All in all, Sony's LCD models excel. We recommended them in last year's holiday gift guide, and we still can't find a cost-effective LCD product model lineup that beats them at displaying HDTV, DVD, and standard definition TV.
Over the summer, Sony released nine new high-end Bravia models (the W, XBR4 and XBR5 series), but they're pricey. The model we're recommending is the more economical 46-in. Sony Bravia LCD 1080p KDL-46V3000. It's this year's mild update of the KDL-46V2500, which Computerworld's Ken Mingis purchased late last year by. He's been very happy with it.
The 1080p KDL-46V3000 is available online and in big box stores in the US$2,050 to US$2,500 range.
TH-50PZ700U Price: US$2,200-US$2,700
Summary: Panasonic's first 50-in. 1080p plasma offers gorgeous, deeply saturated colors, superb HDTV and DVD playback, and very good quality standard-definition television.
46-in. Bravia V series KDL-46V2500 Price: US$2,050-US$2,500
Summary: Sony's 46-in. KDL-46V3000 1080p LCD HDTV occupies the sweet spot on the price/performance scale, offering near-plasma picture quality for a bit less money than plasma -- and it uses a lot less power.
High-definition DVD player: Sony BDP-S300 Blu-ray disc player
The war is still raging between Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, the two new high-definition DVD formats, but my mind has been made up for some time about which format is best. That's why I'm not going to recommend you hedge your bets and buy a dual player that can handle both formats. Blu-ray is going to be the winner. There, I said it.
In light of that, my recommendation for a midrange player is from Sony. I didn't just test the player myself, I toured retail stores asking sales managers what they'd recommend and why. What I came away with was that the Sony BDP-S300 is known in the industry as a workhorse of a machine that can play movies 17 hours a day -- day after day -- and never freeze a single frame.
While most of the people I talked to agreed that there isn't much difference among players when it comes to picture quality and durability, the BDP-S300 excels in both. The player handles DVD Video, DVD+R/+RW, DVD-R/-RW4, and CD playback. The BDP-S300 retails for US$499, but you can find it online for US$385 or so.
Summary: If you believe that Blu-ray is the DVD format of the future, then this is the player you want for picture quality and durability.
Video stabliizer: Grex
As time goes by, your DVD movie collection keeps getting larger, and you're probably using that old VCR less and less, if at all. But there are moments when you wish you could convert some of those copyright-protected VHS movies onto DVDs so you can clear out the space those huge tapes take up.
There are a variety of conversion software and hardware products available for this purpose, but one of the easiest to set up and use is the Grex advanced video stabilizer from Dimax Ltd. in Tel Aviv. The US$89 Grex plugs in between your VCR or DVD player and your DVD recorder using RCA connectors or S-video cables and allows you to copy, capture and view almost any copyright-protected content from protected TV channels via satellite or cable TV, set-top boxes, or PVR, DVR and TiVo units.
The Grex works well, though on some VHS-to-DVD conversions, a very light banding can be visible on the screen when playing the copied DVD.