The Home Theater Experience

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The DVD Player

Once you've chosen a TV or projector, your next move in setting up a home theater system is selecting a DVD player. All DVD players strive for superior image quality, and some advertise unique technologies that add a little oomph. For instance, a player like the Denon DVD-1200 sport a Faroudja chip, which gives DVD video a more film-like frame rate and sharper imagery. Other players, such as V Inc.'s Bravo D2 and Samsung's DVD-HD841, feature technology that scales a standard-definition DVD's picture up to the higher resolutions offered by HD sets and projectors (all commercial DVDs today are encoded at the lower resolution of standard-definition TVs).

But honestly, more often then not, the differences between one player and another are not readily apparent in everyday movie watching. In fact, the difference is much less dramatic than what you would notice when watching a standard-definition TV broadcast versus one in high definition. It's possible that a trained eye may spot small improvements delivered by high-end DVD players. But most movie fans are more likely to get caught up in a movie's story instead of noting slight picture nuances delivered by one DVD player compared with the next.

Choose Progressive Scan

That said, the one technology you do want to see in any home theater DVD player is progressive scan. While progressive scan can't make images look any better on an older, analog CRT TV set, it can create a sharper picture on digital HD sets. It does this by eliminating the interlaced scan lines that make up standard video. You may be able to see these lines if you look closely at a standard TV tube's screen, where the image seems to be split by thin, dark horizontal lines. Progressive-scan DVD players eliminate these lines in your movies, giving you a cleaner picture.

One more thing to consider before buying a DVD player: Some inexpensive home theater speaker systems actually include DVD players built into their receivers. We'll talk about these sound systems later, but if you're on a real budget, you might consider one of these cost-saving options.

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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