Must-Have HDTV Accessories 2014
Here are some must-have accessories every HDTV owner should consider. Big or small, 720p or 4K, these can improve your experience, save you some money in the long run, and even make your TV 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 most make great gifts too!).
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 only have HDMI at all. Fortunately, HDMI cables are cheap. They come in different lengths, however for most people a six or nine 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”). We recommend the AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable for up to nine-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 an 30 foot length the Monoprice 30-Ft. Slim High Speed HDMI Cable with RedMere Tech for $47.75. Longer runs are also available.
Forget about needing a special cable for 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 $36.89 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 $77.95. 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 SVC1116F/27 LCD, LED and Plasma 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 I use-HD Guru)
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 $248 Sony HT-CT370, which has a wireless subwoofer and HDMI with Audio Return Channel.
If you want even better sound, check out the
Yamaha YSP-4300 which bounces the sound off the walls of your room to create a convincing 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.
The $300 Sony BRAVIA DAV-DZ170 has 1,000 watts for its 5 speakers and subwoofer, though only has a DVD player.
The $280 Onkyo HT-S3500 has a real receiver with HDMI switching, five speakers and a sub (but no Blu-ray).
The Sony BDPS3200 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 a “Smart” TV has (like Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go) with an inexpensive media streamer. We’ve reviewed a number of them here and here. We like the Apple TV MD199LL/A ($84.99) for its simple audio streaming capability (from your computer’s iTunes library) and the Roku 3 ($94.99). The Roku is great for its 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 Disney WOW (World of Wonder), $18.50 from Amazon, the simplest to use. For more on calibration discs, read our article here.
This above article is an update from a previously published version.
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