Get Ready For The Holiday Shopping Frenzy
Shopping for electronic gadgets isn't as easy as it used to be. A TV was a TV, a radio was a radio, and a stereo was a stereo. However, now there are LCD TVs, Plasma TVs, 4K Ultra HD TVs, 5, 6, 7, and even 9 channel home theater receivers, speakers, sound bars, subwoofers, and the choices go on and on and on.
The following is a list and discussion of products that are either "Hot" or "Not" for home theater consumers this Holiday Shopping Season.
1. Internet-Enabled Components
Probably the most important development in the home theater experience in the past year or so, is the rapid integration of internet content into the home theater experience. This year, the flood of new internet-enabled products, including TVs (referred to as Smart TVs), Blu-ray Disc Players, Home Theater Receivers, and both standalone and HDMI plug-in Network Media Players/Streamers, allow consumers to access audio/video content from the internet via a home network. If you have a high-speed internet service and a router, you have the basic infrastructure to get going.
For more details on integrating the internet into home theater, check out my Guide to Internet Home Theater and Network Media Players
Blu-ray disc players are everywhere now, from standalone units, as part of new home theater-in-box systems, and even being incorporated into TV combos. In addition, with prices of an increasing number of Blu-ray disc players now coming in well below $199, and some basic playing coming in as lower than $99, there is no longer a price barrier to overcome, especially if you are replacing an older DVD player. Watch for additional promotions that include free Blu-ray disc movies with a purchase of select Blu-ray Disc players and also "buy an HDTV and get a free Blu-ray Disc Player" offers. Also, check for promotions that include reduced prices for some popular Blu-ray disc movies when you purchase a Blu-ray Disc player. It is expected that Blu-ray disc player and Blu-ray movie promotions will be abundant this holiday season.
Also, an increasing number of new Blu-ray Disc players are 3D-enabled (you still need a 3D TV to watch 3D content) and/or have the ability to access content from the internet from sources such as Netflix, Amazon Video-on-Demand, Blockbuster, YouTube, Pandora, and more (depends on brand/model of player). The good part here is that these features are not limited to just the higher-priced units, so watch for the deals.
Of course, to take full advantage of a Blu-ray Disc player, you do need an HDTV. If you are still using an older analog TV, and have no desire to replace it with a new LCD or Plasma TV, then you would just be buying an overly-expensive DVD player. If you do have an HDTV, Blu-ray will make your screen sparkle with true high definition resolution.
However, one complaint about Blu-ray now is that while players have come down in price, the movies are still expensive in comparison to DVDs. New releases are usually $5-10 more than a standard DVD. On the other hand, many titles that have been out for awhile are sold at reduced prices, some as low their DVD counterparts.
One very important thing to consider about whether to buy a Blu-ray Disc player is that all Blu-ray Disc players will play standard DVDs, so your current DVD collection will not become obsolete. Also, most manufacturers are making fewer DVD players as Blu-ray Disc players are filling the shelves. It may be that when you go the store, you may only find one or two DVD players to choose from, while the shelf will be full of Blu-ray Disc players.
For more details on Blu-ray and Blu-ray Disc Players, check out the following resources:
LCD and Plasma flat panel TVs continue to be hot, hot, hot! Prices have come down significantly this year, with many 42-inch size LCD and Plasma televisions selling well below $999. You may see some extremely attractive door busters on LCD and Plasma sets the day after Thanksgiving.
However, you also see that there are many TVs labeled as "LED TVs" - but don't get sucked into the hype that makes you think that these are a different type of TV. So-called "LED TVs" are actually LCD TVs that use a type of backlight system powered by LED lamps. For more details, on this read my article: The Truth About "LED" TVs.
