Of the several good test DVDs available for optimizing the audio and video performance of a home theater system, the best known are <I>Digital Video Essentials</I> and the <I>Avia Guide to Home Theater</I>. Either will guide a consumer, step by step if necessary, to get the most from his or her equipment, particularly the video. In fact, most serious videophiles probably own both DVDs, along with a copy of DVE's predecessor, <I>Video Essentials</I>.
<I>Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Hiroyuki Sanada, Koyuki. Directed by Edward Zwick. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French). Two discs. 154 minutes. 2003. Warner Home Video 28383. R. $29.95.
It's a new world. Though many of us lament the passing of the CRT as the premier video-display technology in most manufacturers' catalogs, that passing is happening rapidly. One of the favored alternatives is LCD, in both flat-panel and rear-projection designs. The latter, which use small LCD panels in conjunction with a projection lamp and optical path, are at present the more economical of the two—particularly in the larger screen sizes.
After a brief flirtation with LCoS, Thomson has chosen Texas Instruments' DLP for their high-end RCA Scenium line of rear-projection televisions. Even CRT fans must admit that DLP has some advantages. It usually produces a sharper, brighter image than any but the best, most expensive CRT designs. Big-screen DLP models are smaller and weigh less than their tube-based counterparts. And it's even possible to build DLP sets that are almost as shallow as plasmas. Thomson plans to introduce such thin DLP models this fall.
<I>Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou, Sarah Bolger, Emma Bolger. Directed by Jim Sheridan. Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 (anamorphic), 4:3 (full screen). Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (Spanish, French). 105 minutes. 2002. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment 2221671. PG-13. $27.98.
NEC's HT1100 DLP projector is the follow-up model to the company's well-received HT1000, reviewed in the July/August 2003 SGHT (review available at www.UltimateAVmag.com). Based on an NEC business design but refitted for home-theater use and remarkably compact for the performance it provided, the HT1000 went on to become our Editor's Choice Gold Award winner for 2004 (SGHT, January 2004).
The PE8700 DLP projector from BenQ has to qualify as the surprise product of early 2004. The first surprise is that it's made by a company I'd barely heard of before late last year. But with a claimed 13,000 employees worldwide, BenQ isn't exactly small. Its main corporate headquarters are in Taiwan, where the PE8700 is built.
<I>Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving. Directed by Andy & Larry Wachowski. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Surround 5.1 (English, French). Two discs. 129 minutes. 2003. Warner Home Entertainment 33209. R. $29.99.</I>