Thomas J. Norton

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 19, 2011 0 comments
Blu is a companion to Linda, and the two are inseparable. But when Brazilian ornithologist Tulio shows up, Linda learns that Blu is the only male blue macaw in existence and must mate to save the species. Linda reluctantly agrees, and she, Blu, and Tulio set off to Rio de Janeiro. This leads to events Linda never dreamed of back home in Moose Lake, Minnesocold. And when birdnappers, together with a particularly nasty jailbird, enter Blu’s world, his adventures parallel hers.

Produced by Blue Sky Studios, the computer animation house behind the successful Ice Age franchise, Rio’s story line doesn’t feel all that promising at first. But it grows on you. While 2011 hasn’t yet equaled 2010 for potential entries in the animation hall of fame, a chameleon, a panda, and now a macaw are more than enough to keep the current golden age of computer animation firing on all cylinders.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 12, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Setup
Value
Price: $2,699 At A Glance: Gets the black bars out • Solid value • Minor uniformity issues

Elite Screens may be less well known than some of the bigger names in the business, but they offer a wide range of projection screens for every application. Since their products are manufactured in China, they’re more than competitive in price. But this limits their ability to offer customization, such as sizes not included in their standard lineup.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 15, 2011 2 comments

Performance
Value
Build Quality
Price: $3,095 At a Glance: Superior left-center-right uniformity • Excellent imaging and depth • Outstanding value

When Portland, Oregon–based Aperion Audio began selling speakers about 10 years ago, its business plan was simple: design the speakers here, build them where manufacturing costs are low (China—as with many of today’s speakers), and sell direct to buyers to avoid the middlemen—distributors and conventional dealers.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 09, 2011 3 comments
The trademarked Elite name is still used by its owner, Pioneer, for a variety of products. But the company dropped its video-display business over two years ago. At that time, the Elite Kuro plasmas were widely considered, by us and many others, to be the best HDTVs available. Though they are no longer made, many observers still consider those last Pioneer Kuros better than any flat panel HDTV you can buy today.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 03, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,100 At A Glance: Bright, pleasing picture • Crisp detail • Poor contrast • Highly reflective screen

We’re reasonably certain that most folks looking for a budget HDTV probably aren’t poring through the pages of enthusiast publications like Home Theater for advice. If they’re researching at all, they’re studying the easy-to-digest bubble ratings in Consumer Reports or Which Video, or Googling generic consumer-help Websites.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 01, 2011 10 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Crisp, detailed images • Odd gammas in Custom mode • Little to complain about • Exceptional value

Panasonic means plasma. Yes, the company now offers a line of LCD displays, but only in smaller sizes. If you want a 50-inch or larger Panasonic, it will be a plasma. And that's not a bad thing. The TC-P50ST30 is Panasonic's latest, budget-priced, 50-inch 3D model. Only a few short years ago, you couldn't touch this level of quality in a 2D-only flat panel for five times the price—or more.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 01, 2011 4 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,900 At A Glance: Good blacks and shadow detail • Odd gammas in Custom mode • THX certified • Uniformity and calibration issues

The GT30 line is the baby bear in Panasonic's range of 3D plasma HDTVs—not to expensive, not too bargain-basement, but, for many buyers, just right. And at 50 inches, one of today's most popular sizes, the P50GT30 lands right in the sweet spot. But does it offer more than Panasonic's entry-level ST30, perhaps even challenging the pricier VT30 lineup? We're here to find out.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 01, 2011 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,800 At A Glance: Accurate color points • Odd gammas in Custom mode • THX certified • Best black level and shadow detail

Deciding among Panasonic's range of 3D plasma sets can be more than a little intimidating. But it's a Sunday stroll through the park compared to choosing from the bewildering flood of 3D LCD flat panels that glut the market. And for buyers who want a bigger plasma, Panasonic's top-of-the-line VT30 range—including its smallest member, the 55-inch P55VT30 reviewed here—pushes the envelope in both performance and features.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 22, 2011 0 comments
Price: $3,600 At A Glance: Superb resolution • Precise color • Bright, ghost-free 3D • Non-uniform screen lighting

Thin, Dark, and Handsome

Thin was in last year, and the trend continues without an end in sight. Manufacturers aren’t likely to quit the race until they have HDTVs you can use for wallpaper.

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 06, 2011 5 comments
Recently, I was doing some online research for my review of the new, Extended Edition The Lord of the Rings Blu-ray boxed set, which will appear in the October 2011 issue of Home Theater magazine. A search for director Peter Jackson produced a pile of information. Jackson today doesn't look as much like a slightly oversized Hobbit as he did when the show was in production (Jenny Craig got to him, or something). His earliest cinematic fascination was with gross-out horror—an interest clearly reflected in the designs for the Orcs and other nasties in Rings. There's a particularly disgusting added sequence near the end of the Extended Edition of The Return of the King that clearly shows this fixation is far from conquered. If "The Mouth of Sauron" is any indication, Sauron and his minions need a much better dental plan.

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