Sony and Zenith have enviable records in the world of DirecTV and digital television set-top boxes. Sony's first such product, the SAT-HD100, was among the best on the market, with topnotch performance and a host of enviable features. That receiver, along with one by Panasonic, were the two most sensitive I had ever seen. And while the Sony had some problems, among them a noisy fan and the lack of aspect-ratio control, last year I judged it the best of a troubled lot.
In fall 1998 through early 1999—the early days of digital television—every maker of high-definition sets was making large, expensive rear-projection models. That is, every maker but one: Sony. Their first direct-view, widescreen, high-definition set, the great-grandfather of the model reviewed here, was the KW-34HD1 FD Trinitron, which I reviewed in the May 1999 <I>SGHT</I>. It cost $8999, and was among the best direct-view televisions I have ever had the pleasure of watching.
The Interpreter is a "diplomatic thriller," if such a thing is possible. And, having been a diplomatic correspondent for several years, I can tell you, the thrills, on the rare occasions they can be found, are wholly intellectual. And so it is with this movie. It offers a long, long windup to a fairly tame denouement.
They've almost become ubiquitous, these 16:9, 34-inch direct-view HDTVs. When the first one came out in 1999 from Sony, it cost $8000, in part because it was the only direct-view HDTV available. In the five years since, most other manufacturers have jumped into this market. Prices have plummeted, and the general quality of the offerings has soared (although that original Sony remains the best one I've ever seen). Most manufacturers are now offering third- or even fourth-generation products in this category.
Like many of you, I assume, a welter of remotes sits on the table next to my TV watching chair. Among them are remotes for the TV, the preamp/processor, the DVR, three DVD players, a CD player ... nine in all.
VInc. is a new company with a filial relationship to Princeton Graphics, a maker of computer displays and a line of commercial DTVs. The companies share a major investor in William Wang, and V Inc. has ambitious plans for the world of consumer electronics.
VIZIO always offers surprisingly good products at extraordinary prices, and this new 42-inch plasma is no exception. It is loaded with features and comes at a price that used to be far, far below the competition. It lists for $1,699.99 and was on sale in March (for the NCAA basketball tournament) at about $200 less.
LCD monitors are undergoing something of a resurgence, buoyed by the popularity of LCD computer screens and the rush to ever-bigger plasma displays. From the front, big LCDs like this one look something like a plasma sitting happily on a table, though a peek around back reveals that they're not hang-on-the-wall thin. They're also quite a bit cheaper than plasmas. This one costs $5999 and is just 171/2 inches deep, compared to roughly $15,000 or more for a 60-inch, high-definition-capable plasma that is typically between 3 and 4 inches deep. So while buyers can get something like the feel of a plasma for about a third the price, they have to live with the technical limitations of LCD, just as plasma buyers live with the limitations of that technology.
More than a year ago, Zenith shook up the world of plasma televisions by introducing the DPD60W, the first 60-inch model—a behemoth that seemed to fill up a room. For Zenith, it was a statement product and a wonder to behold, though its performance problems held it back from the first rank of plasma displays (see the review in the January 2002 <I>SGHT</I>, also available archived at <A HREF="http://www.guidetohometheater.com">www.guidetohometheater.com</A>).