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HOW-TO: Totally blow out the Super Bowl!

Peter Rojas
Peter Rojas|February 1, 2005 1:04 PM

Super Bowl XXXIXIt's unlikely that this year's Super Bowl will equal the awesome spectacularness of last year's event (though since it's Fox that's broadcasting the game, you never know), but whether you're going to tune for the game itself or just for the commercials, we thought we'd do our part and tell you how to blow out the Super Bowl like nobody's biz (from the Engadget perspective, of course). We're giving you the best guide to jaw-dropping Super Bowl gear this side of Mark Cuban's skybox, and topping it off with an extensive guide to DVRing (or TiVo-ing, if you will) that hi-def Super Bowl broadcast. Let the games begin!

An HDTV (duh)
Panasonic TH-65XVS30 Onyx
So you have to rock the Super Bowl in high definition. It's just not even a question. Sure, it may not be 1080p, or a Jumbotron (or the other Jumbotron) but if you're ready for the king of plasma HDTVs (for the next 15 minutes, anyway), look no further than the Panasonic Onyx XVS series. That's right, no more need for another HDTV tuner box floating around, this guy's got an ATSC/QAM tuner built in, as well as a CableCARD slot, and almost every interface under the sun. Our only complaint is that they're not the full 1080 (native res is actually 1366x768, which really burns our chaps), but we'll overlook that in favor of its outstanding black (and color) representation.

Click on for the rest of the Super Bowl gear guide, and our very comprehensive hi-def DVR How-To courtesy of HDTV specialist Stephen Speicher.

A high-definition digital video recorder
hr10-250 hd tivo high-def hughes
Right, so you have to rock the Super Bowl in high definition, but you can't do it without the DVR! What if something else happens worth rewinding over and over and over again this year? The problem with watching HDTV and DVRing HDTV is that if you want to do both, it can get a little hairy. Fox will be broadcasting the game on Fox HD, and if you live near enough to a Fox affiliate that's broadcasting the game in HD and if you have a Media Center PC (or even just a regular PC) with a high-def TV tuner, you shouldn't have a problem (just make sure you have enough space on your hard drive to record all those hours of HDTV).

But not everyone lives within range of an over-the-air HD broadcast and not every cable and satellite provider carries Fox HD. Depending on where you live, you might be able to get the Fox HD broadcast via DirecTV, which means you could use the HR10-250 high-definition TiVo from Hughes to record the game; if you have Time-Warner Cable and live in an area where they carry Fox HD, you'll have to get them to upgrade you to the Explorer 8000HD post-haste. But more on this later.

Sharp AX-HC1Sharp's AX-HC1 fat-reducing oven

With all the pre-game, post-game, and actual game stuff, the odds are pretty good you're going to spend roughly 16 hours or so parked in front of the tube (or panel, if you will) on Sunday, so we feel something of a moral obligation to include the AX-HC1, Sharp's new mini-oven which uses superheated steam to melt away the oil in fatty foods. They claim it should reduce calories by about 13%, which means you should feel about 13% less guilty about feeding bucketloads of nachos to all your friends.

yamaha dtx-500A 5.1 surround sound system

If you're watching the game in high definition, you had better be watching it in glorious 5.1 surround.  Listen to the grunts of the player, the howl of the crowd, and the braying of Fox announcers in full 3-D space.  But before you run out to pick up a system, make sure your set-top box or HD receiver has a digital out in either coax or optical format.

Most people build their 5.1 systems with a receiver and speaker sysem of choice.  Others take the easy way out and get a Home Theater In a Box (HTIB)—with the HTIB you get all the cables and can save some cash. One elegant solution is the Kenwood HTB-S610 wireless home theater system, which gives you 5.1 surround without all the wiring hassles. It is minimal, however, so future scalability could be an issue when you try to plug in that Xbox 2, Blu-ray/HD DVD player, or Airport Express.  For power users, you can go with Yamaha's DTX-5000.  This tower of 6.1 surround power sets you up for some nice movie viewing when the game ends. Give yourself some time to set it up and optimize, though—you ain't messing around anymore!

ABC Monday Night Football football remote Football TV Remote

This is technically the ABC Monday Night Football remote control, but if you hold it just the right way none of your friends should be able to tell the difference. Or you can take a black sharpie to it, kind of like somebody with a bunch of old, bad tats they really can't stand anymore. Sorry, we just had to add this.


So you want that massive 100-inch screen (or maybe you'd like a 200-inch screen?) but don't have any inside contacts on the board of directors at Samsung. Okay, so there's a quick and dirty way to get a huge screen, and an added benefit is that you can pick it up and take it anywhere: just use an LCD or DLP projector. There are now a handful of small, powerful home-theater projectors that are HDTV-compatible, and can throw your display anywhere there's a big enough white wall (preferably one painted with a highly reflective paint like Goo Systems' Screen Goo). Of course, you'll still need an HDTV tuner and speakers, but for a system that you can stick in the back of the car and take with you to the Superbowl party, a projector is the only way to go.

toshiba lcd projectorOne popular option is the Toshiba TLP-ET1. For a street price of just under a grand, you get a 7.7 pound projector that can easily throw a clear 80-inch image from a relatively short distance, has an 800 lumen bulb rated for 3,000 hours, and inputs for component, S-video and RGB (no HDMI, so if that's on your must list, skip this one).

sony lcd projector If you're ready to spend a little more, $1,500 will get you the Sony VPL-HS3 (or, if you're so inclined, their VPL-HS51), which is a little heavier (almost 10 pounds), but includes an HDMI port and a 900 lumen bulb. This unit also operates at short ranges, and includes Sony's Cinema Black Pro technology, which the company claims results in greater sharpness and contrast than is the norm with LCD projectors.

