Back in October 2004, we tested the ZVOX audio system, an all-in-one "virtual" surround option for those who want something better than built-in TV speakers. Now comes the $199 ZVOX mini audio system, a shrunk-down, portable version intended to provide sound for music players like the iPod or for TVs.
Right now is a great time to buy an HDTV. Why? Because prices have dropped to where many people can actually afford one. Another reason: the explosion of choices brought on by recent advances in technology. From compact flat-panel TVs with 20-inch screens to expansive rear-projection sets with 70-inch or larger displays, there's an HDTV out there custom-made for you. But which one?
Apple's computers have always been audio- and video-friendly, but the company has mostly left the home entertainment part of the equation up to third-party developers. Although an Apple hard-disk video recorder or music server has seemed like an obvious thing for Steve Jobs to trot out, year after year there's been nothing but new (and very welcome) takes on the iPod.
When DVD appeared in early 1997, it didn't take much prodding for people to trash their collections of primitive VHS tapes and embrace the shiny new disc. The dramatic boost in picture and sound quality had a lot to do with it - when experienced on a widescreen TV along with 5.1-channel sound, watching a DVD was almost like sitting in a movie theater.
Here's the deal: It's late, the kid's in bed, the wife is reading, and I'm dying to watch the new Rob Zombie gorefest The Devil's Rejects on DVD. No chance of firing up the full surround sound rig under such conditions, but, hey, there's Dolby Headphone.
The compact Targus SoundUP iPod sound enhancer plugs into any third- or fourth-generation iPod or iPod photo and is said to "recreate studio-quality sound" from digitally compressed music. That's a big claim for such a little device - one we had to check out.
By now, LCD technology has all but taken over the small-screen TV category. You can still buy a small traditional tube set, but most folks looking for a TV to stick in a bedroom or kids' play area will find LCD more appealing. The main reason, of course, is the space-saving flat-panel screen.