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Entertain yourself

Big-screen TVs, game consoles and home-theatre systems — home entertainment is a lot more than just staring at a television for hours on end. It is about having fun, but now fun is available in crystal-clear highdefinition with 7.1 surround sound and in massive screen sizes.

Kushan Mitra | Print Edition: July 15, 2007

Buying a television?

Chances are that if you are buying a television, you will be buying a new flat panel device, either a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) or a Plasma screen. So, what are the things you should keep in mind?

Size:

Size matters in two ways; because a flat panel takes up less space and displays images in highdefinition, large screen sizes can make a huge impact. However, that does not mean that you buy something larger than you need. For a small room, a 26 inch or 32 inch LCD TV does just fine. But a 40-inch television is what you need in the larger master bedroom, and if you like watching movies in the drawing room on your home theatre system, invest in a large 50-inch Plasma TV.

Plasma or LCD:

There is no straight answer to this, but the rule of thumb is simple. Larger screen sizes tend to be better on Plasma screens since few LCD panels are made in very large screen sizes. However, LCD screens are cheaper and better for smaller sizes (up to 42 inches), particularly since they consume less electricity. However, Plasma screens tend to display better images, because of traditionally higher contrast ratios and fast refresh rates. LCD televisions, on the other hand, have longer lives. But technology on both fronts has evolved; so both LCD and Plasma TVs are getting better, and you should consider both carefully (See Format Wars, BT More, dated June-July 2007) before zeroing in on one or the other.

Contrast ratio:

What on earth is that? Well, it is the difference in intensity between the whitest white and darkest black on your screen. There are no industry-mandated tests, so numbers quoted by manufacturers can be quite different. However, no matter what the results, keep in mind that those numbers apply in “test conditions”, much like optimum mileage on a car. So, to check for contrast ratio, always try out the TV properly in a showroom, and it is always a good idea to take along a couple of DVDs down to the store to try them out.

Home Theatre System

First things first, you have to decide if you really need a fancy surroundsound system in your house. While TV speakers rarely make the grade because of thin construction and the resulting “tinny” noise (TV speakers can’t really provide depth of sound), hooking up a fancy 5.1 Dolby Surround System in a small room can defeat the purpose. In smaller rooms, a basic two-speaker set-up does the job fine—often better than a 5.1 surround system. If you do have a large room, always have an engineer inspect the room before installing a sound system.

With the latest movies, such as the bloody blockbuster 300 using sound intensely, a badly installed sound system can ruin the movie experience. The best sound systems for the purpose are still made by specialist companies such as Bose and Onkyo. The latter even has some moderately priced products.

However, for those on a budget, Home-Theatre-in-a-Box (HTIB) systems from most large consumer electronics players are available for under Rs 30,000 (some systems cost less than Rs 15,000) which deliver reasonable sound.

DVD Players

Pop down to your local electronics store and you will probably find a DVD player from some unknown brand for under Rs 2,000, but if you want to invest in a good player, buy an “Upscaling” DVD player from one of better-known brands.

“Upscaling” DVD players improve the image from DVD to take advantage of HD-ready TVs. These players from LG, Samsung and Sony cost only a wee bit more than regular DVD players and are definitely worth the extra dosh.

However, with Blu-Ray (BR) discs and HD-DVDs becoming more popular, you may consider investing in a next-generation media player. However, it will be a good idea to wait a while, because next-generation media is not available in India as yet and, the format war is far from decided.

Game Consoles

Do you really need a game console? To know the answer to that, we have to ask you another question: did you have fun playing as a kid and do you still have a bit of that competitive spirit left in you? If you do, or even if you’re a new convert, a game console might be a good investment to make. Gaming can be fascinating and can relieve stress after a hard day’s work and also offer an avenue for you to compete with your friends and bond with your kids. Sure, anything in excess is not good, but great titles on both the Microsoft Xbox360 (Rs 23,990) and the Sony PS3 (Rs 39,990) make these consoles great investments for the modern male of the species (and some women, too).

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