Tuesday, March 28, 2006

2K Sports scores with College Hoops 2K6

I am still without an Xbox 360 and I'm sad about it. Really. The only way I can enjoy fabulous 360 games like 2K Sports' "College Hoops 2K6" is to tote my games over to a friend's house.

But it's probably just as well. If I had a 360 in my house right now, I'd be playing this game all day long. Graphically, college basketball has never looked better. Even though the players' names cannot be displayed on their jersies, per NCAA rules, you can recognize many of your favorite players and coaches.

The players sweat and their faces have appropriate expressions and the entire experience is just so, well, pure. You get real fight songs that sound like real bands playing them. There's authentic crowd noise, that comes and goes at the right time. You can see the student sections bouncing up and down.

A new right analog stick-based shooting system will remind you a bit of EA Sports' controls, but works well to enhance shooting, and every feature you could want is in the game. If your team isn't playing in this weekend's Final Four, you can put it there with this game and it won't look much different than the broadcast CBS is putting on (CBS by the way is using this game to diagram plays during its pregame shows for the Elite 8 and Final Four). Get this one. Or at least click here and view the trailer.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Microsoft's new Ipod killer?

There have been rumors floating around for months that Microsoft was developing what some have dubbed an "iPod killer," a device that would download music and also be used to play video and videogames.

This week, San Jose Mercury News writer Dean Takahashi put out some more credible information. Takahashi has just finished a book, "The Xbox 360 Uncloaked: The Real Story Behind Microsoft's Next-Generation Video Game Console."

While reporting for it, he got serious wind of Microsoft's new project and just who the company has coordinating the effort: the director is Greg Gibson, system designer on Xbox 360, and Xbox finance chief Bryan Lee is handling the money side of the project.

Takahashi thinks the Microsoft handheld device would resemble the PlayStation Portable unit, would probably debut in 2007 and could probably run many of the original Xbox games at launch. The code name for the Microsoft's "iTunes"-like music service? "Alexandria."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

So you want an HDTV for March Mania, but which one?

If you're buying a TV these days, it makes quite a bit of sense to go ahead and buy an HDTV, which deliver much sharper pictures than traditional sets. HDTVs also offer Dolby Digital sound via a stereo hookup, so your system will look and sound like a movie theater.

All that's cool, but which kind should you buy: LCD, plasma, DLP?

Panasonic vice president of technology, Jeff Cove, says it depends.

"Each of these technologies all look beautiful," Cove said. "You have to focus on what's the most important thing for (your) living room."

For example, if you want to put a digital set in a kitchen or a room with a lot of light, you probably want to try an LCD.

"It's the best performer in really bright viewing conditions," Cove said. "Plasma wouldn't be as good."

LCD sets go up to about 40 to 45 inches in most product lines and smaller digital sets, Cove said, tend to be LCDs. Plasmas start at 37 inches and have their own advantages.

"If you and your family are going to be sitting 10 feet away from the screen and sit all around the room, you probably want to go plasma," Cove said. "It gives you a wider viewing angle. Wherever you sit in the room, it gives you the same picture. LCD gives you the best picture when you're right in front of it."

DLP sets also provide strong pictures but don't have the panoramic viewing angle of the plasma sets, which I think deliver the best overall picture. Panasonic lent me a 42-inch plasma for a few weeks before Christmas. Right off the truck, the set was beautiful, delivering rich, accurate color reproduction and images so clear during the Panthers' last football game that I almost felt like I could jump through the screen and into Seattle.

Plasma sets deliver better contrast than the other slim line sets, which makes colors look richer. LCD sets can't produce dark colors, especially black, as well. And with sports, plasmas look much better as LCDs can sometimes appear blurry because they can't flash pictures as fast as a plasma.

Now, the old rear projection sets, heavy and wide, still put out quite a good picture and are the most affordable sets. If you want to go past 50 inches, the costs for plasmas explode and you may want to consider the old rear projection unit. But know that rear projections are fast becoming a dinosaur in the industry. And there's one reason why.

"You can't hang it on the wall," Cove said, "and that's important to a lot of people."

What kind of set did you buy or are you thinking about buying? Let me know.