There may be no greater gift than a quality piece of home entertainment equipment. I mean that, too. Forget train sets, diamonds and puppies. Everyone wants entertainment this holiday season and we’ve rounded up six solid bets ranging in price from $40 to $600. There’s something here for everyone including your great aunt or boyfriend that already has everything.
Bose CineMate Series II
The last thing anyone wants is a hassle. Don’t gift a box of wires. The Bose CineMate Series II is not a hassle. And, if you give it a listen, the system defies the classic Bose saying of “No highs? No lows? It must be Bose.” The system sounds just fine but at $600, the CineMate is a tad on the expensive side. The added cost over another home theater in a box is obvious during set-up. This AV system is as easy to set up as an iMac. Just plug in a couple cables and you’re done. The 2.1 setup (two speakers and a sub) simulates surround sound and is a dramatic improvement over just TV speakers. Sure, there are “better” systems available for less (and more) but only gift those if you’re willing to donate your time to their setup process Christmas morning.
There isn’t a more satisfying home media streamer than the Boxee Box. Not only does it love locally-stored files, but the ‘Box offers hundreds of legal streaming sources including Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, and all the media networks. If something is online, the Boxee Box can stream it. Best yet, the interface is designed around bringing content to the user as easily as possible. It’s brilliant. With a street price of of around $180, it’s not as cheap as, say, a Roku or Apple TV, but the feature set easily compensates for the additional price. Your significant other will love it even if they are not a cable-cutting hipster.
Roku 2 XD
Boxee Box a little expensive? Fair enough, the latest Roku boxes are still very capable and half the price. These tiny boxes — they’re really small — stream content from Netflix, Amazon, Blockbuster and over a hundred other stations. The smart money is on the $79 Roku 2 XD that outputs at 1080p and features a wireless connection. However, if the budget allows it, you may want to opt for the $99 Roku 2 XS that comes loaded with Angry Birds and ships with a motion controller. It’s a fun gaming experience, but sort of needless for anyone that’s already played through Angry Birds. But your parents might love it.
Logitech Harmony Link
So your significant other loves their iPad, eh? Well, the Logitech Harmony Link can turn the tablet into the ultimate couch potato tool. This little $100 device sits alongside audio/video equipment such as a TV, cable box, and AV receiver. The iPad can then control all these devices through the magic of an iPad app and the local WiFi network. But it’s the app that’s the real magic.
Logitech designed the Harmony Link app to rethink the TV browsing experience. Think of it as a cable box guide designed for the iPad. It works well and is particularly useful on a TV that doesn’t already have access to a cable box — like a bedroom. If nothing else, this device is very unique and would be a great gift for that person that seemingly has everything. They don’t have anything like this. Promise.
Logitech Harmony Remote
Nothing can replace a dedicated universal remote — not even an iPad app. If the love of your life is overloaded with remotes, consider a Logitech Harmony remote. There is one available at nearly every price point with the 300i costing $30 and the 900 running $350. To choose the right one, consider the amount of equipment under the TV. The 300 can control just four devices. The $70 650 controls five and also has clever one-touch macro controls (you want this). From there, the Harmony One features a rechargeable battery, a sleek touchscreen and the ability to control 15 devices. The $350 900 is the top dog Harmony right now and features everything as the One but can control devices through walls and floors. This would allow your signifacant other to pack up all the ugly boxes and tuck them away in a closet.
Star Wars on Blu-Ray
Hot news: Star Wars is now available on Blu-ray. This is a no-brainer. But shop around. The complete six movie set has an MSRP of $139 but can be found for a lot less online. Better yet, save some cash and just get the original trilogy: Amazon has it for $40.