It is that time of year when stores begin to fill with eager Christmas and Holiday Shoppers looking for great deals on consumer electronics products, such as LCD and Plasma TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, Audio systems, and more... For those that haven't been able to keep up with latest, check out my list of home theater-related products that are a great value in both price and performance, that will enable that special someone to get a taste of the home theater experience.
In addition to the following entries, be sure to check out more suggestion options as indicated. Also, as each Holiday Season progresses, product entries are subject to change.
Sony XBR-55X850A 55-inch 4K Ultra HD TV
So, you want to buy a 4K Ultra HD TV this Christmas or Holiday Shopping Season. Well, you certainly have several choices, but they won't be cheap, so make sure you budget accordingly. However, if you are looking for a balance of price, features and performance, then consider the Sony XBR-55X850A.
The XBR-55X850A starts off with a 55-inch LED-Edge Lit LCD screen using Sony's Triluminos Quantum Dot technology, and X-reality Pro video upscaling and processing engine.
Both Ethernet and Wifi connection options are provided for access to network and internet streaming content as well as MHL connectivity for physical connection of smartphones and other compatible portable devices. The XBR-55X850 will also support the new HDMI 2.0 standard via downloadable firmware update that will be available soon.
One of the benefits that 4K offers, in addition to increased detail, is an improved 3D viewing experience. The XBR-55X850 utilizes the Active Shutter system (four pairs of glasses are included). In addition, Sony also offers interesting additional viewing option: SimulView (requires compatible glasses).
Due to the thin edge-to-edge bezel design, the audio system is more typical to what is built-in to most LCD and Plasma TVs, so an external audio system is suggested for the best home theater listening experience.
The key things to remember when shopping for a 4K Ultra HD TV are: Check the difference of what you see on the screen between a 4K Ultra HD TV and other 1080p TV that of the same screen size, especially at the distance from the screen that you will be viewing it from. - Also, take into consideration that there isn't a lot of actual native 4K content available yet so almost everything you will be watching will be upscaled to 4K from 1080p or lower resolutions. However, Sony does offer an optional companion 4K media server and movie download service.
Note: The Pricegrabber/Compare Prices site may have this TV labeled as a 1080p TV - However, it is indeed a 4K UltraHD TV, which can be confirmed via the official product page.
Compare Prices for the Sony FMP-X1 4K Media Server
For additional suggestions, check out my current listing of 4K Ultra HD TVs
Vizio E420i 42-inch LED/LCD Smart TV
Priced at just $499, the Vizio E420i comes with a 1080p 42-inch, LED backlit screen. Also, to reduce glare, the TV has a matte screen. For connectivity, the E420i provides 3 HDMI inputs, a USB input (for accessing content stored on flash drives), and thin bezel design that blends with any decor.
However, there is more as the E420i is also a Smart TV. Using either the Ethernet connection or WiFi, users can access an abundance of internet streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, M-GO, Pandora, and more.
Review - Photo Profile - Video Performance Tests - Compare Prices.
For more suggestions, check out my current list of LCD and LED/LCD TVs 40-inches and Larger.
Panasonic Viera TC-P50ST60 Plasma TV
Although LCD TVs are the most popular type of TV now in use, Plasma TVs provide excellent picture quality and also provide better motion response and deeper black levels than most LCD TVs. One great choice is the Panasonic Viera TC-P50ST60.
Features of this set include both 2D and 3D image quality (two pairs of glasses included), 1080p native screen display resolution, wide contrast ratio, enhanced black level performance, and excellent motion response. For audio, 2.1 channel speaker system mounted behind the screen, but I always suggest adding an external audio system.
ATSC/QAM tuners for receiving HDTV broadcast and unscrambled cable are also included, as is four HDMI inputs, and an SD card slot for digital photo playback. Built-in WiFi allows wireless internet access to a host of TV and movie streaming services, as well as other web content. You can also make Skype video phone calls with the addition of an optional webcam. The TC-P50ST60 can also access media content stored on your PC or media server.
