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Tips and Solutions

The giant balloons in the Thanksgiving Day Parade cry out to be seen on a big screen. The roar of a football game shouts surround sound. Classic holiday movies demand to be seen anew in high definition. And home videos and digital slide shows of gatherings past signal family members to come to the sofa.

The holidays and home theater were made for each other. After all, when the eating's done, it's then that sports nuts and movie connoisseurs get down to some serious holiday viewing. Unless you're a video equipment enthusiast, though, creating a crowd pleasing system can be as elusive as putting together the perfect black truffle soufflé.

Setting up a home theater isn't difficult once you understand how each component contributes to the big picture. Here's grandma's recipe for what you need – or what someone you know deserves.

One TV Screen

There seem to be as many flat screen choices as boxes in the cereal aisle. Don't despair. Your first choice should be a known brand featuring "Full HD" resolution, meaning if you counted the number of picture elements, you'd find 1920 pixels across and 1080 pixels down. The bigger the screen, the more you'll appreciate the lifelike quality of high definition programs. So, a 40-inch model (measured diagonally) is an entry point, but a 50-incher is even better.

LCD and plasma technologies have become such strong performers that you can't go wrong with either type of TV. One example is the Samsung LN40A650, a 40-inch LCD model. Another is the Panasonic TH-50PZ85U Viera 50-inch plasma HDTV. Both come with built-in stands for placement on furniture, but the stand can be removed if you'd prefer an optional wall mount.

Samsung LN40A650
Samsung LN40A650

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1 year ago
Tips and Solutions

Families with digital cameras take thousands of pictures but banish most to a computer hard drive never to be seen again. They never make the connection that their home theaters are digital photo-ready. This despite the fact that gathering people on the couch for a slide show was second-nature a generation ago, especially after a vacation or during the holidays. With some advance planning, setting up and running a picture show is a lot less labor intensive than dragging a mechanical projector and retractable screen out of the closet each time you want to impress the neighbors.

Loading slides correctly was a hassle before the show turned digital.

Today, your big screen is already in place. And with that bright display, you don't even have to dim the lights. So why wait? Here are five ways to do it.

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1 year ago
Hands-on Review


The product is called FlipShare TV, a white box about the size of a three-waffle stack. It plugs into a conventional TV with an included composite video/stereo cable or HDTV using an optional HDMI cable to wirelessly receive videos and photos directly from a computer. You attach the Bic lighter-like transmitter, called the USB key, to your Windows or Mac computer, which can be in a nearby room. Then, you point the infrared remote (two AAA batteries are included) at the white box, known as the TV Base, making it possible to run the show without getting up.

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2 years ago
Tips and Solutions

So you bought your HDTV set before built-in USB ports, digital media playback, and network connectivity became all the rage? No problem. By attaching the right peripheral, your home theater or bedroom TV can be as up-to-date as the latest Internet-savvy set.

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2 years ago
Tips and Solutions

The most compelling technology story of 2009 was actually a marketing story. Samsung nearly single-handedly managed to re-label an emerging category of LCD TVs as LED TVs. The campaign was Initially received by tech-knowledgeable consumers and Samsung’s competitors as unorthodox at best, misleading at worst. After all, Samsung was still selling LCD TVs no matter whether florescent- or LED-backlit. But as the year unfolded the outrage subsided and competitors started adopting the same terminology as a brilliant marketing strategy.

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4 years ago
Buying Guide

Use it or lose it is what they say about fruit, milk, and cable TV. Unless you're a vegan or feed lots of mouths, the larger chunk of the family budget likely goes toward your cable subscription. A typical household can easily spend some $1,000 a year on cable TV channels. But unlike the money paid for a new TV set, what do you have to show for paying last month's cable bill? This month's cable bill!

So, considering the unremitting drain on your resources, you might be interested in ways to increase the value of what your cable dollar buys. One way is to record and stockpile as many shows as you can, assuming someone in your household will eventually watch them or will want to watch them again. Even if you have only one HDTV set, you'd be prudent to arm it with a dual-tuner digital video recorder (DVR). Two tuners enable you to record programs from two different channels at once, even while you're watching something completely different that was recorded earlier. The most advanced set-top boxes rented by cable companies come with about 160 Gigabytes, sufficient for storing perhaps 20 hours of high-def shows. That's not a lot considering how many new and returning series, movies, and sports events vie for your attention every day.

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4 years ago
Tips and Solutions

Nearly 72 percent of online households log on for entertainment purposes every day, according to the Conference Board. They stream episodes of cable TV programs like The Daily Show, watch YouTube clips, and download video podcasts. Even without the Internet, you may have transferred hours of family camcorder footage now buried on the computer's hard drive. Suddenly, it's easy to see your computer as a versatile source component for your big screen TV. Too bad the PC is shackled to a desk in a different room, and show time in the home office amounts to people standing behind your chair squinting at the small screen.

It doesn't have to be that way, especially during the holidays or any home gathering. Here are three ways to view computer content in the more accommodating setting of your living room and home theater:

  • Connect a computer directly to your TV
  • Attach a media receiver to a home network
  • Copy content and walk it over
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4 years ago