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Say it with style

Manufacturers wanting to make it in the home technology world had better hire a fashion guru to mix it with their engineers, because on the domestic front, looks count.

Pam Carroll
Manufacturers wanting to make it in the home technology world had better hire a fashion guru to mix it with their engineers, because on the domestic front, looks count.

It used to be that buying a TV was not a particularly big decision.  You figured out the biggest size you could get for the money you wanted to spend, and you went out and picked something up at your local electronics retailer.  Yes, there were maybe slight variations in the techno spiel that the vendors used, and some folks went with brand loyalty, but basically one square box looked much the same as the other.

Boy are those days gone.

There is no going to the launch of any new TV today, where the PR spin does not cover, if not begin with, how great its new design will look in your lounge. They have to sell you the merits of plasma, LCD, rear projection, or whatever, of course, but if it doesn't look likely to make the 'Year's Best Dressed' list - forget it.

And heaven forbid if you don't have the latest look - brushed chrome has lately been giving way to piano black (that's shiny and shows lots of fingerprints for the clueless) or matte black.

Sony weighed in with its 'designer glass' plasma models with indicator lights that appear to float, as does the set itself when it's teamed with a matching glass stand.

Panasonic's new VIERA range of LCDs and plasmas stake a fashion claim with pearl-silver finishes, curved bases, and black screen frames.

But I have to say my favourite new concept has just been announced by Philips. It's what they call their Ambilight technology, which is essentially a back-lighting system built into the rear side panels of some of their new plasma and LCD TVs that adjusts ambient lighting around the television to match the colour of the content featured on screen. Ostensibly there to reduce eye strain, I'm more jazzed about the fact that you can run it when the TV's off. Red, blue or green ambient lighting washing your lounge room walls at night - who needs lamps when you've got the TV?

It certainly doesn't stop with televisions, though. Now that we're trying to cram 5, 6 or even 7 speakers and a subwoofer in the lounge along with the big screen TVs, speaker design has really exploded.  You have to decide whether you want to fit them on the floor, on bookshelves or hang them.  They come in all shapes and sizes - thick, thin and even disguised as guitars or mufflers! (Our Surround Sound Buyers Guide can help you decide what's best for your needs.)

Home office items are getting in on the act too. Apple's always been a leader on this front, and now they've got the iMac G5 taking tips from the success of the iPod. Acer has a Ferrari red notebook and Microsoft is about to launch an optical mouse designed by Philippe Starck.

Even the humble printer is trying to look good. At a launch last week, the Canon folk declared that the form factor of their new PIXMA printer range was smart enough to live in your lounge room, if you so desire.

What do you think? How important are the looks of your home electronics gear? Would you buy on style alone? Let us know your thought below.