The Home Theater Experience

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What About a Projector?

If you truly want that movie-theater experience, your best option isn't a TV set at all, but a digital HD projector. These projectors can typically be installed on your ceiling or some elevated spot behind the sofa, and they can project images onto a white screen or nearby blank wall. Images generated by a projector can get very big--for instance, 110 diagonal inches across--so they dwarf even the biggest HD plasma sets. Without a doubt, a projector is your best bet if you're looking for the ultimate big-screen experience (and you have the room to use it). At the same time, the drawbacks to a projector system can be sizeable too.

For starters, their images don't hold up very well in anything but a very dimly lit or dark room. Second, models can range in price from a couple of thousand dollars, such as the Panasonic PT-AE500U or the Sony Cineza VPL-HS10 LCD Projector, to above $10,000, such as the IVision HD projector. The fluctuation in price can be attributed to factors such as the projector's relative color fidelity and lamp brightness (the brighter the lamp, the easier the image is to see in rooms with some light).

Speaking of lamps, here's one "gotcha" to consider--a projector lamp (the big light bulb inside a projector) has a limited shelf life of anywhere from 1000 to 4000 hours, depending on the projector. As a lamp reaches its life expectancy, it will get dimmer and dimmer, and need replacing. Expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $700 for a new lamp.

In addition to the projector itself, you'll probably want a white movie screen to project onto, and these can cost as much as $1000. (Some screens are fixed, while others roll up and down electronically.) Finally, it's hard to integrate a projector into everyday living rooms, due to the size of the image you want to project. Projectors also require extensive cabling to attach to your DVD player. That's why many projectors often find their homes in rooms dedicated to movie viewing and nothing else.

Extra HD Equipment

DVD movies aside, if you want to watch TV on your high-definition set, you'll need an HD receiver that can receive TV signals. Some HD sets have receivers built into them, while others (HD monitors) don't. But receivers are easy to come by--if you order TV service through a cable or satellite TV provider (especially appealing now that many premium channels are broadcasting in HD), they'll provide you with a receiver. If you don't want to pay for extra TV services such as these, you can buy an HD receiver for your television, which lets it pick up network and public HD broadcasts.

At a Glance
  • Sony WEGA KF-42WE610 42'' LCD Projection TV

  • V Inc Bravo D2 DVD Player

  • Samsung TX-P2675WH 26

  • Philips 30PW8402

  • Sony WEGA KE32TS2 32'' Plasma TV

  • Fujitsu P63XHA30WS

  • Panasonic PT-47X54 47

  • JVC AV-65WP94

  • Panasonic PT-AE500U Projector

  • Sony Cineza VPL-HS10 LCD Projector

  • iVision HD Projector

  • Denon DVD-1200 DVD Player

  • Samsung DVD-HD841 DVD Player

  • Onkyo LS-V955 Home Theater

  • JVC TH-M55 Home Theater

  • Panasonic SC-HT700 Home Theater

  • Sharp AQUOS LC-37HV4U 37'' LCD TV

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