Home theater for the holidays

December 14, 2005

holiday plasmaIts hard to believe yet another year has flown by, but the calendar doesn’t lie and 2006 is just around the corner. 2005 was somewhat of a transitional year for home theater and more specifically HDTV. In years past we saw 480p based displays replaced by 720p, and now the end-game high definition resolution is at hand, namely 1080p.

So the overwhelming new trend for 2005 was definitely 1080p, but that’s not to say 1080p won’t see significant growth into 2006. This will undoubtedly be pushed along by whichever high definition DVD format comes out on top. So getting back to the point (yes I had one) let’s talk about some recommended home theater gear and trends that debuted in 2005.

Rear Projection DLP: While companies like Toshiba and Mitsubishi have made great strides of late (particularly Mitsubishi) I’m still recommending the Samsung line of rear projection DLP’s for their image quality, form factor, and reliability. The current “HLR” line of displays from Samsung all display 1080p to boot, they include:
HLR5078W 50″
HLR5678W 56″,
HLR6178W 61″
HLR7178W 71″

Plasma: 2005 again saw more refinement than revolution when it comes to plasma televisions, with the exception of a 65” monster from Panasonic. And once again I’m still unable to decide between Panasonic, Pioneer, or Hitachi as my favorite plasma manufacturers. Earlier in the year the nod would have gone to Pioneer for their build quality, overall performance and in-home repair policy, but recently I caught a few minutes of hi-def on a 55” Hitachi 55HDX61 and was quite simply blown away. My recommendations on upper-end plasma’s this year are, Panasonic (Great black level), Pioneer (2 year in-home service) and Hitachi (possibly the best plasma image I’ve seen).

Projectors: 1080p even found its way to projectors this year (technically 2004, but we’re talking about projectors normal folk might be able to afford). To say the Sony VPL-VW100 has caused a stir in the home theater world would be akin to saying that Peter Jackson made a lil’ film about a monkey; no we’re talking KING KONG stir here. This projector will likely be responsible for adjusting DLP projector price points for the coming months if not years. Yes, all reports indicate that it really is that good and is definitely worth an audition if you’re in the market for a medium to high end video projector.

Audio: Ahh audio. I really wish I could remember where I saw an ad that said (paraphrasing), “If you think the image is all that matters, try watching your next movie with the sound off”. Anyway, the statement couldn’t be truer. For years now everyone’s clamored for the newest, flattest, brightest image possible, often times spending the lions share of their budget on the video and skimping on the audio. I suppose it’ll be a few more years before the display hysteria wears off, but in the meantime there were a few advancements in home cinema audio. On the format end of things Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD were introduced, but these formats won’t saturate the market until HD-DVD/Blu-ray become commonplace.

One trend in audio/video that we’ll see more and more of is HDMI connections on receivers, displays and source components. This one cable for audio and video should simplify connections even for novices. XM radio in receivers also looks as if it’s ready to become more commonplace, but HD-Radio is waiting in the wings as well. I think these premium radio services still have ways to go before one becomes the clear choice for consumers, but early signs do point to XM.

Integration: One word, iPod. Or is that two? Anyway iPod integration was everywhere this year. From Harman Kardon receivers to the iPort, it just makes sense to allow end users fast, easy access to their music collection via a quick connection to the rest of the system. Look for this type of interface to pop up on even more CE products in 2006.

So there are a few of my picks for the biggest Home Theater / Consumer electronics trends of 2005, as well as some of the better buys among them. 2006 looks as if it’ll be an even bigger year for home entertainment, with high definition DVD finally reaching the shelves and 1080p display technology gaining an even stronger foothold.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater Equipment


  • ScottP

    Thanks for another year of great advice!

  • ScottP

    Thanks for another year of great advice!