Look at me! I'm just like one of those camcorders you bought ten years ago to catch some hilarious gardening accident for You've Been Framed. But I've ditched those unwieldy tapes of old in favour of tiny little 80mm DVDs. You can pop open my shell, slam the disc into any DVD player and enjoy your Pulitzer-winning short film fresh from the camcorder.
So the DCR-DVD203E should be the best thing ever then? Well, not quite -- the mini-DVDs can only hold between 23-30 minutes of material at the highest quality. And before you can even think about watching a DVD you have to let the Sony finalise the disc, which takes around 6 minutes. But in terms of price, which is RRP £650 or available online at £480, this particular piece of Sony tech is reasonably cheap. Especially as it has an ultra-cool touchscreen display that's sure to impress friends.
If the Archos AV4100 is the VW Golf of the portable media centre world, then the new AV700 is a monster truck waiting to run over it and blow fire from its nostrils. It's huge -- about twice the size of the PSP, but its svelte frame means that you can slide it right into your laptop case.
If you dare pull this luscious gadget out on the train, then you might find that its huge screen isn't quite as detailed as you'd like. The speakers are tinny, but they will go loud enough to enrage everyone in the carriage. The only problem is that the machine is far more picky than the AV400 about which computer it will play with -- it failed to be recognised on both the new Apple iBook and our huge Alienware, instead preferring to be tickled by one of our aging Toshiba laptops.
Whenever we review new products, we spend a lot of time thinking 'wouldn't it be great if it had this' or 'we wish that would have worked better'. Denon, like Apple, seems to nail what we fickle reviewers are looking for, resulting in some of the highest scores we've ever dished out.
We were taken aback by the sleek coolness of Denon's latest DVD system, the S-101 which we saw previewed ahead of its release next month. It connects to Apple's third and fourth generation iPods via a proprietary cable, flashing off its domination of the white music player by raising the Denon logo on its screen. From there, it proceeds to own the little blighter by taking its lowly AAC-compressed music files and running them through its super-smooth 24-bit filters to improve the sound. It's just a shame that the iPod drawn on screen looked like it had been squeezed directly from a Commodore 64.
The incessant march of technology can be a bad thing -- you finally get your hands on that Motorola V3 and then Nokia's 8800 comes along and comprehensively out-styles it. But when technology halves in price in just over 18 months, it can only a be good thing for the consumer. We saw home-cinema specialist Sim2 do just this yesterday when it cut the cost of three-chip DLP projectors from 25,000 to 11,000.
LCD and DLP chipsets may have brought home cinema to the masses, but the super-elite still want high-definition uber-projectors for their garage or loft conversions. Last year, three-chip DLP projectors made this dream a reality. Utilising a separate chipset for each segment of the colour wheel, they were a ridiculously high-end approach to home cinema perfection and offered the sort of deep contrast and wide colour range that was previously the domain of the multiplex. Three-chip projectors are the Holy Grail of home cinema, the top of the line, the creme de la creme, the Ferrari Enzo of AV. Continue reading...
Back in May it seemed like a golden age of Crave -- summer had only just begun, Liverpool were yet to claim an astonishing Champions League victory, and we had a 61-inch plasma sitting right next to our desk. Ah, it might have been three short months ago, but life was sweet back then.
We're now consoling ourselves with the smaller (but still gargantuan) 42-inch model, simply named the 42XR3. As complete picture fanatics, we love the NEC plasmas. They offer wonderfully deep colours and amazing detail -- perfect for watching the cricket on. No wonder Pioneer chose the company's panels to use in their latest range of world-conquering plasmas. NEC's 42XR3 also offers good connectivity, with a high-definition compatible DVI input -- we only wish they'd included some Scart inputs as well.
We've all seen hard drive/DVD recorders. Big deal. But if you've yet to take the plunge and actually buy one of these modern delights, then you could end up ahead of those early adopters, particularly if you plump for the Panasonic DMREH50. It landed at Crave this morning, strutting an 80GB hard drive and an SD card slot like the cock of the walk, crowing about its £300 price tag.
While older boxes had menu systems that made a Commodore 64 seem sophisticated, the DMREH50 has an interface that's smoother than a PSP covered in baby oil. It fires up in under a second and when you hit the record button it acts just as quickly. We can't help but think it's missed a trick by not letting you record video to an SD card though, a bit like Apple's annoying refusal to include a radio on the iPod.
Look at this beast! It's like we've been visited by a UFO, only this time without having to go through with the invasive anal probing. Why the unearthly body? This projector not only houses the latest in DLP technology, but is also wearing a DVD player like some fancy top hat. It's your very own home cinema in one weirdly shaped box.
