Great Gear Sites

Illustration: Marc Simon

Quick! Who's offering the lowest prices on 65-inch rear-projection TVs this week? What's the best site for downloading tracks from your favorite musicians (or artists you've never heard of)? Which DVD players can format movies for a 1080p LCD TV?

Becoming an expert on digital entertainment products may not be a cakewalk, but finding expert advice is easy. If you have a question--from "What does it do?" to "Where is the best place to buy it?"--chances are good that the Web has the answers for you.

We scoured the Web to find the top sites on an array of topics. Our discoveries range from sources for professional and user reviews of complex products such as HDTV sets and 7.1-channel surround-sound systems, to sites supplying sage advice on how to set up, use, and troubleshoot many types of products. User group members happily tackle all varieties of topics, be they technical queries like "What is low-level video noise?" or philosophical matters such as whether an LCD TV is really better than a plasma one.

Some of the most useful sites help you unearth buried treasures. Impressed by your neighbor's great audio receiver, which retailers no longer sell? Look for it in Audiogon's classified ads. If you're hoping to be first on your continent with the latest hot gadget, try importers like JapanDirect, which challenge the "available only in Japan" notion. And if you want to check out a DVD movie before you buy it, watch the flick's trailer--or perhaps an in-depth interview with the director--on IFilm.

These are our favorite sites, from mainstream stalwarts to quirky, hidden gems.

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