1st Place: Onkyo TR-NX906
Well what can we say? An Editor's Choice award winner with a list of features that is as long as the TR-NX906 is bulky.
Basically it's a monster. Yes, it isn't exactly cheap, but then the TR-NX906's spec is fully-loaded and its performance is truly inspirational. Not only does its 1080p upscaling come courtesy of Silicon Optix's advanced HQV Reon-VX chipset, it can also stream pretty much every type of audio track from a networked PC as well as Internet radio.
And boy does it sound good too. It pumps out 7 x 230W of power and can decode Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD formats thanks to the three Texas Instruments Aureus 32-bit DSP chips inside it. It even has THX Ultra2 Plus certification, too.
The list goes on. Turn it around and you're greeted by an array of sockets that is almost comical in number and type and will certainly keep even the most ardent of AV enthusiasts well and truly satisfied. Sound complicated? Well yes and no. It is a complex bit of kit, but we found it surprisingly easy to install and use thanks to a great remote control and straightforward onscreen menus.
In a nutshell, the TX-NR906 is an exceptional AV receiver ideal for those looking to get the most out of their music collections, Blu-ray discs and DVDs. A worthy winner.
2nd Place: Panasonic DMR-EX88
Sky+ isn't the only option you know. With the advent of Freeview Playback we now have digital PVRs and feature-rich DVD/HDD combis like Panasonic's excellent DMR-EX88.
The DMR-EX88 deck earns its second place spot by delivering a clean and detailed picture as well as letting you record up to 712 hours of TV to its 400GB hard drive. It also doubles as a media store for your MP3 and JPEG files, effectively turning it into jukebox-cum-photo album. You can also record directly onto DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, DVD-R or DVD+R discs, or copy from the hard disk to any of these formats and dual-layer DVD-R or DVD+R discs.
Granted, it's not the cheapest out there but when you consider that you're getting all of the above, along with smooth upscaling to 1080p, 1080i and 720p; a slick EPG, a whole host of editing options; and the ability to playback media files over its USB and SD/SDHC card slot, then the DMR-EX88 starts to look very tempting.
3rd Place: Pioneer BDP-LX71
For a long time it was hard to find a standalone Blu-ray player that could outperform Sony's PlayStation 3 console, but those days are finally behind us. The BDP-LX71 is a high end Blu-ray player, with a high end price, but with performance that makes it worth each and every penny.
This player really does look the business - the chassis is large and heavy, just like Pioneer's old high end DVD players, while the glossy black finish means it will complement a Kuro plasma perfectly. The image quality produced by the BDP-LX71 means that it doesn't just complement a Kuro aesthetically either - pictures are simply superb, with levels of detail simply not produced by other source devices.
The amount of options and adjustments available is also extensive, while the use interface mirrors that on the Kuro TVs, so anyone who has already invested in a Pioneer plasma will instantly feel at home. The BDP-LX71 is even a top quality DVD upscaler, so you can get the best out of your old DVD collection as well as your shiny new Blu-ray discs.