Tag Archives: home theater

Holiday Gift Guide 2012: Home Theater Edition

Every household needs decent home theater accessories to go with their TV. This holiday season, get your loved ones the right gifts with these bestselling home theater items. We’ve made it easy for you to find out this year’s must-haves in consumer electronics so you’ll know you’re giving the best.

Apple TV

Average Price: $99

Category: Streaming media player

Apple TV lets you stream all of the movies and TV shows available in the iTunes Store to your HDTV on a rental or purchase basis, with purchases stored in the cloud. Netflix, MLB.TV, Hulu Plus, and a handful of other online media services are available, plus music, videos, and photos can be streamed from iPads, iPods and iPhones using AirPlay. AirPlay Mirroring lets you stream any Web video to the Apple TV, if you have a newer Mac running Mountain Lion.

Those who’ve already invested in iTunes content and Apple hardware will love Apple TV.

Roku 2 XD

Average Price: $65-$79

Category: Streaming media player

This digital media player supports signals up to 1080p and features built-in wireless networking that allows you to stream media to your TV, so you can enjoy your favorite TV shows, movies and more in stunning high-definition. Roku 2 XD offers hundreds of streaming-video and -audio services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Vudu, Pandora, Mog, Rdio, and MLB.TV. Roku also offers cross-platform search, capable of finding content across major streaming services.

For people who are not Apple fans and want to access Amazon Instant Video this device will suit your needs.

LG BP620 Blu-Ray Player

Average Price: $99

Category: Blu-Ray Player

If you want the best movie content and picture quality on your HDTV, you need a Blu-ray player. LG’s new Blu-ray player, the BP620, is an impressive device for its price. It features built-in Wi-Fi, plenty of online options, and 3D support.The BP620 offers a wide selection of streaming media services and both free and pay apps, accessible through the player’s built-in Wi-Fi or an Ethernet connection. The Premium services are the most useful, and include Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and several other streamed offerings. The LG apps are much less worthwhile, and include a middling selection of downloadable games and e-books.

The LG BP620 is an excellent budget Blu-ray player. It supports 3D, has built-in Wi-Fi, and its price makes it very friendly to budget-minded home theater owners. There are certainly more expensive options out there such as Sony Playstation 3 and Oppo BDP-93.

Logitech Harmony 650

Average Price: $59-79

Category: Universal Remote

The Harmony 650 is a powerful universal remote with easy set up, color LCD screen, surrounded by five contextual buttons; Web programmable via Windows or Mac PCs; excellent button layout and overall design; supports custom sequences/macros. It does only control 5 devices, so if you have more than that you may want to consider a different remote. Eliminate multiple remotes and get this very reasonable universal remote.

Sony HT-CT150 Soundbar

Average Price: $188-200

Category: Home Theater / Soundbar

The sound bar has become an extremely popular add-on purchase when shopping for a TV, especially if you don’t want a space-hogging multi-channel surround system. You shouldn’t have to deal with sound so bad it sours your experience with your gorgeous new display.

This 3D sound bar delivers immersive audio without running wires across the room or setting up extra speakers, so you can complete your 3D home entertainment experience with simple, yet powerful surround sound. The  32″ 3D sound bar home theater system features 3D compatibility and can also be turned into your entertainment hub by utilizing its 3 HDMI video outputs. The downfall is the wired subwoofer limits how far you can place it from the sound bar.

With easy setup and great sound, this is an excellent gift for under $200.

Energy Take Classic 5.1

Average Price: $299

Category: Home Theater / Surround Sound

If you are looking for home theater speakers, the Energy Take Classic 5.1 will leave you pleased with your listening experience.  The collection of high-tech components: satellites, subwoofer, and a center channel. Displayed in high-gloss black cabinets, this system looks as good as it sounds. The 200-watt, 8″ subwoofer provides pounding bass while four satellites and a center channel bring an expansive sound stage to the comfort of your home.

Altogether, the system is one of the best home theater values available.

Sony STR-DN1030 Receiver

Average Price: $449-498

Category: Home Theater / AV Receiver

Sony may not be the first brand you think of in connection with audio/video receivers, but that may be about to change with the STR-DN1030. This receiver is a wireless triple threat with Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connectivity. And all of that is dongle-free.

Wired connectivity includes five HDMI inputs and one output, all on the back panel. There’s also an HD-capable component video output along with two component ins. Composite video switching is limited to two ins and two outs, and there are no S-video jacks. This should be enough to support an average system unless you’re loaded with legacy components. There is a wired Ethernet connection in addition to the built-in Wi-Fi antenna. And if you prefer to connect your iPhone or iPod to the front-panel USB jack.