However, 3D and Internet Streaming isn't all this set has to offer. Additional features include Voice Guidance (reads and verbalizes text that is displayed on the screen), My Home Screen (allows each member of the family to have their own distinct menu page), and Swipe and Share (allows the transferring of video content between the TV and compatible iOS and Android devices). In addition, this set is also compatible with the Panasonic Touch Pen.
Definitely check out the Plasma alternative.
For more suggestions, check out my current list of Plasma TVs.
Panasonic DMP-BDT330 3D Network Blu-ray Disc Player
The Panasonic DMP-BDT330 Blu-ray Disc Player is, compact, stylish, offers very good performance. Disc playback options include 2D/3D Blu-ray, DVD, and CD. To further bolster Blu-ray and DVD playback, both 1080p and 4K upscaling is provided for compatible TV and video projectors. In addition to its disc playback features, internet streaming from services, such as CinemaNow, Netflix, Pandora, Vudu is provided, as well as the ability to access content stored on DLNA and Miracast-compatible devices.
Review - Photo Profile - Video Performance Test Results - Compare Prices
For additional suggestions, check out my current list of Blu-ray Disc Players.
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 730HD Projector
If you are looking for really special gift this holiday season, consider a video projector. As it turns out, you don't have to spend a fortune to own one and the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 730HD is a very affordable (with a suggested price of only $649.00) and flexible, projector that is definitely worth consideration.
The 730HD is very compact, with the lens mounted located near one side. The core features include a 3LCD chip assembly with (1280x800) 720p native pixel resolution. For additional support, this projector can pump out an 3,000 lumens of both white and color light output, at a 12,000:1 stated contrast ratio. The bright light output of the 730HD enables it to be used in rooms where some light is present.
The 730HD also has a built-in speaker, which is OK when there is no external audio system available. However, for the best video projector viewing a experience, an external audio system is definitely preferred.
Yamaha RX-S600 Slim-Profile Home Theater Receiver
If you are looking for a home theater receiver for yourself or to give as a gift this 2012 holiday season, one interesting choice would be the Yamaha RX-S600.
What makes the RX-S600 a little different is that does not have bulky footprint of the most home theater receivers. In fact, the RX-S600 is only 4 3/8-inches high and only weighs 17.2 pounds.However, even with compact design, this receiver still packs a lot for the consumer.
The RX-S600 features a 5.1 channel configuration and is rated at 60 watts-per-channel. For easy speaker setup, Yamaha provides its YPAO automatic speaker setup system.
For connectivity, the RX-S600 incorporates five HDMI inputs and one output with 3D and Audio Return Channel compatibility. One HDMI input is also MHL-enabled. On the other hand, while the RX-S600 provides 3D and up to 4K resolution video pass-through, additional video processing or upscaling is not provided. The RX-S600 also provides a USB port for accessing digital media files stored on USB flash drives and other compatible devices.
In addition to core audio and video features, the RX-S600 is also a network-enabled receiver. To support this capability, Apple AirPlay, DLNA compatibility, and internet access to several online content from services, such as Pandora, Spotify Connect, and vTuner Internet Radio is provided.
EMP Tek Cinema 7 Home Theater Speaker System
The system consists of compact center (E3c) and satellite (E3b) bookshelf speakers paired with a 10-inch powered subwoofer (E10s). Working together, this system produces great sound for both movies and music, with a little subtleness at the highest frequencies.
If you looking for a Speaker System that is compact, but delivers big sound for a reasonable price (Less that $800), definitely consider the EMP Tek Cinema 7 compact home theater speaker system.
Review - Photos - Official Product Page
Also available in a 5.1 channel version (a great match for the Yamaha RX-S600 Home Theater Receiver listed above) - Official EMP Tek Cinema 5 Product Page
For additional suggestions, check out my current list of Home Theater Speaker Systems.
Also, if you are looking for a subwoofer to add to a current home theater speaker system, check out my Subwoofer suggestion list.
Onkyo HT-S5600 Home-Theater-in-a-Box System
The HT-S5600 is a complete 7.1-Channel Home Theater Receiver/Speaker Package that consists of a home theater receiver, compact 2-way bass reflex designed center and front speakers, acoustic suspension designed surround and surround back speakers, combined with an 10-inch bass reflex down-firing subwoofer.
