Someone Getting A New TV? Try These Gift Ideas To Go With It
Here are some must-have accessories every HDTV owner should consider when buying or giving a TV this holiday season. Big or small, 720p or 4K, these can improve the user experience, save you some money in the long run, and make that shinny new video display look even better.
From proper HDMI cables to media streamers, soundbars to sound systems, setup discs and surge protectors, there’s something here for everybody (oh, and they’ll make much-appreciated gifts).
The list and suggestions appear after the break.
Most new sources, like media streamers and Blu-ray players, only output HD via HDMI. Many new sources now only have HDMI. Fortunately, HDMI cables are cheap. They come in different lengths, however for most people a six- or 9- foot length is all you’ll need. Get a High-Speed HDMI cable, as it will accommodate any signal resolution you can throw at it (including Ultra HD “4K”). For those who bought new 4K UHD TVs supporting high dynamic range (HDR), don’t worry about the new HDMI 2.0a interface on the set either. It also will work with older High-Speed HDMI cables. We recommend the AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable for up to 9-foot lengths. We’ve bought a number of these and they all provide a perfect image and have held up to numerous re-connections.
If you need to go longer, we’ve had good results with long HDMI High-Speed cables that incorporate Redmere active circuits. Here is a 30-foot length — the Monoprice 30-Ft. Slim High Speed HDMI Cable with RedMere Tech for $46.21. Longer runs are also available.
So, forget about needing a special cable for HDR, 3D, 240 Hz, HDMI 2.0, 4K, or some other feature. It’s all bunk to separate you and your money. A “High-Speed” designation covers all audio/video sources. For more info about phony cable claims and long-length HDMI cables, check out our articles here and here.
Power surges are real and can damage any HDTV. Surge protectors aren’t expensive and will also provide useful extra outlets. Look for a unit with a protection light and ground indicator. The protection light is needed to assure the unit is still functioning after a power surge. A functioning ground is a necessity for surge protection. A good example of an inexpensive unit with these features is Tripp Lite TLP810NET 8-Outlet Surge Protector — Now $32.72 from Amazon.
UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply)
While a surge protector protects from surges, it doesn’t help if the power goes out completely. That’s where a UPS comes in. These combine a surge protector with a battery backup. The idea isn’t to keep watching your movie (though, I suppose you could), the real benefit of a UPS is allowing you time to properly shut down your gear. DVRs, especially, don’t handle sudden power loss well (you’ll often lose all your recorded programs). Sudden power outages can also permanently damage the internal hard drive. For power connection to your DVR and your other components, we like the CyberPower CP825LCD Intelligent LCD UPS for $78.95. The UPS takes the place of a surge protector; there is no need for both.
Microfiber Cleaning Cloth and Cleaning Fluid
All HDTVs have special coatings on the screen to cut down on room reflections. These plastic coatings are delicate, and one scratch might be visible forever (and drive you crazy). In some cases, cleaning with the wrong liquid (like Windex!) can create visible patterns on the screen. Microfiber cloths are safe to use on any LED LCD, LCD or plasma screen and are basically a bigger, thicker version of the type of cloth that comes with prescription glasses. You also should only use a cleaning fluid that won’t damage the screen’s coating. Check out the
Philips SVC1119M/27 Scented Anti-Bacterial Screen Cleaner , which comes with a large bottle of fluid and a nice size cloth for $9.99 from Amazon direct. You can also use the same kit for your computer monitor. (This is the one the HD Guru uses.)
Sound Bars and Surround Sound Systems
Pretty much no flat panel TV has good audio. If you’ve ever had trouble hearing dialog in a movie, it’s probably your TV speaker to blame. This is because today’s TV are so thin and the speakers are so small, and almost all are either aimed at the floor or the wall behind the TV. Any sound bar is an improvement over the built-in speakers.
The good/better order is soundbar then home theater in a box (HTiB).
Soundbars start at around $100 with the better sounding models beginning in the $200-$300 price range. Check out the $198 Sony HT-CT370, which has a wireless subwoofer and HDMI with Audio Return Channel.
If you want even better sound, check out the following:
The Philips B5/37 Fidelio soundbar speaker for $699.99 is an unusual surround-sound powered-speaker system consisting of a soundbar to be placed above or below your flat screen, and at each end of the bar is a detachable speaker, with a built-in battery, to be placed behind the listener for true wireless surround. The Fidelio B5 also comes with a subwoofer. It the perfect solution for small viewing rooms and apartment dwellers. The Fidelio B5 has built-in auto calibration to properly balance channels, and includes built-in Bluetooth, which permits streaming of music to the front soundbar and rear speakers, even if they’re in different rooms, turning the “single bar” into a 3-room music system.
The Yamaha YSP-5600 ($1,699.99), which uses the new Dolby Atmos system to bounce the sound of objects on the screen off the ceiling and walls of your room to create an immersive surround effect. (There are other models in the line you can find by clicking the link.)
The Sonos Playbar Soundbar ($699) is designed to provide improved TV sound quality as well as streaming music via the easy-to-use Sonos system.
Home Theater In A Box
The $128 Sony DAVTZ-DZ140 is an inexpensive way of getting a simple- to setup and-use 5.1 surround sound system for that new big-screen. It has 300 watts for its 5 speakers and subwoofer, though it only has a DVD player.
The Onkyo HT-S3700 660 watt HTiB from Amazon at $394.99 has a real receiver with HDMI switching, five speakers and a sub (but no Blu-ray).
The $70 Sony BDPS3500 adds Blu-ray and streaming to any of these systems.
Smart TV Upgrade
If your HDTV doesn’t offer Internet streaming, you can add all the streaming services that a “Smart” TV has (like Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go) with an inexpensive media streamer. Some new additions this year even add 4K Ultra HD streaming like, the $129.99 Roku 4 , the Amazon Fire TV at $84.99 and Nvidia Shield Android TV at $199.99. Both the Roku and Fire TV are great for their many available services, including Amazon Instant Video, which offers free movie/TV show streaming with an Amazon Prime membership.
If you want to adjust your TV’s user controls for an image that comes closest to the industry standards, there are a number of calibration discs on the market. We find the multi-disc-format Disney WOW (World of Wonder), $35.99 from Amazon, the simplest to use. For more on calibration discs, read our article here.
This was an update of a previously run story.
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Listed HDTVs and UHDTVS sold by Amazon direct (unless otherwise noted) offer a 30 day Low Price Guarantee on all TV models and 30 Day returns on TVs. They stand behind their sales. Note: prices are correct as of posting and may change at any time, please verify with our links; Currently, most states do not collect sales tax on Amazon orders with the exceptions of AZ, CA, CT, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, NV, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, PA, TN, TX, VA ,WV, WA & WI. You always must pay sales tax (in states that collect it) when buying at a brick and mortar store. Should you buy an HDTV from on-line or from a retail store? For the answers read our article here.
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