7 digital home essentials
11th Jul 2007 | 23:00
Must-have items in our ideal digital home
The digital home is a difficult concept to define. For the most part, it's defined by your budget, but certain concepts remain the same regardless of cost.
We're talking about media and information of all sorts being shared seamlessly around the home, without loss of quality. We're talking style, and we're talking ease of use.
So what are the main ingredients? Well, we'll assume you already have a PC, or at least some form of storage for digital media like music and photos. And we'll assume you have broadband too - an essential for any digital home. But where to next?
We've picked out our seven favourite digital home essentials and listed them here. There are many other great products we could mention too, but for us these represent the core of what the digital home is about.
In the end the modern digital home need only be restricted by your imagination - and of course your budget.
High-definition TV: Panasonic TH-65PX600
No single item in the digital home makes more of a statement about both form and function than a television. If money is no object, and you have plenty of space, make that statement in style with Panasonic's monstrous TH-103PF9 . It truly doesn't get bigger.
On a tighter budget, Sharp's LC-52XD1E is a truly outstanding LCD for under £2,000. But our ideal choice would be the superb Panasonic TH-65PX600. At 65 inches across this gorgeous plasma certainly has presence. It also has three HDMI 1.3 sockets and delivers knockout picture performance.
In months to come, look out for Pioneer's eighth-gen plasmas, which should redefine high-definition picture performance.
PVR: Sky HD
If you want the combination of good quality high-def programming, the best content and the means to record it all, Sky HD is your only real choice.
The Sky Anytime video-on-demand service is still in its infancy, but it's the only area of digital TV where Sky isn't easily the best on the market. Certainly the Sky HD box's versatile list of connections can't be beaten, and will suit any home cinema setup.
Wi-Fi Router: D-Link DIR-655
The wireless-N saga has been grinding on for so long that everyone now seems to be just getting on with it, and we're seeing more maturity in the latest draft-N routers on the market. D-Link's DIR-655 is our choice for the ideal digital home, although there are plenty of strong contenders.
Our main reservation would be its looks - it's hardly a picture of digital home elegance in its black and white casing. But for speed and usability it's an excellent choice. A worthy alternative if looks really do matter that much would be Belkin's classy N1 .
Networking: Devolo dLAN 200
If there's one word that perfectly sums up the concept of the digital home, it's 'connected'. So why not harness a network that's already in every home - the power network? Devolo's range of Homeplug products do just that.
The dLAN 200 AVdesk Starter kit will get the ball rolling, but you can continue adding further adapters to bring all your networkable products into the fold wherever they are in the house. A theoretical maximum speed of 200Mbps gives you an idea of what's possible. You'll certainly have no trouble piping high-definition video and audio, as well as your internet connection, around your digital home.
Digital photo frame: Kodak EasyShare EX1011
It's fair to say that digital photo frames have yet to gain a real popular foothold. Probably cost has a lot to do with this, but truth be told this kind of item is exactly what the digital home is all about.
Kodak's EX1011 is a 10-inch frame that connects to your network wirelessly, and can display photos, including transitions, and video. It can even play MP3s.
DAB radio: Vita Audio R1
DAB radios are as much style items as they are functional devices. There's certainly a style for every taste, but some seem to offer too much in the looks department and too little in the sound department. Not the Vita Audio R1.
It's our DAB radio of choice simply because it's a compact and portable tabletop radio yet delivers the kind of audio performance that too many other radios are lacking. More mass-market options like the Pure Digital One are worthy of consideration, but for pure performance reasons the R1 is our pick.
Hi-Fi: Sonos Digital Music System
The Sonos system isn't a new kid on the block, but as far as we're concerned it may as well be the only one. The perfect blend of clever technology, elegant styling and simplicity of use makes it perfect for the digital home.
Up to 32 rooms can be connected to your Wi-Fi hi-fi, and it's one of those all-too-rare pieces of technology that just works. To share your digital music collection or internet radio around your home in style, the Sonos system is an absolute must.