Best Buy. It’s almost a household name these days, especially if you’re a gadget junkie. They're ubiquitous, easy to find, and they’re open late. But they're also huge, and you don't always have time to browse for hours at a stretch.
With Father's Day right around the corner, Best Buy's a great place to take the kids shopping for Dad. If you're not sure what to get for him this year, this list is a perfect place to begin.
TiVo® Series3™ Dual Tuner Digital Video Recorder
There are plenty of DVRs on the market, but let's face it – nothing beats TiVo for convenience, ease of use, and reliability when recording your favorite shows (even when something runs overtime). The dual tuner lets you record two shows simultaneously (while watching a third, if you'd like) – that was available on the Series 2 TiVo as well, but this one comes with high definition capabilities. Its 250GB hard drive can store up to 300 hours of programming if you don't record it in HD, or 25-35 hours of HD content. In addition, it's the first DVR to be THX certified, giving you extraordinary sound. THX is a standard to ensure that you hear exactly what the movie's sound engineer intended you to.
Those high-end features don't come cheap, however. The TiVo Series3 is available from Best Buy for $799.99. Also, unlike the Series2 TiVo DVR, the Series3 doesn't allow you to burn DVDs. Still, if you want to be able to experience a baseball game you missed in HD, nothing else will get you quite as close to a seat in the actual ballpark as a HD TiVo will.
The LG SuperBlu
You'd like a DVD player to play high-definition DVDs, but should you get a Blu-ray HD player or standard HD player? At least in the days of the VHS vs. Beta format war, every movie was being released in both formats. With the HD vs. Blu-ray war, the major studios have picked sides. So while you can use a standard HD player to watch Casablanca and The Ultimate Matrix Collection, you’ll need a Blu-ray player to watch Terminator 2 and Rocky.
The LG Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD High-Definition Player is the first player on the market that will let you watch both. (It also upconverts standard DVDs to 1080p ). However, while it lets you watch HD DVDs, not all the special features work. It's best thought of as a Blu-ray player that lets you watch the HD DVDs as well.
At $1,199.99 it’s pricey. But it still doesn't sound too bad when you compare it to the Sony Blu-ray disc player at $999.99. However, there are cheaper options. If you have the space (and can stomach the idea of paying for two boxes) you can think outside the standalone box and get both a Blu-ray and HD player for slightly less than the cost of the SuperBlu.
It's worth noting that the SuperBlu is the first of its kind; odds are good that the price will come down as more versions come on the market, and future versions may offer the full features of the HD DVDs as well.
Sony PlayStation 3
Most people think of the PS3 as a game machine, but it uses the Blu-ray technology to pack more detail into the graphics and sound of its games — and it can show Blu-ray DVDs just as well as the standalone Blu-ray players. It's cheaper than any of the standalones, plus you get a game machine out of the deal as well. You can get a PS3 for $599.99.
It also plays regular DVDs, but with one catch: it can't upconvert them to HD resolution. But if we're shopping for a substitute for the SuperBlu, we're already planning to pair it with an HD-DVD player anyway
For $399.99, the Toshiba HD-DVD will play HD-DVDs with their built-in features such as the In-Movie Experience (where you can have the director show up on the screen and explain the movie to you). It also upconverts your current DVD library to 1080i. If you want your player to be able to resample the data to 1080p, it'll cost you about a hundred bucks more. Even with the fancier player, it's $100 less than the SuperBlu, and you'll get full use of your HD player plus a game machine.
Before you take the plunge and buy any of these, read some reviews of the high-definition DVD releases of movies you're interested in. Some take full advantage of the HD technology while others don't. Many of the available titles are released with minimal extras compared to the regular DVDs. The functionality is there for the early adopter, but not everyone’s taking full advantage of it yet.
Panasonic Multiformat DVD-R/-R DL/-RW/RAM/+R/+R DL/+RW Recorder
This DVR is a solid unit with an attractive set of options. It plays back a wide range of formats; it has a built-in ATSC tuner, so that it can receive digital broadcasts; it upconverts standard DVDs to 1080p; and it comes with a Secure Digital media slot, making it easy to look at your photos via your TV. At $249.99, it's affordable as well as functional. Along with the formats that show up in the name of the product, it plays DVD-RAM, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, MP3, DivX, and JPEG formats.
It is, however, missing one format you may want—tape.
Sony Multiformat DVD-R/-RW/+R/+R DL/+RW Recorder/VCR Combo
Like many people out there, you probably still have things on videotape—your wedding, maybe, or a favorite old show that for some reason hasn't been released yet on DVD. VCRs are getting harder to find, and tape degrades over time.
With the Sony DVR/VCR combo, you can transfer your tapes to DVD. You can burn multiple copies of the DVD if it's something you're particularly worried about losing. And then you can watch it again with new clarity, because when tapes are transferred to DVD, they look much better; like regular DVDs, they can also be upconverted.
This DVR upconverts, but only to 1080i. It costs $249.99—affordable and well worth it, if you have tapes you'd like to convert over to DVD before it's too late.
Toshiba 23" Widescreen Flat-Panel LCD HDTV/DVD Combo
Is your bedroom also your home office? Treat yourself to a monitor that serves double duty as a really nice TV. For $799.99, you can get an HDTV/DVD combo unit with a crisp picture, a built-in ATSC tuner, PC input, and 1366x768 resolution. If you're feeling particularly generous, this (or its smaller cousin, the 19" version for $549.99) would make a nice gift for a soon-to-be college student who won't have space for both PC and TV in his dorm room. All you need to add for a miniature home theater are some small speakers or a sound projector.
Yamaha Multi-Channel Digital Sound Projector
I'll be honest: you can get better sound from a full speaker setup. But you also need space and wiring. With very little space and no wires skirting the room, you can put in a Yamaha Sound Projector for simulated surround sound. Check this out in person at the store, because you really have to hear it to believe it: even though the speaker is sitting in front of you, you'll hear the plane in the movie fly over your head. The sound projector isn't cheap ($799.99) but for the sheer technological "how the heck does it do that?" factor, it's unbeatable.
Service With a Smile
Best Buy is to home electronics as Home Depot is to home repairs, notable not so much for their ultra-specialized equipment as for the general selection and the range of stuff they carry. They may not offer the ultimate gadget-geek shopping experience, but it's a good place to compare models (because they've got tons) and run price comparisons. And when you happen to have some time to browse, you can find some pretty fun stuff.
So treat the guy in your life right this Father's Day! Pop over to Best Buy's web site, or head to one of their brick and mortars. With great selections like these, you can't go wrong.