electronics or computers
you purchased at
Costco? Email them to:
Or mail to:
Q&A with Marc Saltzman
The Costco Connection
P.O. Box 34088
Seattle, WA 98124-1088
or fax to (425) 313-6718.
“Marc Saltzman Q&A”
in the subject line. Marc
will answer selected ques-
tions in this column. We
regret that unpublished
questions cannot be
a leading high-tech
to more than three
on radio and TV, and is
the author of 15 books.
He’s on Twitter at
Q: I love my new HDTV, but now I’d like
to improve the sound quality. What are
A: With so much attention given to the television
screen, it’s easy to overlook the other important element of your home theater: sound.
Oh sure, your TV’s stereo audio might be OK
for watching the evening news or a rerun of an old
sitcom, but you can do much, much better for the
latest television programs, sports, video games,
music videos and movies. As George Lucas once
famously said, sound is half the movie experience.
You do have a few options to improve the
audio quality of your big-screen entertainment.
One is to buy an audio-video (AV) receiver, which
is required to decode and distribute a surround-sound mix to speakers spread throughout
the room. An AV receiver and six or
more speakers—including a subwoofer for booming bass—can
help replicate the multichannel movie-theater experience
in your home.
Instead of buying everything separately, a “home
theater in a box” is a convenient option that includes
the AV receiver, speakers
and, in some cases, a Blu-ray
But not everyone has the budget, room size or technical know-how
to buy and install one of these solutions. A
newer and increasingly popular alternative is to buy
a sound bar, a horizontal speaker that sits just above
or below the television screen. Sound bars house
multiple speakers and can simulate surround sound
for TV shows, movies, music and video games.
They’re generally less expensive than an AV receiver
and separate speakers, and they’re easy to set up.
Plus, they take up little room, so they’re ideal for
small rooms, condos and apartments.
Along with support for multiple movie-audio
formats such as Dolby Digital Pro Logic II and DTS
Digital Surround, many sound bars ship with a wire-
Costco carries a variety of
sound bars and audio equip-
ment in the warehouses and
online at Costco.com. You can
also find the latest phablets in
the wireless kiosks in the
warehouses and on
less subwoofer (to place somewhere else in the room). Also,
nearly all new models have
integrated Bluetooth technology so you can stream music to
the sound bar from your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Q: I’ve heard of a new
device called a “phablet.”
Should I be interested?
A: As the name suggests, a
phablet is somewhere between a
phone and a tablet. These portable
devices look like large phones—with
touch screens measuring 5 to 6. 9 inches
diagonally—and are usually powered
by the versatile Android platform.
A phablet borrows the best from
the phone and tablet camps. On one
hand, because they take a SIM
card (and thus offer cellular con-
nectivity), they are super-sized
smartphones that can make
calls and access online con-
tent—even when there isn’t a
Wi-Fi hot spot nearby.
And because they’ve got
large screens, like a tablet, they’re
also ideal for watching video, playing games, reading e-books, looking
at photos and browsing the Web.
Also, phablets work with virtually all of the
downloadable apps available at the Google Play
store. Unlike most tablets, which are typically 7
to 11 inches, a phablet can still fit in a pocket or
Typing and reading messages on a larger screen
might be more comfortable than on a smaller phone.
Some phablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note
3.0, ship with a high-tech stylus tucked into the back
in case you’d like to use it instead of a finger.
Phablets are an ideal compromise for those who
can’t decide between a smartphone and a tablet, as
well as a clever secondary device to tote around.
And expect to see them around for a while:
More than 60 million phablets were expected to sell
in 2013—up from 25 million in 2012—and sales are
expected to top 146 million by 2016, says tech firm
HIS. Market research firm IDC says phablets overtook shipments of both laptops and tablets in Asia
during the fall of 2013. C
Tricking out your TV
More in archives
On Costco.com, enter “Connection”;
at Online Edition, search
; Fabulous phablets