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, 5, 6, and 7 channel home theater receivers, speakers, 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, Blu-ray Disc Players, Home Theater Receivers, and standalone Network Media Players/Extenders, 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 below $199, and some basic playing coming in as low as $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 comforting thought, to keep in mind, 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 televisions are 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 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 televisions, once relegated to below 37-inches, are now quite common in sizes up to 55-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 Televisions are incorporating internet capabilities, so if you desire this feature on your TV, check to see if the TV you are considering offers it.
For information on what you need to know before you buy an LCD or Plasma television, as well as some suggestions, check out both my LCD Television FAQs and my current 40-inch and Larger LCD Television Top Picks, as well as my 32 and 37-inch and 26-inch LCD Television Top Picks.
3D has been with us for two years now, and it is not without controversy. For many, it is either a love or hate relationship. However, the possibility of enjoying the 3D movie experience at home is an option, and both hardware and software content is available, and affordable. However, keep in mind that watching 3D on a TV screen is not quite the same experience as watching it on a large movie screen.
Although 3D content is available, it is still on the light side with a small, but increasing, number of 3D Blu-ray Discs available (about 150 titles as of October 2012 - check out some of my favorites), and some occasional 3D Cable/Satellite TV program feeds. Also, in order to fully access what 3D there is available, you not only need a 3D-TV, but 3D Glasses (usually an extra purchase), 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc player, and a paid subscription to any 3D cable/satellite content.
I would say that if you are interested in jumping into 3D 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.
In fact, the best option on 3D glasses is to get 3D TV that uses 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 a comprehensive look at what you need to know before you a buy a 3D-TV or other 3D-enabled product, be sure to check out my Complete Guide to Watching 3D at Home, which includes 3D TV basics, everything you need to know about 3D glasses, and even some suggestions on which 3D Blu-ray Disc movies will provide the best 3D viewing experience.