New high-definition televisions and carefully rigged speaker systems are letting movie fans bring home first-rate replays of their favorite action thrill rides with plenty of the pounding sound and visual glory.
Even better, the convergence of the latest hardware with subscriptions for movies from the Internet, television and other types of programming is morphing Americas home theater experience by giving viewer access to blockbusters and other content anytime they want it.
Convergence also means looping in features such as Internet browsing on the same screen, to look for content, and file storage in the cloud, servers maintained by service providers.
So the new superheroes might be those who can figure out how to work the remote control. Heres what theyll have at their fingertips, from powerful hand-picked components to single-box solutions:
Boxee TV is one of the newest home theater products. Retailing for under $100, it comes with content providers such as Netflix, VUDU, YouTube, and Vimeo for access to tens of thousands of on-demand movies, TV shows and user-produced videos. The true whiz-bang feature of Boxee is its No Limits DVR. The subscription service ($14.99 monthly) gives you unlimited recording and cloud storage for movies or other programming. www.boxee.tv.
Want to browse the Internet on the same screen while watching TV or streaming a movie from the Web? There is an app for that. VIZIO Co-star is a pocket-sized convergence box that brings apps and full-screen Web browsing to a high-definition television without interrupting viewing. Co-star provides a TV guide, free download of 20,000 songs from the Google music library and more for less than $100 retail. www.vizio.com.
The heart and soul of any home theater setup is the television, says Chris Longhurst, who owns the Charlotte custom audio/video installation business Gearbox.
Look for televisions with a resolution of at least 1080p for full high-definition display. With 480 Hz and even 600 Hz refresh rates offered today, sharper and cleaner pictures result. Longhurst prefers televisions with fewer apps built in. Buying components for convergence separately can be more cost-effective, he says. Longhurst recommends Samsung TVs for quality and reliability. Samsungs 51-inch Plasma series 400 HD retails for under $600 and is a good mid-level model. www.samsung.com/us/video/tvs.
Surround sound gets viewers closer to the IMAX experience. The primary surround format is 5.1, or five discrete full-range audio channels (left, center, right, rear left, and rear right), plus a subwoofer for low frequencies. A 7.1 channel system ups the ante for home systems by adding two additional speakers.
Speaker size, positioning and placement are guided by room specifics and preferences. Price for in-room or in-wall speakers can range from $500-$1,000 for a traditional six-speaker surround setup.
← One-box wonder
Samsungs HT-E6730W 7.1 Ch Blu-ray Home Entertainment System is a one-box solution for those on a budget. This set features a 1330-watt speaker system as well as 7.1-channel audio. A built-in Wi-Fi receiver makes it easy to stream online content. The system has high-definition video output and is compatible with most disc formats, including 3D and standard Blu-ray, DVDs and CDs. Compatible with MP3, WMA, Dolby and DTS audio formats. A built-in iPod dock gives you one other way to use the speakers. Less than $800 retail. www.samsung.com/us/video/home-theater/HT-E6730W/ZA.