I got my first 5.1 system at wally world for about $250. The Panasonic you linked is far superior. Whatever unit you get, make sure the I/Os match your other equipment. I see that Pan. has the optical digital input which you will need to feed the DD5.1SS signal from the 211 into the audio system. The 211 will also do that over HDMI but apparently the Pan. does not have HDMI inputs, or any video inputs for that matter, so you will end up connecting the 211 directly to your TV for the video, hopefully by HDMI. (The XBox will also have to go to the TV.) The only possible consequence of that arrangement is that there might be an A/V sync issue and I don't see anywhere this system gives you any way to resolve that. (But there could be a sync control feature in the Pan. not mentioned in the specs.)
The real downside to this approach (as I have learned!) is it's almost impossible to expand, as jayn_j alluded. Perhaps if your TV has multiple video inputs (preferrably HDMI) and an optical output, you can use the TV to do the switching if you pick up other sources like a BD player. And then the XBox could also feed a SS audio signal to your system via the TV.
Good luck with your system! Warning - It gets very addictive and thus expensive! I went from about $3,500 invested in just a TV and HTiB about 2 years ago to over $15K now, and that's only considered a "mid range" system. I think I'll park here for awhile, tho'...!
Good luck with your system! Warning - It gets very addictive and thus expensive! I went from about $3,500 invested in just a TV and HTiB about 2 years ago to over $15K invested now, and that's only considered a "mid range" system. I think I'll park here for awhile...!
Well, that's a nice little receiver. So you're already expanding your original $300 budget by a good bit. The bug has bitten! Going beyond the HTiB concept is a no-brainer once you start looking into it. The receiver you linked will serve well as the switcher (2 HDMI inputs is a bare minimum, tho') and a good audio center. It does not appear to power the sub however, so you will need a powered sub if that is the case. 5.1 worth of speakers to match could cost you anywhere from a couple hundered $$ to thousands, but a good match for this receiver might be in the $500 range total.
As you alluded, you don't want to keep making this decision over and over. You need to find your "comfort level" then buy accordingly. I recommend you get into a local Best Buy or Circuit City just to see what's available, what sounds good to you, get some "hands-on" experience, etc. Pick a couple of systems that might work for you then start shopping around for price. You could save a bunch on the receiver if you're OK with a refurb unit. Others here have been focusing on the Onkyo 605 for under $300 as a refurb. That would be a superior unit to the Yamaha.
The quest begins! Good luck with your search. Don't forget that the SatGuys forums are your best sounding board...!
At your price point, I believe your best bet is to look used on Craigslist. Electronics has a very steep depreciation and you can find stuff a few years old for pennies on the dollar.
A reasonable new HTIB with switching is going to start at around $350 and head up. You can get a good receiver at $200-$300, but the speakers are going to be another $300 on top of that. Anything less, and you may as well stay with the TV speakers.
The come on Sony and Panasonic stuff they sell at Sams is not going to do the job you want as it generally only has TV analog audio input. That makes it very dependent on what audio that the TV outputs. Some only output audio from the tuner and not from switched inputs. It MAY work for you with a better TV, but research it very carefully.
I wasn't suggesting that you buy at a "big box" but I think you really need to hear speakers before you order them. There is less chance of going wrong with the electronics, but again having a better idea of how they size up vs. one another is also compelling to me.
I ended-up buying my whole system locally from a small independent dealer, one of the few remaining in my area. I like to keep my dollars locally when I can. I bought both of my HDTVs from local indies as well. The upfront price might be a bit higher but I trust these guys more than the large retailers and especially the on-line sources when problems arise.
See what's available in the stores. Touch, see, and listen. Ask questions in person. Decide on a couple of alternatives that are suitable to you in direct comparision. Then check the on-line sources for the prices...
Again, good luck with it. BRgds to all and have a great holiday weekend...!