2008 Holiday Buying Guide: Midrange home theater setups

2008 Holiday Buying Guide: Midrange home theater setups

Summary: Last week, I gave some recommendations for budget home theater setups. This time, I'm looking at home theater products for a slightly larger budget: TVs that cost between $1,000 and $2,000, plus slightly more expensive components.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Last week, I gave some recommendations for budget home theater setups. This time, I'm looking at home theater products for a slightly larger budget: TVs that cost between $1,000 and $2,000, plus slightly more expensive components. Even with the additional outlay, it doesn't add up to a ridiculous sum, and you'll be getting an incredible experience in your living room, especially if this is your first upgrade to HD.

Midrange HDTVs

Sony KDL-46W4100 Sony KDL-46W4100If you want a solid Sony at a respectable price, this 46-inch 1080p model fits the bill. Its main strengths are its 120Hz refresh rate and dejudder video processing and excellent black-level performance for an LCD.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Vizio SV470XVT Vizio SV470XVTIf you're looking for a 120Hz set (whose refresh rate is twice that of a normal LCD, producing smoother video playback for fast action sequences) but want to save a few bucks, this Vizio makes a nice alternative to the Sony KDL-46W4100. Its black levels aren't as strong as the Sony's, but it offers highly accurate color and an extra inch of screen size for about $200 less.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Samsung PN50A550 Samsung PN50A550Plasmas have finally come down in price enough to compete against similarly sized LCDs, as this 50-inch 1080p plasma's price tag indicates. While Pioneer is the acknowledged leader in plasma sets, Samsung and Panasonic each has adherents for the runner-up title. The PN50A550 suffers from glare a bit and doesn't have the deepest black levels, but its superior color accuracy and extensive picture controls more than make up for those deficiencies.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Samsung HL61A750 Samsung HL61A750Rear-projection TVs don't have the same sex appeal as their flat-panel cousins, but if you don't need to hang your set on the wall, they provide more screen size for the buck. Case in point: This DLP 1080p set, whose 61 inches of screen real estate offer more viewing area than a 58-inch plasma, but costs at least $1,500 less. With solid black-level performance and very accurate color, the HL61A750 was already a good value, but its price has tumbled to the point where it's now an incredible bargain.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide Midrange Speakers

Philips SoundBar HTS8100 Philips SoundBar HTS8100If you value looks more than an authentic surround-sound experience, the HTS8100 minimizes the clutter with a stylish sound bar speaker with Dolby and DTS surround-sound processing capabilities and a built-in DVD player, along with a subwoofer. DVD playback and audio is better than you might expect from just two pieces, though it has no video inputs, so you're stuck with the included DVD player.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide Cambridge SoundWorks Newton Theater MC155 Cambridge SoundWorks Newton Theater MC155This $809.99 5.1 speaker system delivers solid performance while still coming in a compact package. Unlike the HTS8100, you'll need to supply you're own A/V receiver and DVD player, but you'll be rewarded with good audio quality for both DVDs and your music collection.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide Midrange Video Player

Panasonic DMP-BD55 Panasonic DMP-BD55If you're spending over $1,000 on a TV, it's going to be a 1080p model, so you might as well make the move to Blu-ray at this point to take advantage. This model is a great choice, as it's not only a strong performer, but also supports the latest Profile 2.0 Blu-ray spec, which means you can access online features on Profile 2.0 compatible discs via the included Ethernet port. There's a big push to drop prices on Blu-ray players to bring them further into the mainstream, so expect this one to sell for far less than the $399 list price soon.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide Universal Remote

Logitech Harmony One Logitech Harmony OneLogitech's Harmony series of remotes is generally acknowledged to be the cream of the crop, and the Harmony One is at the top of that cream. Excellent design, both in terms of style and button layout, and easy setup, thanks to its Web-based programming, make this one of the best remotes available—even if it costs as much as a budget Blu-ray player.

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Topics: Hardware, Mobility

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