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So you’ve got all the gifts you need for the kids, your family and the friends who really matter. But it’s been a tough year, surely you deserve some joy as well. Maybe it’s time to upgrade that HDTV to a 4K OLED, or to finally move on from using sad TV speakers. It’s time to treat yourself, in true Parks and Rec fashion. Here are some of the best home theater gadgets we’d recommend when budget isn’t an issue.
Apple TV 4K
While the latest Apple TV model isn’t a massive leap over its predecessor, there are a few updates that make it worthy of a holiday splurge. The redesigned Siri remote is a big improvement over the previous version, both app and streaming performance is quicker than ever and there’s support for Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. As always, there’s deep integration with iOS, and HomeKit compatibility is a nice bonus. And when you tire of music and movies, the Apple TV also works as a gaming console with access to Apple Arcade and support for Bluetooth gamepads. — Billy Steele, Senior News Editor
Buy Apple TV 4K at Amazon – $169
BenQ HT2050A projector
A projector is a great gift for any of the cinephiles or gamers in your life, and for around $800, the BenQ HT2050A is the best budget 1080p projector available. Its DLP tech delivers where it counts with the best contrast (ANSI 1,574:1) and color accuracy in its class, and is reasonably bright as well, with 2,200 lumens in “vivid” mode. On top of that, it comes with a 1.3x zoom and vertical lens shift option for maximum installation flexibility. It’s also a nice option for gaming, thanks to the relatively low 16 millisecond input lag. The drawbacks include slightly excessive fan noise, rainbow effect and red-tinted 3D. — Steve Dent, Associate Editor
Buy BenQ HT2050A projector at Amazon – $850
65-inch LG C1 OLED TV
If you’re looking for the best possible TV to buy, there’s no question: Pick an OLED model. Personally I’d stick with LG’s C1, the latest generation of the company’s astounding OLED screens. Unlike LCD TVs, which rely on backlights, pixels on OLED TVs can turn themselves on and off individually. That allows them to capture inky blacks and deliver better contrast than most LCD panels. The C1 isn’t much different from last year’s CX line, but it’s LG’s most evolved OLED yet. It has a 120Hz refresh rate for speedy gaming, as well as support for G-SYNC and Freesync to avoid annoying frame stuttering. Its wide viewing angles also mean everyone can get a perfect picture, no matter where they’re sitting. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor
Buy 65-inch LG C1 OLED TV at Amazon – $2,500
Monoprice Monolith THX Atmos home theater speakers
Sometimes, a soundbar just doesn’t cut it. No matter how many drivers you can cram in, or how good the virtual surround sound is, nothing beats the immersion of a full home theater speaker setup. Monoprice’s Monolith series is one of the best options around: It sports a powerful center channel, your choice of towers or bookshelf speakers with upward-firing Dolby Atmos drivers, and subwoofers powerful enough to rattle your walls. There are tons of surround sound systems to choose from, but the beauty of the Monolith line is that it has all of the latest speaker tech and it’s reasonably priced, at least compared to other Hi-Fi systems. It used to be that you had to mix and match speakers to create an affordable surround setup. You can start small with a few towers and a subwoofer—and once you’ve got a complete system, you may never need to go to the cinema again. — D.H.
Buy Monolith speakers at Monoprice starting at $250
Optoma Cinemax P2
With high brightness and ease of setup, ultra short throw projectors are all the rage right now — making one the ultimate gift for any movie lover. The CinemaX P2 is the best among those for the price thanks to a good combination of features. It delivers 3,000 lumens of brightness, while offering good contrast and accurate colors, with 80 percent DCI-P3 coverage. The 40-watt NuForce Dolby Digital 2.0 soundbar is one of the best on any ultra-short-throw projector and it’s relatively stylish in white. On the downside, while it does offer apps, they’re not as good as you’ll find on, say, Google’s Chromecast — though that’s an easy fix as it has three HDMI 2.0 ports. — S.D.
Buy Optoma CinemaX P2 at Amazon – $3,300
If you’re not a fan of the Apple TV, the Roku Ultra is the only other set-top box worth considering. It’s fast enough to stream 4K video with Dolby Vision, and it supports just about every streaming app you’d want. It also has a solid remote with voice-search capabilities, and you can still access all of Apple’s streaming video via the Apple TV app. And while Roku’s interface isn’t pretty, it’s fast and gets the job done. — D.H.
Buy Roku Ultra at Amazon – $99
Sonos finally introduced an upgrade to its aging Playbar last summer when it debuted the Arc. In addition to an updated design, the soundbar also supports Dolby Atmos which makes it an excellent choice for the living room. True to Sonos’ lineage, the Arc is also well-suited for music and you have the ability to add a subwoofer or satellite speakers as you see fit. It will also function as part of a new or existing Sonos multi-room setup and any time you add on to the main living room configuration, the Arc automatically adjusts to compensate for the extra gear. — B.S.
Sony HT-A7000 soundbar
Sony’s Atmos-enabled soundbars are among the best and its most recent top-end model is no different. The A7000 replaced the HT-ST5000 as the flagship in the company’s lineup, only this time, the soundbar doesn’t come with a wireless subwoofer in the box. Instead, Sony is offering you the ability to add to your home theater setup as needed. The company offers two subwoofer options, as well a pair of rear speakers. The A7000 on its own though, is a 7.1.2-channel unit equipped with HDMI 2.1 with eARC, plus both 8K and 4K/120 Hz passthrough. This means Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision are both in play as well as ample support for gaming. Plus, wireless connectivity includes Chromecast, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect when you just need some tunes. — B.S.
Buy Sony A7000 at Crutchfield – $1,298
65-inch TCL 6 Series smart TV
If OLED is too rich for your blood, consider TCL’s MiniLED-powered 6-series line. It features far more backlight zones than typical LCDs, which can lead to black and contrast levels that are approaching what you’d see from OLED. The lower cost is the big selling point here though, giving you enough leftover cash to invest in your sound system. It’s a solid entry both for movie watching and gaming. The 6-series also includes some of the cheapest 8K TVs on the market, though we’d recommend holding out on 8K until more content is actually available. (Something that may take a long while.) — D.H.
Buy 65-inch TCL 6 Series TV at Amazon – $1,139
Valencia Theater Seating Verona seats
Where your butt sits is just as important to your home theater as your screen and sound setup. You’ll want seats that you can lounge in for hours without hurting your back, and they need to be sturdy enough to survive real-world usage with pets and kids. Valencia’s Verona seats are a solid option if you want to replicate the experience of high-end theaters with reclining seats. They’re made out of genuine leather, and they offer separate reclining options for your back and head. And sure, they’re pricey, but a decent couch will set you back just as much as three Veronas. And, let’s face it, they’ll be far more comfortable for movie watching and gaming than your typical West Elm option. — D.H.
Buy Verona seats at Amazon – $1,750
Vizio M-Series 5.1 soundbar
If you’ve got a smaller space, or you can’t justify stringing wires around your living room for a complete home theater system, Vizio’s M-series 5.1 soundbar kit offers plenty of value. It supports Dolby Atmos, for enveloping surround sound, and it comes with wireless rear channels and a subwoofer. Best of all, it’s far cheaper than competing systems (though if you want, you can also step up to other Vizio Atmos options, like the rotating Elevate). Consider the M-series a solid entry into the world of surround sound (and one you won’t feel too bad about replacing when you want bigger speakers). — D.H.