Two movie tickets, popcorn and a large drink can set you back a good $50.00 nowadays and with home theatre technology becoming so advanced, it is no wonder people are opting to bring the movies into their living rooms instead. A home theatre doesn’t have to break your bank account and once you’re all setup, it will provide you countless hours of fun and entertainment. If you are considering a home theatre, here are some suggestions for the home-theatre of your dreams, on a budget.
All-in-one home theatre systems
Opting for an all-in-one home theatre system might be the ideal movie-watching solution for you. A basic home theater will include multi-channeled high power speakers, amplifier, Receiver, FM tuner, woofers, HDMI output and Media Playback Basic. All you need to add is the TV. Small basic systems can cost less than $100 and are perfect if you have limited space such as a dorm room. Start adding features such as built-in Blu-ray, streaming capabilities and a 7.1 speaker system and you’re looking to spend more in the $400-$700 range. Here are some examples of top reviewed systems in various price ranges.
Philips HTS6500 (Est. $279)
Good basic system with HDMI, DVD, speakers and subwoofer. Reviews say sound quality is only so-so.
Samsung HT-BD1250 Blu-ray Home Theatre System (Est. $439-$549)
Excellent audio and video quality, 5.1 channel surround sound, plus ability to stream media from Netflix and Pandora.
Onkyo HT-S7200 Home Theater System (Est. $699)
The receiver is fully equipped to handle multiple sources carrying high-def 1080p video and HD audio from Dolby and DTS. Also incluldes TrueHD, DTS-HD Decoding and 7.1 speaker system featuring front Tall-boy speakers and a 290W powered subwoofer
You can also put together your own optimal home-theatre system:
One of your first considerations will be the type and size of your TV set. Options include home-theatre projectors, flat panel LCDs or Plasma TVs. Look for something with lots of HDMI inputs as HDMI keeps the signal all-digital. LCDs tend to be more expensive than plasmas though you’ll get a much longer display life with an LCD as well as more profound technology. On the other hand plasma TVs will arguably provide a better contrast on color and leave visibly deeper blacks. To give you an idea of price ranges, here are some of the best reviewed in each category.
Home Theatre Projectors:
For some, big just isn’t big enough- hence the existence of home theatre projectors. Projector screens come in a variety of sizes ranging from 90 to 120 inches in diameter. Generally home theatre projectors have 700 to 2,500 lumens. The more lumens there are, the bigger and brighter the image. You also have a wide range of unique features. For instance, the picture-in-picture function allows you to view more than one channel or video source at a time. Most home theater projectors come with multiple video input connectors, allowing you to connect a computer or video game console.
Optoma HD66 720p DLP Home Theater Projector (Est. $699)
The Optoma HD66 is a small, powerful, versatile home theater projector that’s great for movies, video games, or HD sports. 2500 lumens of brightness and 3D Ready
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 720 Projector (Est. $999)
The Cinema 720 is a highly competitive projector in the 720p category at an excellent value with 1600 ANSI lumens and 10,000:1 contrast it produces an extremely sharp, crisp looking image.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 3LCD Projector (Est. $1,995)
For an entry level priced 1080p projector the PLV-Z700 is a superb choice. Low fan noise, five image modes that provide various levels of brightness and contrast this projector also has an automatic shutter closes over the lens when you’re not using it.
Flat Panel LCD:
Liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) come in many sizes, but only two resolutions qualify as HD: 720p (1 280 x 720 pixels) and 1080p (1 920 x 1 080 pixels). LCDs are more power-efficient than plasmas. You can expect a 105 cm set to consume between 130-240 watts when turned on as opposed to a 105 cm plasma which guzzles between 190- 310 watts. Most LCD TVs come with incorporated speakers for easy plug-n-play setup. For home theaters, LCD TVs with screen sizes ranging from 32 inches to 65 inches are the most popular. Prices can range from $300-$6000.
Samsung LNB360 (Est. $379.99-$464.99)
The Samsung LNB360 stands out from other LCD models in its price range, as the one with the best picture quality, with 3 adjustable picture modes which are independent per input.
Sony KDL-40V5100 (Est. $751.29- $879.99)
Perfect for fast-pace action movies, sports watching and gaming, this set is equipped with Full HD 1080p, includes 7 HD inputs so you get the best image quality with all your HD components like your gaming console, Blu-ray Disc player as well as your PC.
LG 47LH30 (Est. $799- $967.68)
LG is the king of picture controls with the new Picture Wizard that uses internal test patterns to help you perform your own basic calibrations of the controls for brightness, contrast, color, tint, horizontal and vertical sharpness, and backlight.
Plasma technology consists of hundreds of thousands of individual pixel cells. Many plasma display manufacturers boast a contrast ratio of 40,000:1 and these sets also achieve impressive black levels. Plasma TVs are usually bigger in size, the smaller ones starting at 40 inches and the bigger ones going up to 65 inches. Viewing angles are also said to be the best for home theatre performance as many LCD report curving in the picture. Plasmas are generally pricier and more energy consuming than LCDs.
Panasonic Viera TC-P50X1 (Est. $699-995.95)
Features 3 HDMI and 2 component-video inputs. Reviews say the blacks on this set are deeper than those on more expensive plasma TVs from other makers.
LG 50PS80 (Est. $1,149.00 – $1,699.95)
Built-in video streaming and dynamic contrast ratio: 2000000:1
Samsung PN50B860 (Est. $1,529-$1,979)
Extensive feature set with Yahoo widgets, network streaming and built-in content
There are many speaker options that offer the quality you want, at a price you can afford. Almost all home theater systems include the following speakers: center channel speaker, front left and right speakers, surround speakers and a subwoofer. When you watch a movie, the center channel delivers more than 50% of the soundtrack, including almost all of the dialogue. Front speakers handle the bulk of the special effects whereas surround speakers produce atmospheric, ambient sounds like crickets, wind and rain.
Yamaha NS-SP1800 (Est. $130)
If you’re looking for something small, inexpensive with good surround sound quality, the Yamaha NS-SP1800 is a solid option.
Onkyo SKS-HT540 ( Est. $295)
Experts and users are impressed by the sound quality and construction quality of the 7.1-channel Onkyo SKS-HT540, but are especially blown away by the value. Professional reviews say that it outperforms some speaker systems costing twice as much.
If you plan to get an HDTV than a Blu-ray Disc player is the way to go. Blu-ray brings you higher-quality video and audio but can also play standard-definition discs. Consider though that not all Blu-ray players will play your DVDs as well as a DVD player would, so for those of you with a large DVD collection, this may not be the ideal alternative for you. If you don’t have an HDTV, a standard DVD player is a probably your best option, however there are DVD players with HDTV. Newer Blu-ray players (BD-Live) have an Internet connection and 1 GB of storage. These players have the ability to download content such as trailers or other bonus materials related to the disc, plus they enable online shopping and gaming. If you’re looking for something more feature-heavy- go Blu-ray.
Panasonic DMP-BD60K ($119.99-$199.95)
Profile 2.0-compliant with access to YouTube and Picasa and Amazon On Demand streaming.
LG BD390 (Est. $275)
Built-in 802.11nWiFi so you can stream from the Internet or a PC (note: Software for PC streaming is Windows only)
Sony DVP-SR200P/B ($40) (Without HDTV)
Inexpensive, great reviews and can play damaged discs