Home Theater Review

Two years ago we decided to upgrade from our 24” Sony Wega TV to a Plasma Screen TV. After an exhaustive search of the internet and reading literally hundreds of reviews we decided that Panasonic was the brand to get. Our budget was such that we could get a 50” screen but only a 720P. The decision was made and the day had come and I was all set to buy it at Costco when a good friend of mine rushed over to my desk and said, “Have you bought that TV yet?” I replied that I hadn’t. He then told me to go to Frys.com.

There on the homepage of Frys.com was the exact same TV I was going to buy for the exact same price except it was the 1080P version. Same price, and free shipping. Let me tell you I was 100% satisfied with my entire shopping experience with Frys.com. From the communication from them to the quick and free delivery I was very impressed. Frys.com is a ReviewSpew All-Star!

I ended up getting the Panasonic TH-50PZ77U 50” 1080P Plasma HDTV. It cost $1,599.00 Being two years old it’s probably pointless to review the TV except to say we have been impressed with the quality of it. Both the sound and picture are fantastic and there are plenty of connections on the back to add whatever your heart desires and an easy to use remote control. It weighs about 5,000 pounds, but so do all Plasma Screen TV’s. It’s also very slim, sticking out from the wall only 6 inches. It does loose a star because in less than a year one of the HDMI inputs went out on it. That did not present a problem for me personally but does speak of the overall reliability of the system. It gets 4 Stars.

Knowing the violent tendencies of my kids I knew that although the TV came with a very stout base to sit on, it would be best to mount it to the wall. For this we chose the Peerless ST660 Tilt Wall Mount. Please go to their website and choose carefully as they have a bagillion different models depending on what TV you have. The price was more than decent at $81.57. It was extremely easy to mount to the wall and to the TV and has been really easy to use since. It has a decent range of tilt allowing you to access the connections on the TV, and it didn’t add very much to the total thickness of the TV. After two years, I’ve never had a problem with it, and is hereby declared a ReviewSpew All-Star!

Being a radically different TV setup required a different type of entertainment system. I actually started out by drawing a rough sketch of what would be the ideal entertainment system for what I was planning to hook to the Plasma Screen TV and then set out to find it online. I found the perfect one at Officefurniture.com. They have a huge selection of merchandise with great prices and great customer service. I definitely would buy from them again. They get 4 Stars.

I ended up with an Entertainment Center built by Sauder. Like all Sauder furniture it required assembly. I have assembled several things from Sauder in my adult life, and have been extremely impressed with the cleverness of their engineering, clearness of their instructions and quality of their products. This baby was no exception. It has stood the test of time and the violence inflicted upon it by my children. It still looks great, works great and is just awesome. Sauder is a ReviewSpew All-Star!
Of course we’re still using rabbit ears and at the time the network TV digital conversion was looming so we bought a digital antenna. The first was the Philips PHDTV1 Silver Sensor UHF/HDTV Digital Indoor Antenna which cost $22.99 (Attenna on the left below). Easy as any set of rabbit ears to install but would not pick up our local Fox station. Completely frazzled with everything else that went into setting the whole Home Theater up, I was content to not have Fox, but I did miss the entire 7th season of 24. Because of that little factoid right there, I give this antenna zero stars.

The Digital transition occurred and American Idol was coming up so my wife insisted a rectify this problem so I went through a two week ordeal whereby I would stop at Walmart on my way to work, buy an antenna, come home after work, hook it up, try every conceivable angle and position only to have the exact same problem, so I would box it up and return it to Walmart on my way to work the next morning and buy a different one. I think I went through 4 antennas this way. Walmart rocks and are considered a ReviewSpew All-Star!

I finally ended up getting a Philips MANT940 UHF Digital and Analog Indoor/Outdoor Antenna for $21.51.(Attenna on the right above). It has great reception, was easy to install, and was actually one of the cheapest antennas I tried. It does mount to the outside of the house, but has a very slim profile and is hardly noticeable. I give it 4 stars.