In addition, with the maturing of LCD technology and more efficient production methods, screen size availability of LCD TV, once relegated to below 37-inches, are now quite common in sizes up to 50-inches and larger, with some manufacturers offering 70-inch sets, and Sharp offering 80 an 90-inch LED/LCD TVs. Large screen sizes in the 42-inch and up range was territory once dominated by Plasma televisions, but with the increasing availability of LCD TVs in larger screen sizes, they are dominating store shelves. However, that does not mean that you should not consider a Plasma TV. Plasma TVs generally offer better black level performance and motion response than LCD TV, and come in sizes up to 65-inches (for consumers - professional sizes go up to 150 inches).
Also, just as with Blu-ray Disc players, an increasing number of LCD and Plasma TVs are incorporating Smart TV capabilities, so if you desire this feature on your TV, check to see if the TV you are considering offers it.
Another feature to consider on a TV is 3D. Contrary to what you may have heard, 3D is not "dead". 3D is now just one of a number of options that are available on many TVs. Also, all 3D TVs can display regular 2D TV images as well. Check out my Complete Guide to Watching 3D at Home for more details.
To complement the 3D TV feature, there are a growing number of 3D Blu-ray Disc movies available (about 230 titles as of September 2013 - check out some of my favorites), some occasional 3D Cable/Satellite TV program feeds, as well as 3D content that can be streamed or downloaded from the internet, such as Vudu and 3DGO!
If you are interested in a 3D TV for the holidays either for yourself or as a gift purchase, definitely keep on the lookout for package deals that may include a TV, Blu-ray Disc player, and/or extra 3D glasses - TVs that use the passive glasses 3D viewing system, as you will see offers anywhere from two to six pairs of glasses included with the TV - and if you need more, they are very inexpensive. The TVs that require active shutter glasses may only include up to two pairs with the TV, and sometimes none are actually included. If you are shopping for a family, definitely watch for the best deal on 3D glasses. Just remember that you cannot use passive glasses with a TV that requires active glasses or vice versa. Check out the details.
For information on what you need to know before you buy an LCD or Plasma TV, whether you opt for a basic TV, Smart TV, or 3D TV, as well as some buying suggestions, check out my LCD Television FAQs and my current 40-inch and Larger LCD Television Top Picks, as well as my 32 to 39-inch, and 26 to 29-inch LCD TV Top Picks
For more 3D TVs (both LCD and Plasma) that are not included in the above lists - also check out my 3D TV listings.
Your TV choices just got a little more complicated for this year as 4K Ultra HD TVs are starting to make some headway into the market. The 4K in 4K Ultra HD TV stands for the approximate number of pixels that are displayed across the screen, which is 3840x2160. This translates to a display resolution of 2160p, which is four times the resolution of today's 1080p HDTVs, hence the addition of the term Ultra HD. To make it easy for consumers, these TVs are referred to as 4K Ultra HD TVs.
Currently, all 4K Ultra HD TVs utilize LED/LCD TV technology. Also, most (not all), of these new high resolution TVs incorporate Smart TV and/or 3D viewing options as well.
However, keep in mind that there aren't that many 4K signal sources yet that can take full advantage of the extra detail these sets can display, but they are all equipped with built-in upscalers that can make today's current 1080p content look better than they do on a 1080p TV. This means you can connect your current Blu-ray Disc player, cable/satellite box, network media player/media streamer, etc... to a 4K Ultra HD TV the same you you connect them to any current 720p or 1080p HDTV.
Also, if you buy a Sony 4K Ultra HD TV, they offer a companion media server and movie download service that can provide you with 4K content. However, the Sony media server cannot be used with other brands of 4K Ultra HD TVs as it is coded only to recognized by a Sony 4K Ultra HD TV.
Prices for 4K Ultra HD TVs currently range from about $1,500 all the way up to $40,000, with most ranging between the $3,499 to $7,999 price range, and come in the 55 to 65-inch screen sizes.
Let's face it, you won't see bargain Holiday pricing on Sony, Samsung, LG, or other main brands, but you may see some pricing as low at $999 for some not-so-well-known brands - but be cautious, other than 4K resolution capability, those low-priced sets are not going to offer things like Internet Streaming, 3D, or exceptional 1080p-to-4K upscaling.
To find out the sets that are currently available, check out my 4K Ultra HD TV List.