27" Sony WEGA set proves that bigger...


27" Sony WEGA set proves that bigger isn't always better

Figuratively speaking, a big-screen TV ain't no big thing.

That might sound like home-theater heresy, but a huge screen isn't mandatory - particularly in a smaller room.

The minimum suggested size for home theater is a 27-inch screen (measured diagonally). Sony's mid-level 27-inch WEGA, the $800 KV-27FS17, is a solid block of a TV (100-plus pounds) with a flat screen, dual-tuner picture-in-picture, a digital comb filter and a component video input for the highest-quality connection to a DVD player. When properly calibrated with the Avia Guide to Home Theater DVD, the WEGA's picture is richer and more dimensional than most under-$1,000 sets.

Two features I loved about the set (I bought a floor model from one of those warehouse clubs at a bargain-basement $400):

A Favorite-Preview function that allows quick access to seven favorite channels, with a single preview displayed in a little picture-in-picture window.

A 16:9 Enhanced Mode that heightens detail on anamorphic DVDs, frequently described as "enhanced for wide-screen." In this setting, the WEGA devotes all the scan lines to the picture instead of distributing some to the black bars above and below the letter-box image.

The same set, with fewer features, is available as the KV-27FS13 for $700. The top-of-the-line KV-27FV17 sells for $900.

Want to really see the difference between a WEGA and another set? Insert a movie like Moulin Rouge, sold in the anamorphic format, into your DVD player and set the WEGA to 16:9 Enhanced Mode.

Information: www.sony.com or 1-800-222-SONY

- Kevin Hunt/Hartford Courant

New Photosmart printer only a small improvement

Hewlett-Packard's Photosmart printers are some of the best photo printers available. The series' latest model, the HP Photosmart 1315 ($400), improves a bit on the 1215 with a tiny monitor for editing pictures saved on your digital media card, but doesn't perform much better in other areas.

The 1315, which works with Windows 98 and later editions and with Mac OS 8.6 and above, smoothly installs in minutes, thanks to the ubiquitous "walk-through" diagrams that come with most printers. You can use a parallel port or USB cable (neither of which comes with the printer). And, as with the 1215, you can send photos and text from your laptop computer to the printer's infrared port.

If you want to print from digital media, the 1315 has slots for CompactFlash, SmartMedia and Sony Memory Sticks. A 2.5-inch LCD monitor on the front of the 1315 can be angled for a better view. You can use the control panel to look at the pictures, then crop or rotate them as needed. (If you want to do more, you need a solid-image editing program on your PC.)

Photo prints were detailed and colorful - just what you would expect with the better printers in the $200 to $400 range, but they didn't look much better than prints for the 1215. While the 1215's photo prints look good, it was disappointing not to see much of a difference when prints from the old and new printer were compared side-by-side.

The 1315 continues to suffer from the same minor problem as the 1215 on glossy photographs. Tiny tracks seem to appear on the glossy film, which can be easily scarred by rollers moving the paper through the printer. The way around this is to print semi-gloss or matte finish pictures that have grain to hide the tracks.

Information: 888-999-4747 or www.hp.com.

- Kevin Washington

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