I’ve probably owned 6 or 7 different DVD players from Philips. I buy them because a) they are normally the cheapest ones at Walmart and b) they play any format of movie, song or image (DivX, MP3, WMA and JPEG digital camera photos, CD, (S)VCD, DVD, DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW). This helps if you have lots and lots of “non-tradition” movie formats, which I won’t go into here. The problem is almost every single one I’ve bought over the years breaks down within a year (that’s why I have bought so many). The last two would freeze up whenever I was playing a DivX formatted movie on a DVD-R. Really the only reason you would buy this system is for this purpose and since it doesn’t work, all of Philips DVD players get zero stars.

Tired of complaining that it “Hurts when I do this” I decided to stop doing it, and bought a PC that I could connect to my TV and could play my movies directly from it rather than copying them over to DVD-Rs. I ended up with a Dell Studio 540s Slim Tower with Intel Core 2 Quad processor Q8300 (4MB L2, 2.5GHz, 1333FSB). Not sure what any of the crap means except that it’s totally awesome. I bought it from Dell’s Outlet store online which rocks. The whole systems sells at their regular site for about $1,000, and I got it for $550. That includes a Blu-Ray drive as well. At first the HDMI out did not work on it, but after 30 minutes with Dell’s on-line Chat Tech Support it was working like a champ and I haven’t had a problem since. Very impressed with Dell’s website, their tech support and their PC. They loose 1 star because they use a super-bright white LED to light up their power button on the front. It’s like having a laser beam pointing into your eye the whole time you’re watching TV. Dell gets 4 Stars.

In addition to the DVD player and the PC, we also have an X-Box, a Playstation 2 and a Wii hooked up to the TV. No point in reviewing those except to say they’re awesome. But I mention those to mention the fact that I have about a thousand miles of cable running through my wall to and from my TV. That stuff doesn’t come cheap, but I did find a site where you definitely want to go for all your cable needs. MonoPrice.com. I couldn’t believe how awesome their prices were even compared to Walmart and other discount stores. And this is not cheaply made stuff either; all very high quality cables. MonoPrice.com is a ReviewSpew All-Star.

Of course now that I have a PC hooked up to the TV I need a wireless mouse and keyboard that will allow me to use it from the comfort of my couch. My first attempt at this was the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000. I picked this one because it claimed to have a good long range on the wireless aspects of it. This is not true. It lost signal after only 8-10 feet. The other problem I had with it is its ginormous. The keyboard is bigger than one of those clicky IBM keyboards from the 80’s. It takes up so much room and is just an eye-sore in our front room. The mouse is also large. It’s unlike any mouse I’ve ever seen. It’s bulbous. It took me 3 months to figure out why I couldn’t let go of it yet felt uncomfortable holding it around my children. It feels like a boob; a well-endowed female boob. I mean C-cup at least if not D-cup. It’s weird. It also lost it’s connection within 8-10 feet and wouldn’t work on any ol’ surface. It wanted a tradition mouse pad. Anything that feels like a boob gets at least 1 star, but since it sucked in all other respects I can only give this wireless duo 1 Star.

This leads to the final thing I’m going to review which is the Logitech diNovo Mini. This thing is wicked cool. It’s small and easy to use. I’ve walked into other rooms and it doesn’t loose connection. It looks awesome and has a good design. It’s the perfect solution if you have a PC hooked to your TV. It is a little pricey at $120 but well worth it. It runs off of a rechargeable battery that they claim lasts up to 1 month, but that’s a damn dirty lie. The longest we’ve gotten is 7 days, but that is still very impressive and it just requires you plug it in before going to bed 1 night a week. No big deal. Since we’ve got it I’ve notice it used in TV programs. Starbuck uses it in this season of 24, as does that super hot babe in Chuck, so it must be good. I certify is a ReviewSpew All-Star!


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