Home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems are designed to take some of the hassle out of putting together a home theater, but Bose's new line of Lifestyle home theater systems argues they don't go far enough.
The new Lifestyle systems are built around Bose's Unify technology, which uses a variety of methods, such as clearly labeled packaging, guided setup, and straightforward commands, to make the systems easier to use. The video demonstrations on Bose's site look promising, with simple onscreen menus guiding setup and smooth integration with a Harmony-like universal remote.
The feature breakdown on these systems is actually pretty simple. All of these systems have four HDMI inputs (included one front HDMI port) and two component video inputs, giving you five total HD connections. They're all also capable of analog video upconversion, so you'll only need to make a single HDMI connection from the Lifestyle system to your HDTV. The major step-ups on the V25 series include an iPod dock, AM/FM tuner, Bose Link wireless audio connectivity, and an LED display on the remote. The V35 adds step-up Jewel Cube speakers. Bose wraps up the systems in a handy chart on its Web site (reproduced below; click to enlarge).
Though we're actually quite sympathetic to the idea of making HTIBs easier to setup, it seems hard to justify the pricing on these systems from the spec sheet. Competing HTIBs with built-in Blu-ray players cost around $500, and features like an iPod dock are treated as standard features, rather than a step-up. In some ways these competing systems are also more simple, by having the Blu-ray player built-in (no HDMI connection needed at all) or an integrated iPod dock, like on the LG LHB535. And if the setup still scares you, you could hire a tech-savvy friend at a rate of $100 an hour, buy a Harmony One universal remote ($200), and still save money with a more conventional HTIB--plus, you'll get a built-in Blu-ray player.
It's possible the Lifestyle systems live up to their price tag with exceptional sound quality--which we can't judge without a review sample--but it would have to sound a good deal better than competitors to make up for the large price difference. Guided setup, smart packaging, and nonjargony phrases are all smart design choices, we just wish they didn't cost so much.