HDTV Showcase

For more than a decade, the arrival of high-definition television was trumpeted with all the bluster of a carnival barker and the sincerity of a contestant on a reality-TV dating show. But HDTV is finally here, fueled by an increase in programming, falling TV prices, growing availability over satellite and cable - and, oh yeah, a federal mandate that says broadcasters have to switch over to digital by the end of 2006. In fact, sales of digital TVs really took off this year, showing that people have begun to embrace HDTV.

Not surprisingly, this surge in popularity has had a big impact on custom installation, where people are always looking for the latest innovations. Installations of traditional analog TVs are increasingly rare, while big-screen HDTVs are becoming the order of the day. Since the people who go to installers tend to be among the earliest adopters of new home-entertainment technologies, we decided to check out some showcase high-def installations, choosing the best efforts of three specialty dealers: Magnolia Hi-Fi Design Center in Seattle, Ultimate Electronics in Denver, and Harvey Electronics in New York City. These efforts not only highlight the latest plasma and projection displays but also the challenges all of us face when setting up any HDTV.

Installation #1: Harvey Electronics in New York City Installation #2: Ultimate Electronics in Denver Installation #3: Magnolia Hi-Fi Design Center in Seattle