The STR-DN1030 shows that the company can still make a great AV receiver. It may be slightly behind the Onkyo TX-NR616 in overall value, but it’s a better choice if you want more features built-in.

Evolve Your Living Room with a DLNA HDTV and Windows Media Player

It’s a fact: Gone are the days that homes are built with computer rooms and family/living rooms in their floor plans.  The future of sit-down family entertainment is here, and dear lord its about time.  This month, my family decided to purchase a nice, new Samsung Series 6 6300 LED TV and a brand new Samsung Blu-Ray player.  Now this purchase is not something new to the modern home, but in this case something new was hiding behind that TV that made the situation different.  Something exciting.  It was…a LAN connection.

Yes, you heard me right.  A LAN connection on a HDTV.  And let’s be honest, it made perfect sense.  As the realm of internet connectivity and availability expands in our lives, the lines between specific devices doing specific things are getting blurred.  If phones can tweet, web surf, and even become a router via tethering, why can’t televisions connect to your home internet network?  A web-enabled TV in the living room is just plain, simple natural evolution.

Okay so maybe all this is old news to most techies out there.  But regardless, if Microsoft has been advertising this innovation for years or not, I just had to try it out for myself.

Getting Started

For my computing test bed, I used an Asus 1005HA netbook running Windows 7 Home Premium and connected to the local family network.  On the TV end, Samsung has a built-in program called AllShare that lets the TV connect and play media from the local area network.  This type of TV connectivity is in part thanks to the Digital Living Network Alliance (hence the acronym DLNA), a coordinated effort of major companies to allow inter-accessibility between devices and products. Since the main point of DLNA  (and Samsung’s AllShare) is to connect media, of course Windows 7 and Windows Media Player fits the bill quite well.

Setting Up Windows Media Player

Using homegroups and Windows Media Player in Windows 7 is easy.  First, make sure all your photos, videos, and music are in the right libraries and that you are allowing them to be shared in your homegroup.  Then, load Windows Media Player and hit the nice big “Stream” button in the middle to begin the TV/computer sharing fun.

Windows Media Player allows two methods of sharing your files with your home network: allowing devices to play your media, and allowing full remote access to your media.  But before these can be explored, let’s set up Windows Media Player by allowing internet access to your home media. To ensure that your media is not being accessed by hooligans and ruffians on the internet, Windows 7 does this by linking your media access to your Windows Live account.  Sounds safe enough, right?

Once this is done, Windows Media Player is ready to allow media to be allowed on DLNA TV.

Sending Media to Your TV

Like I mentioned before, there are two ways to show your media on your TV through Windows Media Player (weren’t you listening?).  Here is method one: pushing media to the TV while using your computer.  First, we need to allow devices to play any media.

As you can see by the nice screenshot above, the Samsung TV is not only on the network but has been allowed to see my shared media.  Next, let’s find a file to push to the TV.  This is done by right clicking on the file and picking the “Play To” option in Windows Media Player.

If all goes well, your TV should ask if you want to play the video (just in case you changed your mind).  After a tough choice of clicking either “Allow” or “Deny,” your video should start streaming to your TV.

As seen on your TV
As seen on your computer screen

Now that is all fine and dandy, but what if you want your TV to find the files AND play media?

Getting Your TV to Find and Play Media

Now this is where DLNA gets cool.  Not only can you stream files from your computer to your TV, but you can also access them from the comfort of your couch via the TV’s remote.  This process, called remote access, is done by clicking the “Allow Remote Control of My Player” option under the “Stream” menu in Windows Media Player.

The specific TV you purchased will determine how it accesses files.  For the Samsung Series 6, one must first hit the “Media P” button on the remote and enter the Media Play program to start playing files.

Found you.

If all goes well, your computer should show up as the default device to connect to.  Otherwise, it should not be too hard to make it the selected device.  From here, it is just as simple as flicking those fingers on that remote to begin browsing media files!

Hey look! Those are my pictures!
And those are my videos! THIS PLACE HAS EVERYTHING.

So there you have it.  Thanks to the cooperation of companies, computers, HDTV’s, and a local area network, one can turn their living room into a connected media/living/computer room.  Gone are the days of gathering the media around the TV.  It’s time to gather the TV around the media.

Evolution Image Courtesy: edyson’s Flickr