Integration - Whether in components, computers or furniture. Look for big screen TVs that feature integrated DVR and memory card slots (Mitsubishi introduced two in 2004; look for others to follow); computers that do more than spreadsheets (Toshibas Qosmio features a TV, PVR, DVD players and stereo); home theater component storage and furniture that can move together for the most comfortable viewing experience (furnitureinmotion.com).
Anywhere TV - Innovations in wireless multimedia networking allow you to watch TV wherever you are by turning an Internet-connected PC into a TV — in the next room or the next country. Check out the award-winning Slingbox Personal Broadcaster at www.slingmedia.com.
Media Center PCs - These dynamic do-it-all wonders share multiple functions: DVD player, CD player, DVR, FM tuner, CD jukebox, high-performance PC and more — in one silver, VCR-sized box. Take a look at Alienware's DHA 2-series Media Center PC.
Laser Turntables - For the true music aficionado with an archive of vinyl, this is an audio dream-come-true. Laser turntables uses laser beams rather than a cartridge to read information in the record's grooves. Although laser turntables are pricey (expect to throw out some serious cash — about $15,000), it can be peace of mind for collectors who worry about record wear. Check out the Japanese ELP Laser Turntable (imported by AudioTurntable of St. Albans, Vermont).
Video Processing Cables - These cables feature built-in processing that combines a high-quality video cable and a small circuitry box. The processing cable can improve picture quality by improving contrast and making image edges crisper. (Prices start at about $249 for the Belkin RazorVision video processing system from DigiVision).
Affordable "Smart Home" Automation Systems - In previous years, home automation was too expensive and impractical for the average homeowner — many systems had to be built into new homes, and couldn't be added to existing structures. Enter Control4 and it's new Home Theater Controller, retailing for about $600. The Control4 (www.control4.com) system connects to and controls all home theater equipment, eliminating the need for multiple remotes. The system can manage and distribute digital music and control lights within the home. In case of a fire, it can turn on low-level lights to help light an escape route, turn on flashing lights outside the home (to alert firefighters) and even turn on a "dog bark" alarm if intruders should try to enter your home.
Fodder Rooms - Many serious gamers opt to add a "fodder" room to their existing home theater. A fodder room consists of a gaming room with a separate sound system and home theater components where the opposing team can sit during a frag fest (competitive gaming match). The cost of an additional room can often add $15,000 or more to the cost of a home theater.
Surround Sound for Portable Players - A sound amplifier/splitter for portable digital music players and laptops can help you get more from your system. The splitter will send the music (divided into individual channels) to two different speakers or audio headphone sets and can quadruple the volume of any player with little distortion. Check out the Boostaroo Revolution from Upbeat Audio (www.boostaroo.com).
HD DVD recorder vs. Blu-Ray - There's a battle being waged in the home theater/multimedia industry, and unfortunately the consumer is caught in the middle. In one corner, Toshiba's HD DVD; in the other, Sony's Blu-Ray technology. After you've done multiple Google searches and are still scratching your head in confusion (so are we), the difference basically comes down to this: Blu-Ray discs are more expensive, hold more data and seems to be gaining favor within the movie industry. The production of these discs is expensive, and that cost gets passed on to the consumer. The international DVD Forum has pushed for a worldwide standard in DVD processing, thus the creation and promotion of the HD DVD. HD DVD shares the same size and thickness of the current DVD format, but is able to deliver eight hours of High-Def video with "enhanced interactivity, multi-media functions, secure content and the capacity to store ten-thousand average MP3 tracks on one disc. The problem with these new technologies? You'll need a special player for each type, with no cross-over. Essentially, manufacturers are forcing you to choose between the two formats. Executives from both companies are meeting to try to compromise on a technology that you keep you, the consumer, from having to decide between the two.
Wireless Router - Roam around your home, laptop in hand, downloading music while you work on a presentation. A wireless router will allow you to do just that, without being tethered to a jack. Try the Linksys 802.11b/g wireless router.