When you’re looking for the best home entertainment devices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Believe us, there are thousands.
Out of all the areas of home automation, entertainment is literally overflowing with tech, so we are stripping things down to basics for you today.
Rather than casting the net too wide, we're buckling down on 7 core areas that can help you build out a comprehensive and highly effective home entertainment system without needing to take out a bank loan.
When you’re looking to invest in this type of gear, formulating an overall budget in advance is key. That way, you can avoid splurging all your available funds on a single device.
We’ll look at the following categories of entertainment:
- Hub and Remote Control
- Mesh WiFi System
- Smart Speakers
- Smart Displays
- Smart TVs, Projectors and Monitors
- Soundbars and Speakers
- Streaming Devices
We handpicked a small curation of top of the line products for each category.
First up, you should consider a hub and some form of remote control.
1) Hub and Remote Control
If you have a robust connected home already, chances are you have a home hub in place. Check out our exploration of why they are so crucial right here.
When you’re building out your system home entertainment devices, though, it pays to have dedicated control and that’s where the mighty Logitech dominates.
The Logitech Harmony Elite is a remote control and hub along with a companion app so you can streamline command perfectly. You can take charge of entertainment devices, as well as other smart tech, throughout your home all from one place.
The app is crisp and responsive and allows you to turn your iPhone or Android device into a personal universal remote.
You can also make use of the physical remote, which allows you to control 15 devices. From fine-tuning your set-top box through to tweaking your smart lighting for a movie, you get more than just basic on/off functionality. Scheduling is a cinch, and you can get all your smart tech singing in harmony.
Grab yourself a smart speaker and you can use Alexa to add voice control to the mix.
Since signals are relayed to the bundled hub, you won’t need to point the remote at devices either. You’ll also be able to direct devices that are behind closed cabinets, which completes the already winning package.
Maybe you want to get even more creative with control…
If so, iRule is an outstanding app that allows you to turn any iOS device into a completely customized controller.
You won’t need to install any software since the remote builder is cloud-based. You don’t need to be a coding whizz either, so this works well even for beginners, thanks to drag-and-drop set-up.
Once you’ve got things configured, you’ll be able to control a full suite of home entertainment devices using nothing but your iPhone or iPad. Choose from 12 gestures to use and you’ll be in full command of your whole entertainment ecosystem with no hardware needed.
2) Mesh WiFi System
Almost all twenty-first-century home entertainment systems rely on consistent, reliable WiFi.
If you’ve got a larger home or your connection is prone to annoying dead spots, this can seriously hamper your streaming experience.
What do you do, then?
Well, updating your traditional router-based WiFi to a mesh WiFi system is the obvious solution.
We’d strongly recommend Google WiFi Home Mesh. If you invest in a package with 3 nodes – think of these as mini-routers – you’ll enjoy blanket WiFi coverage of up to 4500 square feet.
Advanced Network Assist technology is baked in so the mesh network is optimized in the background with no user input required. If you’re tired of manually hopping from your 2.4GHz network to the less congested 5GHz network, Google Home Mesh does this for you. All devices will be given appropriate bandwidth so everyone is happy.
Family controls give you the ability to monitor and regulate your kids’ Internet activity which is a nice touch.
With your control system in place and your WiFi firing on all cylinders, the obvious starting point for whole-house entertainment is a smart speaker.
3) Smart Speakers
Smart speakers wear many hats.
On one level, you’ll be able to control compatible smart devices hands-free. This is arguably the greatest selling point.
At the cheaper end of the market, audio tends to be underwhelming so we’ve chosen a pair of smart speakers that actually deliver in terms of the soundscape. Unsurprisingly, these come from the companies with a stranglehold on this space, Amazon and Google.
Echo Plus is priced very keenly in comparison to other home entertainment devices and comes with an onboard Zigbee home hub. If you’re just starting out with home automation, this is a great way to get going without needing an additional gateway.
A 3-inch woofer and 0.8-inch tweeter come together to serve up impressive audio. High frequencies are crisp and tight while the bass is powerful without any muddiness. Alexa will stream music from all your favorite radio stations and applications so you’ve got an infinite choice of tunes on tap.
Despite such powerful performance, Echo Plus is compact and slimline at just 5.8 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches so it blends in rather than standing out.
What if you have a more fluid budget and you want even more audio performance?
Well, roll with Google Home Max and you’ll get all the search power you’d expect along with “room-filling sound” which, for once, lives up to the marketing hype.
A pair of 4.5-inch woofers and 2 custom tweeters give you a punchy low-end and great clarity at all frequencies even when you’re working the volume hard.
Powered by Google Assistant, you’ll be able to control other smart home entertainment devices using nothing but voice commands.
4) Smart Displays
If you want all the convenience of a smart speaker with the added visual element of a screen, Amazon once again leads the field.
Echo Show is the original smart display and adds a 10-inch HD screen to the mix.
