With its fold-down front panel and uninspiring plastic case, the Sanyo PLV-Z3 suggests nothing so much as a large (okay, very large) clock radio. In a world where, not so very long ago, video projectors were expected to require three or four strong longshoremen to deliver and set up, the newest digital designs still generate a sense of wonder. Even now, audiophiles continue to equate size and mass with quality, and "longer, lower, wider" are still the watchwords with car enthusiasts (though it's no longer politically correct to actually say so in polite company).
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/headshot150.tjn.jpg" WIDTH=150 HEIGHT=194 HSPACE=6 VSPACE=4 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT>It never ends. Today's fast-changing AV scene constantly generates an ongoing flow of myths, legends, and other blather that either arises spontaneously or is deliberately manufactured to push the bewildered consumer toward a certain product or technology. I'll make a valiant attempt here to explode a few of these video urban legends, nevertheless secure in the knowledge that, like Don Quixote, I'll find an endless supply of new windmills just down the road.
Take a minute to look at the measurement box. Keep in mind that this is an LCD-based product. At 0.003 foot-lamberts, the VPL-HS51 is only 0.001 ft-L higher than the Yamaha DLP projector that's also in this issue. Not bad for a projector that's less than a third of the Yamaha's price. And did I mention it's an LCD? Impressive.
While plasma and LCD flat-panel TVs get all of the media attention these days as "must-have" products, they're still rather high on the dollars-per-square-foot scale. Mitsubishi's HC900 blows the glass guys out of the water in terms of visual area capability per dollar spent and shows that the transition from the boardroom-presentation-projector market to the home theater venue can have significant benefits for the savvy home-cinema shopper.
My medication is obviously not working because I'm still talking to myself. Marveling at the redesigned PlayStation 2's jaw-droppingly slender form factor for about 10 minutes straight, I caught myself actually saying "Wow" out loud, even though I was alone. It's comparable in size to a paperback book, but it reminds me more of a portable DVD player, sans screen, in black. While some of the accessories designed for use with the original PS2 are not compatible with this new design (the vertical stand and the Multitap to allow four players instead of the standard two, although new versions of each are now available), I was happy to find that my step-up Monster Game products all still fit. The digital optical cable and component video adapter plugged into the obvious places, while the replacement AC cable now patches into the breakout AC adapter (the 8.5-volt power supply is now located outside the console, which is another secret to the PS2's profound weight loss). At just 2 pounds, it's half as heavy as its former incarnation and takes up one-quarter the space, leaving me with vast amounts of open air in my under-TV gear stack after a quick, new-for-old PS2 swap. I do wish it had a catchier moniker, rather than simply "the 70000 Series."
If you're going to mess with the Kenwood HTB-S715DV, better put on your game face. This home-theater-in-a-box comes to play. The HTB-S715DV blends a 6.1-channel surround package with creature-comfort features for the gamer of the house. It's a modern-day multitasker, too. While you're grooving to "Nasty Girl," your favorite little game-boy or game-girl can play Pikmin 2 on the big screen while immersed, oblivious to the outside world, in the gaming sounds of the HTB-S715DV's Dolby Headphone technology.
It's a speaker system away from an HTIB, with more bang for the buck.
Back in the days before HTIBs, there was another kind of home-theater-in-a-box—better known as an A/V receiver. In this era of consolidation, we probably don't entirely grasp the impact that A/V receivers had when they debuted some 25 years ago. A preamplifier, processor, and amplifier all in one box (literally), with a radio tuner thrown in for good measure, was impressive stuff back in the early '80s. Receivers were the Swiss Army knives of home audio, and they, along with surround sound itself, are probably as responsible as anything for the audio explosion amongst the masses that we now know as home theater.
Here's a tip for home theater newbies: Don't shop for speakers using just your eyes. That advice holds true for any speaker, regardless of size or price; when it comes to what we euphemistically refer to as "lifestyle" speakers, though, please try to listen before you make a purchase, or you'll deserve what you get. Lifestyle-inflicted design compromises too often exact a toll on performance—skinny towers can sound undernourished, wall-mounted speakers can produce pancake-flat imaging, and pint-size satellites can come up short.
As a reviewer, my life is hard. I have to sit in air-conditioned rooms watching movies all day long. It's a tough job, but I labor through it just for you, our fearless reader. A bad day could be one where the product is cranky, doesn't calibrate well, or, even after a fair amount of tinkering, still only looks OK (or worse). Writing those reviews is "fun." Then there are the days when I get to sit down with a product like this one. This means day after day of coming to work, enjoying a few movies and TV, all on a display that, out of the box, looks fantastic.