Home Design with Kevin Sharkey: Tech Support
To simulate a big-screen experience in his library, left, Kevin went with a 54-inch plasma television. "For overall picture quality, plasma rules," technology expert Suzanne Kantra says. "It offers higher contrast than LCD, and it's better for fast-motion sequences." Plasma screens are sensitive to sunlight, however, and, if exposed, can look washed out. So Kevin installed light-filtering shades on the windows. Similar plasma TV, 54-inch Viera g25, $2,000, Panasonic, panasonic.com.
Stowing the components in a closet and running wires behind walls achieved the neat look Kevin wanted. He operates the system with a wireless touch-screen remote (shown on bottom shelf, left). Harmony 1100 universal remote with RF support, $400, Logitech, logitech.com.
A Smart Setup
People think they have to buy media furniture to house their electronics. Why not use a piece you already love instead? Kevin's carpenter modified this vintage armoire, replacing the original shelving with compartments designed specifically for components and media storage. The canvas-covered boxes hold DVDs, which Kevin has cataloged alphabetically. Photo storage boxes, $20 each, and CD storage boxes, $17 each, Martha Stewart Crafts from Michaels.
By mounting the television to the back of the armoire, Kevin freed up shelf space for odds and ends. The mounting hardware, left, lets him extend and swivel the television so the screen is visible from his bed. A cord-management system built into the mounting bracket keeps the TV cables neatly organized, while two small holes drilled into the back of the armoire feed the electrical cords to a surge protector. ULPC-L cantilever mount, $450, OmniMount, omnimount.com.
The television comes with an iPod dock, left. Kevin can pop in his iPod and watch movies and TV shows he has downloaded, present slide shows of his photos, and listen to music -- all through the television.
High-quality sound doesn't require a giant stereo system, technology expert Suzanne Kantra says. This unit from Geneva tucks discreetly into a corner of Kevin's living room. Although it looks like a simple speaker, it has an iPod dock, a CD player, and an FM radio built in, plus a remote control. "It can really fill a room with sound," Kantra says. Geneva-Sound L speaker, $1,000, and Chromesheen Pedestal L, $200, Geneva, genevalab.com.
Personalize Your System
While the preceding products are right for Kevin, they aren't necessarily the best solutions for everyone. Here are tech expert Suzanne Kantra's picks for the best new technology on the market, or almost on the market. The two cutting-edge televisions aren't in stores just yet, but they are definitely worth waiting for.
All-In-One Control:With the Yamaha neoHD (left), all your entertainment (television, Blu-ray Disc player, gamer system) operates through an interface on your TV screen. A Wi-Fi feature streams music from the Internet or your computer. $800, yamaha.com.
Universal Remote: Similar to the Logitech remote in Kevin's library, the Acoustic Research xSight Remote (right) has a traditional remote-control feel. Use the color touch screen to program your favorite channels and the keypad to customize and navigate the features on your cable box and TiVo. $200, bestbuy.com.
Televisions of the Future
Major Multitasker: The next big thing in television? 3-D. Toshiba's Genesis Cell (left) can convert content into 3-D (yes, you'll need glasses). It also has a built-in Blu-ray Disc player, videophone and speaker, and a hard drive so you can record shows a la DVR. Available fall 2010. toshibatv.com.
Super-Slim Design:This LG Infinia television (right) has an ultrathin profile with a minimal frame bezel -- virtually all you see is the screen. The set comes with a ton of features, which include access to Skype, Netflix, and YouTube, and it's equipped for 3-D. Available June 2010.lge.com.
Wireless Music:The Sonos system (left) grabs music wirelessly from your hard drive or the Internet (radio, Rhapsody, Pandora) and plays it on a sleek speaker. Use the Sonos Controller or your iPhone (with a downloaded app) as a remote. ZonePlayer S5, $400, and Controller 200, $350, sonos.com.
Light Plus Sound: Klipsch's LightSpeaker system (right) combines efficient LED lights with speakers. Screw the units into recessed light fixtures, and manage your tunes via a tabletop transmitter and a remote. $600, klipsch.com.
New models are usually introduced in late spring or early summer, and again in fall. The best sales tend to happen during the holiday-shopping season and in early spring.
Media Buyer's Guide
Three smart ways to access movies, TV shows, and music bring them to your tube.
Internet-Ready TVs: Most new midrange televisions have built-in Internet connectivity. It's not full Web access, but rather a set of services (Amazon Video on Demand, Netflix Watch Instantly, Vudu, YouTube, Flickr photos) that use your home's broadband connection.
Blu-ray Disc Players: As with televisions, high-end Blu-ray Disc players also have Internet connectivity and access to the types of Web services listed above.
Video Boxes: These stand-alone units connect to stores that let you rent or buy movies and TV shows. MediaPoint Digital Media Player lets you rent or buy from Blockbuster OnDemand, Apple TV, and iTunes. With the Roku Digital Video Player, you can access Amazon Video on Demand, Netflix, Pandora, Flickr, and photos on Facebook, among other services.