We took the little blighter home over the weekend and made it our best friend. And, just as we would with any friend, we proceeded to prod it and poke it before we all settled down to watch three hours of Martin Scorsese's epic The Aviator. And when we took it round to our friend's house we had everything we needed in one bag. We could create our own portable cinema business, if only it wasn't deemed 'illegal' by 'the man'.
If you haven't got a Freeview hard drive recorder by now, what the heck are you doing? It's okay, we forgive you, but we've consistently given high marks to these indispensible pieces of technology from Humax, Thomson and Sagem. And when a giant like Panasonic joins the fray, you really know it's time to sit up and take notice.
Sure, the strangely named TUCTH100 might not do anything different to Sagem's box, but it's got one major advantage -- it looks good. The sleek silver finish means it's something you'd actually sit next to your DVD player, and while it doesn't break any taboos, we'd happily sit it next to our high-end Denon DVD-2910.
Save our souls! A fifty-foot-tall Natalie Portman on our living room wall! The schmaltzy but endearing chick flick Where The Heart Is is not standard fodder for home-cinema benchmarking, but what the hell, we're bored of Attack of the Clones. It's time for something heartwarming. This slow-burning drama is rich with close-ups -- the actors look universally gorgeous. The Screenplay 7205 renders flesh tones with an arresting vividness we've not seen since we stole Grandpa Crave's bifocals and stared at the sun.
In a world overrun by gadget porn, we're rarely surprised by products, but this projector didn't so much shake us awake as defibrillate us on a setting marked 'disco fever'. The 7205 is described by Screenplay as "an unparalleled HD home theatre projector" and "the finest single-chip DLP projector yet. Leaving all other home theatre projectors far behind". Not short on a sense of self-worth, are they? But who wouldn't be when your projector touches the hem of traditional 35mm cinema?
"Look at me, I'm tiny! If I was in your office, I could easily be smuggled out for a weekend of Bond movies and a 24 marathon." NEC's LT20 is a projector so small you might lose it down the back of the sofa, and its slinky body houses one of the latest DLP chipsets.
So what's the catch? Well, the projector's size limits the connectivity on the back -- and with just S-video, composite and VGA, you'd better have some sort of media centre PC handy for decent picture quality. Nevertheless, the LT20 is so dinky that even an image-quality queen is likely to go go 'aww', just because it's soooo cute.
In a previous life back in the 20s, Crave would enjoy many a drunken night in a speakeasy, before heading off in high spirits to the local slingbox. These days though, the Slingbox is only another example of cool gadgetry enjoyed by the US long before we get the privilege (along with high-definition TV and Sony's PSP).
The box itself allows those living in the land of the free to watch their TV and media remotely, streamed over the Internet direct to your computer, anywhere in the world. With the Slingbox sat under your TV and connected to a Sky/Freeview recorder, it can stream across all your favourite programmes to a window on your desktop. Perfect for a sneaky episode of The Sopranos before the boss gets in.
You think you're cool, sitting on the bus with your iPod Shuffle hanging round your neck like a piece of techno-jewellery. Heck, you might even make a power statement to the gadget cognoscenti with some 'better than thou' white Sennheisers.
So how will you feel when you glance over and you see someone with an Archos AV480? Like a technological laggard, that's how. This season, it's all about watching last night's episode of The Apprentice on the way to work, so you can get some tips on impressing your boss. It's also about having over 100 movies in the palm of your hand. And all this is possible thanks to DivX video -- which effectively shrinks a full DVD movie to the size of a CD. Continue reading...
We've been enjoying our NEC HT510 projector, so it's been a while since Crave experienced that authentic cinema atmosphere. Lucikly, Dolby wanted to show us how it plans to tranform our local fleapits with its new Dolby Digital Cinema technology.
Inviting us to a presentation of Madagascar captured directly from the digital source, we headed off to the Empire Leicester Square to see what all cinema will look like in ten years' time. So excited that we could barely hold on to our popcorn, we sat down in reclining chairs, eager to see how digital could possibly compare to film -- a medium with a 100-year history. Continue reading...
If there was a charity to help us kick our addiction to flat screen TVs, we'd sign up now. LCD-aholics Anonymous might help us remember what a CRT actually looks like. Companies like Philips, Sony and now Toshiba have been feeding our addiction with LCD upon LCD. And the big news on these shiny new models, apart from their understated cool? They're all fully high definition compatible.
Most LCDs above the 26-inch mark have been updated with high resolution panels and digital video inputs. Toshiba has a vested interest in next-generation TV, as its HD DVD format is due to launch before the end of the year, and the 27WL56 is the first mid-range system to carry an HDMI input. Despite being about the same size as a USB input, HDMI can carry digital video and audio along the same wire, meaning you can cut down on the spider's web of cabling at the back of your TV.