For less than the cost of the Toshiba, you can pick up the highly rated Optoma H30. Though it doesn't accept HDMI input, it's got an 800 lumen bulb, great resolution and a street price of under $1,000. Like plasmas, when it comes to projectors, you've got lots of options.

The Antenna
Zenith Silver Sensor

So you've got your HDTV and want to catch the broadcast but you don't get hi-def through your cable or satellite provider (more on this later). Well friend, the Zenith Silver Sensor indoor antenna may be the one for you. The stylish antenna (and for an antenna it is pretty darn stylish) can receive over-the-air high definition transmissions from your local HD-compatible affiliate, and from our experience putting it to use, it locks onto the signal very well—after you aim the antenna old school style, of course. The Silver Sensor is available for around $25 if you look hard enough, just don't forget that an HD receiver ($150 and up) is necessary if you want to watch the HDTV transmissions it can receive.

NFL Films Super Bowl CollectionNFL Films Super Bowl Collection DVD 3-Pack

If the pre-game show doesn't start early enough for ya you can get ready for the big game with this massive 15-disc DVD set covering the first 30 Super Bowl games.  Each disc also comes loaded with special features sure to provide you with lots of trivia to impress your friends at the Super Bowl party. Well, the sober ones at least.

Your weapon of last resort — Text alerts

Can't park yourself in front of a TV on Super Bowl Sunday or listen to game the radio or check scores online? Ok, you can still keep tabs on the game. Yahoo offers free SMS text message alerts that will let you know every time the score changes.

And, of course...

How-to record the Super Bowl in hi-def, by HDTV-guru Stephen Speicher

Your low-fat chips are on the table (ironically placed next to the heaping bowl of guacamole). Your cooler is overflowing with bottles of Rolling Rock and Sierra Nevada and your brand-new HDTV is ready to proudly beam Fox's 720p signal. Basically, you've got all the trappings of a great Super Bowl party. Yet, you're alone; everyone went to your neighbor's shindig. "Why? Why? Why?" you ask yourself. The answer is simple: they had HDTV with DVR (digital video recorder), and you only had HDTV.

We here at Engadget know how tough it is trying to keep up with the Joneses, and we're here to help. Together we can avoid a DVR-less Super Bowl disaster—afterall, you never know what'll pop up!

First thing's first—we need to determine your chances of receiving an OTA (Over-The-Air) signal. While it isn't a perfect gauge, the folks at AntennaWeb.org have provided a nice tool to determine your likelihood of receiving an acceptable signal. The results are color-coded based on which type of antenna is required. While the tool doesn't account for terrain, it should give you a feel for where you stand.

If you can receive an OTA signal, you're in good shape. Along with a variety of niche computer-based programs and hardware, complete packages such as Microsoft's Media Center Edition provide a fairly seamless transition into the HDTV DVR world.

Yet an even easier addition might be DirecTV's HD Receiver/Digital Video Recorder with TiVo, the Hughes HR10-250. If you currently subscribe to DirecTV, receive an OTA signal, and have $999 to plunk down, this is the no-brainer option. I know what you're thinking "Isn't DirecTV satellite?" Yes, it is. However, the DirecTV DVR records its HD content from both OTA (for the local channels) and the satellite (for channels such as ESPNHD). Unfortunately DirecTV requires service to record even the OTA content, so if you go this route, be prepared to sign up for DirecTV service.

At this point many of you may be thinking "I've tried before. I can't get an OTA signal." Fret not, we still have options—cable and satellite. We'll start with sat, but here's where it starts to get a little more complicated.

Currently satellite companies do not offer local HD stations via satellite as it would require too much bandwidth (DirecTV's working on it, though). However, for those of you lucky enough to be in one of Fox's 26 network owned and operated markets (see list below) it doesn't matter. In these markets Fox has determined that as long as you're watching a Fox station they don't care which one—Fox has worked with DirecTV to offer customers in these markets a signal from another market. You might not get your local news, but you'll get all the national programming such as the Super Bowl. If you're in one of those markets, it's time for you to pick up that aforementioned Hughes HR10-250. This time you'll get Fox via the satellite feed and not the OTA signal.

Not in one of those markets? There's still cable. In late 2004 most of the cable companies began large-scale rollouts of HD DVRs. Cox, Time Warner, and Comcast are all now offering some flavor of DVR. While the software will vary from company to company (and region to region in the case of Comcast), each will give you the basics. Don't expect the cable-company boxes to offer the polish or functionality of a TiVo or MCE, but, for now, it will hold you over.

For most of these options, it's not too late. An in-house installation may now be out of the question (depending on your local company), but many cable companies stock these boxes in their stores. Most electronics stores stock computers running Windows Media Center Edition, and if you're willing to point your own satellite dish, you can be up and running in just a few hours with an HD TIVO. Good luck and save some guac for us, yeah?

Boston (Manchester, NH)/WFXT
Kansas City/WDAF
Los Angeles/KTTV
New York/WNYW
Salt Lake City/KSTU
St. Louis/KTVI
Tampa-St. Pete (Sarasota)/WTVT