For added flexibility, the receiver in this system also provides both powered and preamp line-out Zone 2 operation. NOTE: You cannot run the powered Zone 2 output option and 7.1 channel main system operation at the same time.
For a more immersive surround sound listening experience, the HT-S5600 also incorporates Dolby Prologic IIz surround processing.
For additional suggestions, check out my list of Home Theater-in-a-Box Systems.
Sony HT-ST7 Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer System
However, not all sound bars are created equal. When you go shopping, you will see a wide selection of units, some of which may sound OK in the store, but when you get them home, they just don't always provide a satisfying listen experience for both movies and music.
If your goal is to buy a sound bar as a gift that can eliminate all the speaker clutter of multi-speaker system, but still retain much of the sound quality of such a system, then you might consider the Sony HT-ST7.
The HT-ST7 combines a stylishly-designed sound bar with seven independently amplified speakers with an additional wireless powered subwoofer. The sound bar can be placed on a shelf or mounted on a wall (either above or below the TV). The sound bar provides both HDMI and both standard analog and digital optical/coaxial audio inputs. The HT-ST7 is also equipped with Bluetooth.
Review - Photo Profile - Compare Prices.
For more suggestions, check out my current list of Sound Bars and Digital Sound Projectors.
Roku Digital Video Players
Network Media players and Media Streamers are very popular home theater add-ons, especially if you don't have an internet-enabled TV, Blu-ray Disc player, or home theater receiver. One great holiday gift choice to consider is the Roku Box.
The Roku Box is a compact device that allows you to stream audio and video (such as TV shows and movies) from the internet from over 700 content providers, including Netflix, Amazon Video-on-Demand, Crackle TV, HuluPlus, PBS, MLB TV and many, many, more. All you do is connect the Roku Box to the internet via your home network and then connect it to your TV.
The Roku comes in several models depending on your TV's capabilities, most can be connected to an older TV with may only have composite video inputs. However, the Roku 3 does require a TV with an HDMI input exclusively. Roku also, depending on the model, offers both wired and wireless internet connection options, . However, although the The Roku boxes connect to the internet via a home network, it does not access content stored on your PC or MAC, or portable USB devices.
Official Roku Product Page - Compare Prices on the complete selection of Roku Boxes.
For additional suggestions, check out my list of Network Media Players and Media Streamers.
RCA LED32B30RQD TV/DVD Combo
Another great gift to consider this holiday season is a TV that also has a built-in DVD player. These are getting very rare, and you won't find any with brand names, such as Sony or Panasonic, but there are still some available, such as the RCA LED32B30RQD.
The RCA LED32B30RQD is a 32-inch LCD TV that is LED-backlit and provides a 720p display resolution. The TV section also comes equipped with a built-in ATSC/QAM tuner, which allows direct reception of the digital over-the-air and digital unscrambled cable channels. This unit is also equipped with additional AV inputs, including two HDMI and a PC monitor input, a USB slot for accessing compatible content from flash drives or digital cameras, as well as a digital optical audio output for connection to a home theater audio system. Even a headphone jack is included for more a private listening experience.
The built-in DVD play provides DVD, CD, SVCD, VCD, and JPEG CD playback.
For more suggestions, check out my current list of TV Combos.
DYMO Rhino 4200 Industrial Label Printer
The DYMO Rhino 4200 Industrial Label Printer is a great tool to have on hand when putting together a home theater system. This portable printer enables you to label all your connection cables and speaker wire, making it easy to remember how everything is connected together, especially if you move to a new house or apartment and have to reconnect it all.
In addition, you can use the DYMO Rhino 4200 to label lots of other things around the house. There are different types of label tapes that can be used for optimum sticking capability on a variety of surfaces.
The DYMO Rhino 4200 is priced $79.00 (not including rechargable batteries, AC adapter/charger, or label tape).
If you are on a limited budget and are still looking for some gift ideas, also check out my list of Great Gift Ideas Priced at $199.99 or Less.