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How to Choose a Home Theater This Holiday

We're asked all the time what constitutes a great, but affordable home theater package. Unfortunately, 'affordable' can mean very different things to different people. So, we've put together two excellent home theater set-ups for two different budgets, both of which are still firmly planted in the realm of reality. In other words, you probably won't need a winning lottery ticket to afford the payments on them.

For the budget-conscious buyer:
VIZIO VX37L 37-inch LCD TV

VIZIO VX37L 37-inch LCD TV
At just $799 for a top-notch LCD, you really can't beat VIZIO. Though you might not be familiar with the name, the company has been making some noise lately for offering high-quality sets priced with real people in mind. On this LCD, you get two HDMI inputs for connecting video sources with just one cable for picture and sound -- a nice feature at such a low price. The resolution tops out at 720p, but at this size that's all you'll need for HDTV broadcasts, DVDs and gaming. (More on 720p versus 1080p here.)

Panasonic SC-PT950 Wireless Home Theater

Panasonic SC-PT950 Wireless Home Theater

When putting together a home theater, hardcore audiophiles will tell you to handpick your components and speakers separately. But, that quickly gets expensive and time-consuming. All-in-one systems, or HTIBs (Home Theater In a Box), on the other hand, give you everything you need in one convenient package – like this Panasonic kit, which includes a receiver, amplifier, five-disc DVD changer and speakers. In addition to an included iPod dock and the ability to up-convert DVDs to true 1080p resolution, the $440 system also boasts the convenience and easy setup of a wireless back speaker.

TOTAL: $1,240

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