All Systems Are Go! Page 3

The sub's amplifier is rated at 70 watts, and its cone is 10 inches, which should provide plenty of deep bass. One downside - the satellites aren't magnetically shielded, so you'll have to keep them away from the TV. And, of course, like any modest small-speaker ensemble, this one has its limits - it can play loud, but probably not loud enough to annoy the neighbors.

For your viewing pleasure, let's try the 36-inch RCA MM36110 multimedia monitor ($2,199, January). Its 4:3 aspect ratio screen can display a widescreen 1080i-format high-definition TV (HDTV) picture, but not with full resolution. The RCA set will accept progressive-scan component-video signals if you decide to upgrade to a DVD player with that capability, and it sports VGA-type jacks and USB ports for connecting a computer. Why would you want to hook up your TV to a computer? Well, so everyone can Web surf in the living room, for one thing. Reviewer Al Griffin pointed out that "the RCA did an excellent job of rendering fine text and graphics in both Web pages and word-processing documents." And he was pleased with the image quality overall. "In a high-def demo loop of Texas Wild . . . the familiar plants and critters looked crisp, with clean colors and eye-popping contrast."

The RCA set also features the free Guide Plus Gold interactive program guide, which displays listings for 48 hours ahead. The monitor doesn't have a line doubler, however, nor a 16:9 widescreen display mode, which shouldn't be a problem since the Sony DVD changer has better than average letterboxing capabilities. Finally, the Philips DSR6000 DirecTV receiver/TiVo recorder ($399, May) is a nice way to take this system to the next level without spending a bundle. Once you pay the DirecTV programming and TiVo subscription fees, you'll get satellite access neatly integrated with time-shift recording. That means you can access a zillion (well, more than 200) channels and watch shows any time you want by simply dumping the satellite signal to TiVo's hard drive, which allows up to 35 hours of original-broadcast-quality recording. TiVo also lets you zap through commercials and watch football games in a fraction of their broadcast duration - it'll even search out programs you might like. Two bummers - there's only one Favorites list, and current systems won't let you watch one show while recording another (a planned satellite-delivered software upgrade will allow this).

Reviewer Teri Scaduto concluded that "placing the DirecTV and TiVo services together in the DSR6000 gave me the heady feeling of having absolute control over the entire spectrum of satellite-TV options. . . . Philips has melded DirecTV and TiVo into one smoothly operating system - with one number to call for support and one monthly bill. It's a match made in TV heaven."

  • RCA MM36110 multimedia monitor ($2,199) | 317-587-4450
  • Philips DSR6000 DirecTV receiver and TiVo recorder ($400) | 800-531-0039
  • Sony DVP-CX870D 301-disc DVD changer ($799) | 800-222-7669
  • Denon AVR-3801 digital surround receiver ($1,199) | 973-396-0810
  • B&W DM 303 satellite speakers, LCR 3 center speaker, and ASW 500 subwoofer ($1,270) | 978-664-2870