With the kitchen forming the hub of most homes, Echo Show makes the perfect addition to amp up your collection of home entertainment devices. Whether you’re looking for a music video as you cook or some guided recipes for inspiration, the screen injects an extra dose of fun.
The screen also makes video calls possible. You can call other Echo devices, anyone with the Alexa app or make use of Skype.
Just like Echo Show, you’ll be able to control compatible Zigbee devices with no extra hub required. You’ll also, of course, have Alexa to do it for you.
If the full-sized second-generation Echo Show is a little too bulky, Amazon has you covered there, too.
Check out our look at Echo Show 5 if you want all the smarts of the bigger brother in a package half the size.
So, with all the basics in place for hands-free control, you’ll need something to bring all your home entertainment devices fully to life. After all, you hardly want to binge Netflix or watch a special effects movie on a 10-inch screen, do you?
5) Smart TVs, Projectors and Monitors
There’s no right or wrong solution to buying a TV or projector. So much depends on the size of your room, your budget and what you want from it.
One of our personal favorites in a crowded vertical is the Samsung 4K UHD 7 Series 75-Inch Smart TV. What makes this 4K beauty stand out, though?
The sheer size of the screen alone is perhaps the key selling point but you won’t dip out on quality. HDR content is fully supported including HDR10+ and you’ll get 4 x the resolution of a standard high-def screen. Thanks to the onboard UHD engine, all non-4K content is upscaled so you get crystalline clarity no matter what you’re watching.
By opting for this 2018 model, you can make significant savings while still achieving the screen real estate you want.
While you don’t get a Smart Remote, the Universal Guide simplifies browsing content from a single menu.
What if 75 inches is just not large enough, though?
You could always consider adding a projector to your array of home entertainment devices. We have something different to suggest in the form of the Anker Nebula Capsule. This mini-projector looks more like an Echo Plus than a traditional projector and kicks out a display up to 100 inches across. This gives you an experience just like the movie theater without needing to leave home.
The inbuilt advantage of the Nebula is the ability it gives you to run streaming and media apps including YouTube and Netflix. For copyrighted content, you’ll need to download the apps onto Nebula rather than screencasting but you’ll be spoiled for choice with entertainment from all the usual suspects.
Weighing in at just 15oz, this Anker projector is the perfect travel companion and the ideal entertainment center if you have a second home that doesn’t have quite the home theater you’d like if money were no object.
Running on Android 7.1 and packing an integrated speaker, the Anker Nebula Capsule gives you up to 4 hours of video on a single charge, more than enough for even a lengthier movie.
Maybe your kids are avid gamers or you’re partial to some online gaming yourself. The LG 34-Inch Curved Gaming Monitor comes with an adjustable stand and will really bring Fortnite or Call of Duty to life.
The 34-inch display is full HD and 1920 x 1080 so you’ll get crisp and detailed graphics whatever your game of choice.
In terms of content, this monitor is HDR10-compatible and comes with blur reduction along with an impressive refresh rate.
If you want to step up your gaming and enjoy a truly immersive experience, this monitor is perfect. It might not be cheap, but it punches above its weight. If you like the idea of this LG but can’t quite stretch to it, downsize to the 27-inch model to cut costs.
6) Soundbars and Speakers
With your visuals in place, it's time to think about home entertainment devices that bring sound to life and we have a first-class solution for you.
The Sonos Playbase Wireless Soundbar and Streaming Speakers enhance the audio experience when you’re watching your smart TV, and they also serve as a regular streaming speaker.
If the thought of setting up a home theater intimidates you, Sonos ensures you get plug-and-play simplicity. Just hook up this compact unit with a pair of cords and connect wirelessly in-app.
An array of 10 drivers bombards you with a deep and penetrating soundscape.
You won’t need to mount this soundbar on the wall either, so if you’ve got your TV on a stand or placed on a cabinet, just slip the Sonos nearby.
If the audio is still not quite powerful enough for you, you’ll be able to build out your system with more Sonos speakers to really get the party rocking.
7) Streaming Devices
Last but not least, no self-respecting smart home entertainment system lacks a streaming device.
Among a welter of options, our personal favorite is the Roku Ultra HD/4K/HDR Streaming Media Player.
With more and more content now in Ultra HD and 4K, you’ll need a streaming stick to keep pace. Roku gives you the ability to enjoy rich and detailed content with over a half-million movies and TV shows on tap.
You’ll be able to navigate more than 1000 channels using voice commands with Alexa capability baked in. However, you will need an Echo device for this.
There’s a voice remote which is a nice touch and you'll also get some JBL earbuds as a welcome gift.
For outstanding connectivity and a seamless experience streaming all the greatest content, Roku is well worth considering instead of the default Fire TV.
When it comes to smart home entertainment systems, you could spend as much as you spent on your house and still barely scratch the surface of what’s available.
Of all areas of smart home tech, this is likely the one that inspires most interest, so use these ideas as a springboard to start on your smart home entertainment system the right way.
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