LG LH-T9654S does its best to differentiate itself aesthetically from a menagerie of cookie-cutter HTIBs. The attractively shaped speakers are glossy black soft-cornered triangles with silver linings. The subwoofer, as well, is very distinctive, with a cut-corner design. It's also glossy black with silver accents. The player continues the sleek design with its relatively bare front panel—it's limited to the disc tray, the LCD, and a headphone jack. The navigational CD buttons are located along the top of the player.
Very often, home-theater-in-a-box speakers are something to be hidden on the shelves or, at the very least, put by a work of art that takes the visual emphasis away from the silver plastic box. With the Philips MCD735/37 Micro Theater, that work of art will have some fierce competition. All of the speakers—four satellites, a center, and a subwoofer—have a wood finish that adds a warm feel to the unit and might blend into a room more easily than the usual silver found with most systems. Adding to the distinctive look is the two-module component setup. The system comes with a top-loading DVD player that is designed to sit on a separate power amp. Included is a stand meant to minimize vibration and overheating from the player and the amp. When a disc is playing, a blue light illuminates the disc. While it's elegant looking, the extra light could be a distraction while you're watching a movie, so you'll need to take system placement into consideration. Another reason placement is an important consideration is due to the top-loading DVD player. The player's clear lid stylishly swings up to allow access to the disc but requires space above the unit for the lid to open.
Sony's entry-level home-theater-in-a-box, the DAV-DX255, manages to fit a couple of surprises into its relatively low price point of $300. For one, it can hold five discs at a time that are slot loading instead of carousel loading. It can also play SACs. Yes, you read that right. This $300 system can play that beloved Sony-backed audiophile format—Super Audio Compact Disc. We could talk about the pluses and minuses of using a $300 system to listen to SACDs, but, no matter what, SACDs will sound better than regular CDs. To complement its ability to read SACDs, the player will also recognize a myriad of other formats, including burned DVDs, MP3s, and VCDs.