Holiday Gift Guide: Home Theater
Do you have a friend or family member that loves to go to the movies, but hates the ridiculous ticket prices at theaters? Are you looking for a gift for someone with a massive movie collection? We've compiled a list of great home theater gifts and gadgets that may be exactly what you are looking for this year. Also, be sure to check out our holiday gift guide on the best HDTVs coming on November 19th!
Roku streaming set-top box
Definitely one of the top options for a streaming set-top box, the Roku line of media players is both an excellent value and performer in the category.
With four models to choose from, consumers can go with the LT or HD model in order to get 720p video playback or move up with the Roku 2 XD or XS to get hardware capable of 1080p video playback. In addition, the Roku 2 XS includes a motion controller for playing games as well as a USB port for media on a thumbdrive or portable hard drive. The XS is also the only model with an Ethernet port, but all players are Wireless b/g/n capable.
Users have around 600 channels to choose from and there's also a free smartphone application for browsing content as well as acting as a secondary remote control.
Regarding price point, the Roku players range from $49 to $99. However, the XS can occasionally be found between $65 to $80 depending on the sale. In addition, Roku is currently bundling six months of the $7.99-per-month Hulu Plus service with the Roku HD and a HDMI cable for a price point of $80.
PlayStation 3 Blu-ray Player
Coming with a 160GB hard drive, the base model of the PlayStation 3 offers 1080p video output and can play audio in the LPCM 7.1ch, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS and DTS-HD formats. In addition, Sony added support for 3D Blu-ray movies during 2010 with a firmware update. In fact, the PlayStation 3 is one of the most frequently updated Blu-ray players on the consumer electronics market. Beyond Blu-ray, the PlayStation offers support for popular streaming video applications including Hulu Plus, NetFlix, Vudu and Amazon Video.
Regarding price point, the PlayStation 3 can be found between $250 to $300 depending on how it's bundled. For instance, a 500GB version of the hardware is being bundled with Assassin's Creed III for around $300. Look for discounts on Black Friday down to the $199 price point for the console. (For a standalone Blu-ray player, look for the Panasonic DMP-BDT220 Wi-Fi 3D Blu-ray player at around the $100 price point.)
Apple TV streaming set-top box
Specific to consumers that love their iPhones, iPads and MacBooks, the Apple TV is designed to help consumers transition content to the big screen as well as provide access to a variety of streaming media services.
Similar to the Roku line of boxes, the Apple TV offers access to streaming services like Pandora, Netflix and Hulu Plus. It also offers access to Apple's movie store to purchase premium content as well as Apple's library of 1080p movie trailers.
However, the most interesting aspect of the Apple TV is the ability to mirror content from another Apple device through AirPlay. When connected over the same Wi-Fi network, an iPhone can transmit the on-screen image or feed to an HDTV through the Apple TV. Apple consumers can watch video, view photos, check out the Web through Safari and play games on the big screen.
Regarding price point, the 1080p Apple TV is currently positioned around $100. However, it can be found at the $90 price point occasionally through deals. Also, look to Apple on Black Friday for a slight discount on the hardware.
Onkyo TX-NR616 Receiver
If you are looking to transition away from the home-theater-in-a-box system, check out this Onkyo receiver as the first component of your new home theater.
With eight HDMI inputs, 7.2 speaker capabilities and 4K upscaling, the Onkyo TX-NR616 is definitely ideal for home theaters with lots of components. Outputing 115 watts per channel, the receiver decodes Audyssey DSX, Dolby Pro Logic IIz, Dolby TueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. It also offers support for Internet radio, cloud streaming, smartphone access and wireless home networking.
Just a heads up, be sure to download the most recent firmware update for the receiver and upload it to the receiver through the USB port. Regarding price point, the receiver retails for around $700. However, recent deals on the receiver put it at the $350 mark.
Energy Take Classic 5.1 Speaker System
Made up of four Take satellite speakers, a Take center channel speaker and one 200-watt Take powered subwoofer, each high-gloss black speaker component in this system is designed to blend into a home theater.
Highly rated by Amazon and professional reviewers, the Energy system is definitely a great pick for someone that wants to step up from the traditional home theater in a box setup. Regarding price, the MSRP of the speaker system is $599. However, look for deals on the system between $350 to $400.
Haier Slim EVOKE Soundbar
While a soundbar will never give you the amazing sound of a balanced, multi-speaker home theater setup, it's definitely useful for people living in apartments in order to have great sound without disturbing the neighbors or simply don't have the space for large speakers. It can also be useful for a secondary television in the bedroom or another room in the house.
When it comes to soundbars, one of the best values on the market is the Haier SBEV40-SLIM Evoke 2.1-Channel soundbar. At just over one-inch thick, the soundbar is perfect for mounting underneath a wall-mounted television. The package also includes a 2.4GHz Wireless subwoofer and the soundbar has two HDMI inputs for multiple audio sources.
Regarding deals, the Haier soundbar can be found around the $250 price point. Look for deals between $225 and $275 during the holidays.
Logitech Harmony Remote Controls
Definitely some of the best universal remotes on the consumer electronics market, Logitech's line of Harmony remote controls are specifically designed to eliminate all the other remotes that keep getting lost in your couch cushions.
Setting up a Harmony remote does require PC access in order to initially program the remote for all your home theater components, but the ability to press a single button for a specific task like watching television is really fantastic.
While Logitech recently released the Harmony Touch around the $250 price point, the Logitech 900 and the Harmony 1100 touchscreen panel remote are both excellent options. In addition, keep an eye out for sales on the older Harmony One around the $100 price point
Mohu Leaf HDTV Antenna
If you are looking to replace an ugly HDTV antenna and still want to pick up a ton of stations in high definition, you really need to check out the Mohu Leaf. Specifically designed to lay flat against the wall, the Mohu Leaf is black on one side and white on the other. Since the antenna is bidirectional, it really doesn't matter which side is facing the wall.
The antenna can also be mounted behind a picture frame in order to hide it from guests. To install the Mohu Leaf, the user simply tests a few locations for the Leaf and checks signal strength. Once the best positions have been found, the user can attach the included Velcro to stick the Mohu Leaf to the wall.
According to Amazon reviews, the antenna works extremely well in most areas. Regarding price point, the Mohu Leaf retails for about $40. However, deals on the HDTV antenna can be found at the $20 to $30 price point. In addition, keep an eye out for deals on the amplified Mohu Leaf as well as the Mohu Bounce (boosts Wi-Fi signal for video streaming).
|Mohu Leaf Antenna|
Belkin Conserve Smart AV Surge Protector
Ideal for saving money on the electric bill, the Belkin Conserve Smart AV surge protector lets you control power to your whole entertainment system with the push of the TV's power button.
To set it up, simply plug the main home theater device, most likely a television or stereo receiver, into the green Master Outlet. This master device will then control the five Master-Controlled Outlets, which are ideal for devices like a Blu-ray player, gaming console or streaming set-top box that don't require constant round-the-clock power. Devices that require around-the-clock power like Cable/Satellite boxes and DVRs should be plugged into one of the two dark gray Not-Controlled Outlets.
Since leaving your home entertainment system devices on all the time can add up to $67 of wasted energy a year, this handy surge protector will help out on the bills each year. It protects sensitive electronics from power spikes or surges with 1000 joules of surge protection.
The price point of the Belkin Conserve Smart AV surge protector is right around $30, however it can be found on sale between $15 to $25. Also, be on the lookout for the small, single outlet version that can often be found for about $5.