Recently, when yours truly,
the purveyor of this column, got hitched, a couple of junior editors on the Electronics team boldly created a mockup of Fully Equipped with the title changed to Fully Whipped. As a headline, they wrote: "Honey, is it all right if I spend $50 at Best Buy?"
Well, after a couple of months of what my wife assures me is marital bliss, I'm happy to report I haven't descended to quite that
level of submission. But I have begun to encounter the phenomenon known as Wife Acceptance Factor, or WAF for short. (Note: The female members of the CNET editorial staff wish to point out that there is
a non-gender-linked counterpart: Significant Other Acceptance Parameters, or SOAP.)
Heading into the holiday shopping season, you'll be hearing more about WAF as electronics companies market home-theater products that blend female aesthetic sensibilities with the male's wanton lust for full-size, full-featured, bad-ass gear.
In a WAF world, it's all about nonintrusive electronics taking up as little space as possible or, better yet, being completely invisible. Rear-channel speakers for surround sound? Sorry, that's not always possible in WAF-land. A 57-inch rear-projection HDTV that costs a palatable $2,300? Try again. The missus likes the smaller, more expensive plasma. Ouch, that feels good.
Yes, it's true: WAF empowers you to spend large sums of money on sleek electronic gear. The rub: You'd probably get a lot more for your money had the wife's acceptance not been a factor. Case in point: A 50-inch plasma with HD resolution costs five times as much (around $10,000) as the equivalent-size, boxy, CRT-based rear-projection TV
, which in many cases offers better performance.
Does that mean you'll always end up making a monetary sacrifice for slimmer, sleeker, decor-friendly products? Unfortunately, yes, especially if you're looking for good performance. But it's a compromise that must be made.
With that in mind, here's a list WAF-friendly products that I've been scouting. Some have hit the market already, and some will be in stores soon.
Dell 2100MP projector
: Just add a screen, and you'll have a giant image on the wall, all from this compact front projector that costs a little more than a grand.
Pioneer Elite Pro-1000HD
: Thanks to its 1,280x768-pixel resolution, this 50-inch plasma monitor can display 480p- and 720p-enhanced as well as high-definition images without having to downscale them like many lower-resolution panels do. And it can currently be found for less than half of its original $17,000 list price.
: Because it uses DLP technology, this 61-incher is slimmer and much lighter than standard rear-projection behemoths. For around $5,000, it doesn't offer mind-blowing performance, but it's pretty darn good if you match it up with Samsung's DVD-HD931
DVD player, which is equipped with a digital video connection (DVI). The TV is also available in smaller sizes for less money.
Sony 400-disc progressive DVP-CX985V DVD/SACD player
: Does your wife complain that your DVD collection should have to pay rent because it takes up so much room? Toss the cases, stick all the films in this 400-disc changer ($400 list price), and earn a ton of neatness points. It just hit stores this month.
: This 57-incher, which lists for $9,000, is another slimmer and lighter projection TV that uses cutting-edge three-chip LCOS (liquid crystal on silicone) technology to shrink the box. Our TV guru, Kevin Miller, recently calibrated one of these babies and says that even with all the fancy specs, it's not a killer performer. But cosmetically, it's a knockout.
: The first audio/video product to incorporate Dolby Virtual Speaker surround-sound technology, this $1,000 two-speaker (plus subwoofer) home-theater kit allegedly delivers a "remarkably realistic 5.1-channel surround listening experience that is far superior to any previously available virtual surround process." It's due out this fall, and we're waiting for our review sample.
Niro Two6.1 home-theater system
: At nearly $2,000, this two-speaker surround system from Mr. Niro Nakamichi and his Japanese engineering team isn't cheap, but our audio guru, Steve Guttenberg, says it sounds surprisingly good.
Panasonic SC-HT900 surround-sound system
: Part of Panasonic's series of slim home-theater kits, the SC-HT900 is the best-looking $500 theater package our reviewer has seen. Matching front- and rear-tower speakers means no wall-mounting or speaker stands are necessary.
: "One box, two wires, and $300 make any TV a home theater." Need I say more? Check out the review for details.
David Carnoy is an executive editor for CNET Reviews. Have a question for him? Let us know!