Choose Your Own HD Adventure Page 2

FAR The bigger your room, the farther you're likely to sit from the TV. So it follows that you'll need a bigger screen. It also follows that, if you have a larger room, you'll probably be doing some entertaining. The best way to keep your friends from moving the party elsewhere is to get yourself a TV with a nice, big screen.

I can control the room light The litmus test for a "light controlled" room used to be, "Can you get the room so dark you can't see the hand in front of your face?" But newer, brighter technologies mean your room doesn't have to be pitch black. While the ideal room is windowless, has a single entrance that's closed during viewing, and has a dark color scheme, this is the real world, and "light controlled" means just that. If your room has windows (or skylights) or multiple entrances, you might still answer Yes if you can darken the space with drapes. But if the room is only dark at night, take the No path. YES | NO

I usually watch with the room dark Just because you can get your room dark doesn't mean you prefer to watch that way. If you like to work on your laptop, read a magazine, or balance the checkbook while you watch HBO HDTV, journey down the No path. But if you prefer a theater experience, watching with the lights low or off completely, then your destiny lies ...down Yes. YES | NO

YES

Sub $2,500 EDTV Projector Since you sit back from your screen and watch in the dark, get a front projector. But beware: Budget models are often designed for business presentations, where brightness is key, and not movie watching, where rich colors are king. Get one that uses a 16:9 widescreen chip. (Some chips produce squarish 4:3 images, which aren't ideal for DVD and HDTV.) Start with models from InFocus, Optoma, and Sharp.

$2,500 to $7,000 HDTV Projector Your room is ideal for entertaining, and with the lights out you can create the perfect home theater. Projectors in this range boast 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution, with pixels so small you'll never notice them. DLP models using last year's HD2+ chipset are a good value and available from many companies. Also consider LCD projectors from Sony and Yamaha.

$7,000+ High-End projector It takes about 10 grand to get the latest technologies ­- like TI's Dark Chip 3, which delivers deep, uniform blacks - or LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) models with 1080p resolution. Spending more will give you better lenses, lamps, and processing. Yamaha, Marantz, Sharp, Runco, JVC, and InFocus play here. For ultimate performance, go with reference-quality models like Sony's Qualia 004, which uses proprietary SXRD technology, or Runco's VX-2C, a three-chip DLP design.

NO

Thin Is In Viewing time is time spent with the kids, reading the mail, or noshing on mini-cheeses. And you don't want to watch in a dark cave, so forget about a front projector. But you've come to a fork in the road. One path leads to flat-panel sets, the other to rear-projection TVs. So, what's the answer - is thin in? YES | NO

NO

Sub $2,500 Large CRT rear-pro TV With their deep blacks, CRT rear-pro sets offer the ultimate home theater return on investment. In this range, you can enjoy no-compromise HD images on screens approaching 60 inches. Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and Sony still make large CRT sets.

$2,500 to $4,000 50- to 60-inch LCD or DLP rear-pro TV If you sit 10 or more feet from your set in a room with ambient lighting, you'll need a TV that can hold its own. By opting not to go with a flat panel, you'll enjoy a cinematic screen size at about a quarter of the price - but you won't have to sacrifice performance! Your first stop: DLP sets with 1080p resolution from Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Samsung, and HP. Also check out LCoS-based 1080p models from JVC and Sony.

$4,000+ 70-inch 1080p DLP or LCoS rear-pro TV With one of these ultra-bright sets, you can enjoy near front-projection sizes - up to 82 inches! - without having to sit in the dark. Their 1080p resolution squeezes every ounce of detail from both DVDs and HDTV. Look for marquee models from manufacturers like Mitsubishi (Diamond Series), Toshiba (Cinema Series), JVC, and Sony (Qualia).

YES

Sub $3,500 Sorry! You've reached a dead end! Flat panels are a lot of things - bright, detailed, and sexy as hell - but cheap they're not. You need a bigger screen for your room, but no flat-panel sets exist in this price range. Consider opting for a rear-pro set.

$3,500 to $7,000 50-inch Plasma You like to watch with the lights on, and nothing handles screen glare - or off-angle viewing - better than a plasma TV. A decent-size set cost about $10,000 two years ago, but today you can enjoy an ultra-cool 50-inch set for less than half that. With blacks continually improving - and life expectancy up to 60,000 hours! - sets by Pioneer, Hitachi, Toshiba, and Samsung deserve a serious look.

$7,000+ 60-inch+ Plasma With flat panels, the bigger they are, the harder the dollars fall. When you're considering spending as much for a TV as you would for a budget-priced import car, you should expect the best, and these babies deliver. You can get big-screen plasmas from Pioneer, Fujitsu, LG, Mitsubishi, and Runco. If you have the rarefied means, check out Sharp's brand-new 65-inch LCD, featuring 1080p resolution.

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