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Home Theater Component Buyer’s Guide
As people spend more time at home than ever before, many are looking into gear upgrades that can take their home entertainment experience to the next level.
Nobody wants to squint at a tiny screen, or strain to hear the barely audible dialogue. But not every big screen or surround sound stereo system is right for every home theater setup. Some components carry hefty price tags, so it's good to do some research before you shell out big bucks.
Suddenlink has you covered. Here's everything you need to know about home theater components, to make sure you choose what's right for you.
How to buy a TV for home theaters
Each smart technology feature or advance in on-screen image resolution comes with technical jargon that can make buying a new TV feel like a research project.
Before you start down a rabbit hole of product reviews and unboxing YouTubes, you'll want to know what exactly you're looking for. Otherwise, the process can get a little noisy and salesy, and you might find yourself tempted into a big purchase you could regret later.
When you shop for a new TV, it's helpful to start with a good idea of your preferences. Consider the following:
- 1. How much am I willing to pay for a new TV? Before signing up for an installment plan on the biggest, highest-resolution smart TV you can get your hands on, you might want to work backward from a comfortable price point. You could discover that some features are worth sacrificing to find a better deal, while others are must-haves.
- 2. What’s the best screen size? Measure your current entertainment area and plan out where you’d put a new TV - remember that screen sizes are measured diagonally, so a tape measure extended out from your current TV screen should give you an idea of the proportions. If you’re looking into screens that are too wide for your current furniture or floor plan, factor any additional costs into the purchase price, and check in about any rearranging you might want to do.
- 3. What image resolution is best? Resolution levels increase from 720p to 1080p, to Ultra 4K HD, with plans for 8K coming soon. Lower resolutions tend to be more affordable, but since TV screens with high image resolution can also handle signals from lower resolutions, going that next level up can give your TV a longer shelf life. Consider how long you’ll want to go before buying the next TV upgrade as a price consideration, as well as your home internet hookup’s available bandwidth if you plan to stream ultra-high-resolution video.
- 4. What will I be watching? If you often stream video, you may want to invest in a smart TV with internet connectivity. This can reduce the number of steps in your installation process (and cut down on the number of remotes you need to keep handy). Separate streaming hardware devices are also available but should be factored as an additional cost along with higher-speed internet for high def downloads.
What to know about buying a projector
Due to their indoor and outdoor versatility, projectors have become an increasingly popular option for home theaters.
Before you look into projector options, consider the following:
- 1. Total price point - Remember, you might not be buying just a projector. Additional equipment such as a standalone screen, pulldown screen, fresh paint, mount, or vinyl wall cling might also be a part of the equation.
- 2. Placement and measurement options - Projectors can offer a relatively easy and portable setup, with most models having angle adjustment and high-definition image resolution settings. But cinephiles beware: a projector is also only as good as the surface it projects onto or as reliable as the stand it’s mounted on. Factor projection surface size and mounting or shelving as a component of cost.
- 3. Setup needs and connection ability - Unless the projector model you buy is a smart device with built-in internet connectivity, you’ll also need to give it a video input, such as from a BluRay player, streaming device, or laptop with connector cables. Factor these needs into costing.
Buying home theater surround sound speaker systems
Imagine watching a nature documentary while hearing penguins chattering all around you, or an action movie that sounds like a real helicopter just flew past. A home theater surround sound system can bring your home theater to life with an immersive quality you can't experience otherwise.
But price tags for premium home theater audio equipment can reach into the multiple thousands. And due to the tricky aspects of acoustics, there's no guarantee even a top of the line system will sound great without the help of a professional installation team or additional sound-dampening materials.
So before you buy a fancy new sound system, ask yourself the following:
- 1. Can I have it professionally installed? Acoustical engineering is an entire field of study for a reason - it can take a while to get it right. Aside from proper initial speaker placement and hookup with a minimum of fiddling, the main advantage of professional installation is getting expert recommendations tailored to your exact space. A less expensive system professionally installed can often sound better than top-of-the-line speakers you set up yourself. Factor installation into your costing.
- 2. Do I have the right space for a top of the line option? Room size, shape, and arrangement impacts sound quality just as much as speaker quality and placement. And there’s only so much you can do about those variables. Look into some tips for surround sound acoustics to see if you have a room setup that’s close to ideal before springing for a higher-end sound system.
- 3. Will I need additional materials? Acoustics are tricky for one main reason: sound bounces. This is why most movie theaters have carpeted walls or other sound absorption material. While you might not have the time, space, or budget to build a true theater-style home theater arrangement just for the sake of better sound quality, smaller adjustments such as an area rug, cloth artwork, or new furniture can make a difference. Factor these considerations as a potential cost.
Buying home theater media
Many movie buffs still prefer to keep a collection of movies in physical media formats, which can mean frequent upgrades to both players and the library as higher-quality options become available.
It's nice to have a few old favorites ready to go at a moment's notice, but the increasing pace of upgrades (from DVD to BluRay to 4K Ultra HD disc) can get expensive across a large library. And video rentals are a thing of the past in many areas.
So streaming is the way to go to get the largest variety of movie titles available in the highest-possible image quality format, with easy upgrades as they become available.
However, streaming movies at the high end of available image quality puts a heavier burden on your home internet bandwidth. This can be an additional cost factor in that major home theater component upgrade.
If you expect to be streaming movies in 4K HD on your new home theater setup, make sure you have the home internet speed to handle the need for this larger file-size format. After all, you wouldn't want to go to all the trouble and expense of buying a full home theater system just to sit and watch a loading screen.
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