Panasonic SC-HT1500

Combining the functionality of the DMR-E95H (albeit with a smaller hard drive) and a similar design to the SC-HT920, Panasonic's SC-HT1500 is a home theater in a box (HTIB) that includes a built-in DVD recorder, a DVR, and DVD-Audio playback. It carries a list price of $1,000 but is available for less online.

Upside: DVR capability (with an 80GB hard drive), and an electronic program guide (EPG) make the Panasonic SC-HT1500 a considerable upgrade over its predecessor, the SC-HT1000. While it's not as effortless to use or elegant as the TiVo EPG, the HT1500's TV Guide On Screen system enables easier recording of your favorite shows--without having to pay a TiVo-like monthly or lifetime service fee. And the inclusion of the DVD recorder means that you can permanently archive those shows to disc.

Downside: Previous incarnations of TV Guide On Screen worked well enough with analog cable or antenna connections but were a no-go with digital cable and satellite systems. Likewise, HDTV fans will want to look elsewhere for their DVR fix, as the SC-HT1500 can handle only standard-definition TV signals.

Outlook: The TV Guide On Screen caveat notwithstanding, the Panasonic SC-HT1500 packs an amazing number of features into one affordable package. If you're looking for an all-in-one home-theater and recording solution, this unit deserves a serious look.