When it comes to recording TV shows, Toshiba's RD-XS32 gives you plenty of options: you can store them on the 80-gigabyte (GB) hard disk for a short stay, give them a permanent home on a write-once DVD-R, or burn them onto an erasable DVD-RW or DVD-RAM disc. VCR Plus+ helps make it easy to time-shift programs, and the supplied wired infrared emitter lets the recorder change the channel on your cable box. Transferring shows from the hard disk to DVD is fast work - 24x speed for DVD-R/RW and 12x for DVD-RAM. The back panel has two composite- and S-video inputs with stereo audio as well as a progressive-scan component-video output. There's also a set of front-panel inputs, including a FireWire (a.k.a. i.Link) port to feed in your camcorder footage. Price: $600.
The name says it all - Infinity's Total Solutions speaker system covers all the bases for a 5.1-channel home theater. The five magnetically shielded satellites each have a 3/4-inch tweeter and dual 3 1/2-inch midrange drivers, while the subwoofer has a 12-inch driver and a 250-watt amplifier. Each driver uses Infinity's Metal Matrix Diaphragm (MMD), based on a proprietary technology that anodizes both sides of an aluminum core to produce a rigid, lightweight material. Rated frequency response for the satellites is 120 Hz to 20 kHz ±3 dB, while the subwoofer is rated down to 34 Hz (±3 dB). A base for the center speaker and four swivel wall-mounting brackets are included. Floor stands are optional. The system comes in a platinum or charcoal finish. Price: $1,099.
That's no bowling ball - it's a subwoofer. B&W's Pressure Vessel design literally takes the edge off your sub, and the semispherical shape does away with internal standing waves. The PV1 is rated down to 21 Hz (±3 dB) but has "useful output" all the way to 18 Hz (-6 dB). In other words, you'll feel it as much as hear it. Dual 8-inch aluminum drivers are on opposite sides of the cabinet, and a recess on the bottom contains all controls and connectors, including RCA line-level inputs, a pass-through line output, and speaker-level inputs via an RJ-11 jack. The onboard amplifier is rated to deliver 500 watts. Finished in silver with gray trim, the PV1 measures about 13 inches in diameter and weighs 45 pounds. Price: $1,500.
To kick off what it calls the "vision era" of television, Panasonic is releasing its Viera line of flat-panel TVs this spring. The Viera TH-50PX25U/P plasma TV (shown) has a built-in HDTV tuner and an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) input, a new copy-protected connector that can carry both audio and video and is starting to appear on some DVD players. The 50-inch set also has a CableCARD slot, which enables it to receive scrambled digital cable channels without the need for a set-top cable box. Secure Digital (SD) and PC Card slots let you conveniently view digital photos on the TV. Contrast ratio is rated as 3,000:1. Price: $8,500; optional Viera stand, $899.
In addition to Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6 processing (including DTS 7.1 Matrix) for 5.1- to 7.1-channel playback from two- and four-channel sources, NAD's T 773 receiver includes proprietary EARS processing. EARS is said to create more "natural" surround sound from two-channel sources. And by surround sound, we're talking seven channels of amplification rated at 110 watts each. The amp's PowerDrive circuitry automatically adjusts the amplifier's power supply based on the speakers' impedance for optimum performance. There's a second pair of front-channel speaker outputs for a second zone, and you can store five different A/V presets, which include things like speaker level, distance, and sound processing. The three component-video inputs let you switch HDTV signals. Price: $1,799.
Once you've checked that big-screen HDTV monitor off your list, you'll need a digital TV tuner like the RCA DTC 210 to pull in high-def broadcasts. The set-top box can receive terrestrial HDTV programming as well as DirecTV satellite offerings, and a standard analog tuner complements the digital one. An integrated program guide has seven-day listings for both over-the-air and DirecTV programs. Digital video can be output in the 1080i, 720p, 480p, or 480i formats, and the analog outputs will simultaneously feed standard-def video to a VCR or a second TV. Video connectors include DVI (Digital Visual Interface), component, and VGA, plus there are optical and coaxial digital audio outputs. The supplied remote control operates with both infrared and RF signals so you can use it just about anywhere. Price: $599.
Get rid of those black bars forever with Plastract's STR-42663104P plasma TV. Out of the box, the 42-inch screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio - just right for HDTV and most DVDs. But as soon as you switch to 4:3 material, the retractable top rises, extending the screen to the perfect shape. Detection circuitry automatically scans the proportions of any incoming signal and adjusts the screen shape to match. For video with aspect ratios wider than 16:9, the set comes preprogrammed with thousands of pan-and-scan codes so it can fillet flicks on the fly. There's even a square setting for when you want to play the included digital chess game. Resolution varies from 1,366 x 768 to 1,366 x 1,366. Price: TBA April 1.
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