HDD Home Theater Connections: Super Bowl Gear 2013

Posted Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 12:00 PM PST by

by Daniel Hirshleifer

You hear that sound? That's the sound of millions of football fans gearing up for the biggest event of the year: The Super Bowl! Think of all the nachos being made, all the guacamole and dips being prepared, all of the good luck rituals being performed around the country. With everyone getting ready for the big game, what can you do to really set your gathering apart from the rest? A new TV, of course! There's no better way to impress all your friends than with a shiny new big screen, and the retailers know it. Now is a great time to upgrade your display, as there are plenty of great sales to be found. Let's take a look at some of the best televisions and bargains on the market at the moment.

Around the net, and among television enthusiasts, the verdict was practically unanimous: The best TVs of 2012 were made by Panasonic. Their top of the line set, the VT50, has some of the best picture quality of any television since HDTVs first hit the market. It has reference level picture quality, a host of internet features, and superior 3D performance. Being Panasonic's flagship, the VT50 is pricey, but the 55" is currently just shy of $2,000 on Amazon, which is a stellar price given that it retails for much more.

If that price seems daunting, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the PST50. While it's not quite to the level of the VT50, it's still one of the best televisions on the market, and you can get the 60" for less than the price of the 55" VT50. The PST50 has a few less customization options when it comes to the image, but the overall result is still stunning and will be sure to impress anyone who watches it. And it comes with all the same internet connectivity and 3D options as its higher-end sibling. The PST50 is the best bang for the buck that you can possibly find at the moment. The biggest downside of either of these televisions is that Panasonic has opted not to include 3D glasses, and the official glasses that are guaranteed to work are a bit pricey. As of now I have not yet seen a fully reliable pair of third party 3D glasses that will work with the 2012 Viera displays.

Samsung also has a plasma line, the E series. They also feature strong picture quality and internet connectivity. The E550 has a strong image and comes with two pairs of 3D glasses, but suffers from a reflective surface that makes the TV difficult to watch in well-lit rooms. Jumping up to the E8000 eliminates the reflectivity issue for the most part, but with an increasing step up in price. The Samsung plasmas also feature advanced technologies, such as a sensor that adjusts the brightness based on the light levels of the room, voice and face recognition, and more. It even comes with a touch-based remote that utilizes a track pad style interface instead of standard buttons. Of course, as with any non-traditional interface, the effectiveness may not be perfect.

Not everyone wants to go in for plasmas, and with Mitsubishi getting out of the TV game and taking the remaining DLP and laser televisions with them, that leaves LCD displays. Nowadays, most high-end LCD displays utilize LED technology. When it comes to LED, Sony is the big fish in the pond. Their BRAVIA series combines great picture quality with a strong set of features, including special interoperability with other Sony devices. The HX850 is highly rated, but a bit on the pricier side.

Once again it's Samsung in the backup position, with the EH6000. This isn't the top tier of Samsung's 2012 line-up, but it's gotten great reviews and comes in at much more affordable prices than the BRAVIA. If you're not a Samsung fan, then the Sharp Aquos LE745U might be the one for you. More moderately priced for larger sizes, the Aquos doesn't have quite the stellar picture quality of the other brands, but it might be worth it for the trade-off in size.

If you're ready for something even bigger than a flat panel can provide, it's time to move up to a projector. Projectors require a whole new set of considerations, but the reward for your efforts will be image sizes that you simply cannot get from flat panels. The Mitsubishi HC4000 is a great entry-level projector, coming in at $1,100. For a little more scratch, you can get the BenQ W7000, which is quite versatile and also offers 3D. Other, more expensive projectors may have better picture or ease of use, but for under $2,000 these are about as good as it gets.

The on-air broadcast will have instant replay, but in case you want your own, you might want to invest in the TiVo TCD7480000 Premiere. While all cable and satellite providers will offer their own DVRs, TiVo is the one that started it all and they've continued to offer extras that make their boxes worth the extra expense. They have integrated search functions across a variety of services, and apps for iOS devices so you don't even have to use a remote. This particular model can record up to 150 hours of 1080p content.

If you don't want to pay for a big football package from your cable or satellite provider, there are other ways to see your favorite teams play. Did you know that you can subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket via your Playstation 3? The broadcasts are through DirecTV, but you don't need to be a current subscriber to sign up. If you are an existing DirecTV subscriber with NFL Sunday Ticket, you can download the app on your PS3 and watch the games at no extra charge. And then, of course, once you're done watching the game, you can toss in your brand new copy of Madden NFL 13 and keep the games going all night long.

Armed with these great gadgets, you're certain to be the hit of the party. No matter which team takes home the trophy, you'll end up the winner when your friends walk away talking about how great the game looked on your brand new set. Game on!

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Tags: Daniel Hirshleifer, Fun Stuff, High-Def Retailing, Super Bowl, HDD Home Theater Connections (all tags)