Crave doesn't do things by half. If we're going to play Battlefield 2, a game more addictive than peanut M&Ms, we're going to do it on nothing less than an Alienware Aurora PC and a brand new, high definition 26-inch Philips LCD. A theatre of war hasn't looked this beautiful since Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line.
The 26PF5520 is gorgeous, taking the best of AV and PC connectivity and rolling it into one big, TV-shaped package. Best of all, it only costs around £800, making it a big-name competitor to our favourite bargain LCD, the Dell W2600. It's not just any old cheap TV -- it's fully high-definition compatible, has built-in Freeview and even a TopUp TV slot. As a sticker on the TV says, 'Excitement' has been turned up to the max. Unfortunately, we could find no controls on the remote control to adjust this promised excitement-o-meter, but a tight game of Battlefield 2 was certainly keeping us on tenterhooks.
Some people would rather be seen with a 15-inch black and white TV than a rear pro. In our anorexic desire for flat TVs, rear projection tellies and their hefty waist-line just can't compete, but Sagem's new 56-inch model is only 44cm deep. It's now dwarfing our collection of 42-inch plasmas, towering over everything with elegant French nonchalance. If it could talk, it would be saying, "Olympics? C'est rien..."
Its Parisian style should be enough to convince you that rear projection is the way forward -- its curved stand is an elegant way to hide its Dolby Virtual Surround speakers. But if you're the sort of hardware fetishist that gets a warm feeling inside when you reel off a list of numbers, check these bad boys out: eight video inputs (Sky HD compatible), the latest DLP HD2+ chipset and a 1,280x720 pixel resolution. We can't wait to run our Denon DVD player through this mother.
We can't even remember what it was like before Digital TV. Just think, you had to actually go out to the shops instead of relying on jaundiced women selling you 'diamonique' gifts all day on the shopping channels. You had to wait a week for Top of the Pops instead of being able to see the same three music videos repeated all day on the music channels above a mysterious rolling screed of desperate teen text chat. And you had to get your fix of Big Brother once a night instead of being a social outcast and watching it at 3 o'clock in the morning. Hmm, maybe the world was a better place after all.
Still, the French have an answer in the form of this Sagem PVR6280T hard-drive recorder. With it, you can cut out the crap and create a library of your favourite programmes on the 80GB hard drive. We set the box up this morning to find something worth testing this feature with, but all we could find was The Jeremy Kyle Show (topic of the day: 'Did I sleep with you? Is it my baby?'), Car Booty and Judge Judy.
We're amazed that we haven't been mugged for our gorgeous Archos media centre on the tube, but using this massive 10-inch portable DVD player might increase the risk. For now, we're going to leave it sitting on our desk for a few sneaky episodes of The Office -- further cementing Crave's reputation for spending all day playing with toys.
The Mustek is another DVD player from China, which means a really cheap price and more features than you'll ever need. Unfortunately, this is offset by poor performance from the LCD screen. It has a viewing angle of about 1 degree, so while it's actually more detailed than Toshiba's SD-P1600, you have to keep your head perfectly still to see a picture that isn't too bright or too dark. Probably not great on a bumpy drive across the Lake District, then.
Just in case anyone doesn't understand our brilliant headline -- 'Loewe' is pronounced 'Lurve-er'. And unless you buy your suits from Saville Row and your furniture from Harrods, any lack of knowledge about this German uber-manufacturer would be completely forgiven. Along with Bang & Olufsen, the company has let Europe claim the world's most gorgeous plasmas. If you read the glossy style bibles like Wallpaper*, you'll often see a Loewe adorning the world's grooviest apartments.
While this sort of style usually costs you more than the GDP of a sub-Saharan nation, the Xelos A42 is probably the closest Loewe has come to a mainstream television -- at £3,200 it's not much more than Pioneer's latest. If the gorgeous design flourishes aren't enough to convince you to sell your children for this TV, then consider that it's also a gadget fetishist's dream. It has full support for high-definition TV, an integrated Freeview tuner and even a slot for a TopUp TV card.
When the rather heavy Yamaha YSP-1 landed in our lap, after recovering our breath we were heathily sceptical about its surround-sound potential. We've listened to enough godawful 'Dolby Virtual Surround' TVs to know that 'Virtual Surround' usually means too much bass and a weird echo effect.
We previously encountered the YSP-1 down Tottenham Court Road and were impressed with its movie potential. Its true skill seemed to be in one particular farm-based demo, where if you closed your eyes you might think you'd encountered a herd of cows at milking time. As there's a definite gap in the ambient bovine recreation market, we set the speaker up in our sound-proofed studio, turned up the volume, and 'cow'-ered in the corner.