Movie night made easy: how to stream movies and build the best home theater
No need to brave the sticky carpets at the multiplex these days. Movie night at home is easy and enjoyable while saving you the hassle and expense of a trip to the movie theater. Let's take a look at everything you'll need to know to put on the best movie night and still be in your PJs.
Streaming services deliver endless entertainment
Streaming services have become a part of our lives and continue to get better day-by-day. Available on demand, sites like Vudu, Netflix and Hulu all offer great quality entertainment for the whole family. Sites you're already on, like YouTube, are starting to offer original content as well as classic films for a small fee.
While it's simple enough to connect a laptop to your television, and many Blu-ray players have the ability to access select apps for video and music streaming, a dedicated digital streaming device is an ideal option for your home entertainment system when you want to minimize the clutter.
One box, thousands of movies
Small and affordable, these streaming devices have the single purpose of streaming movies, music, photos and video games to your TV. Even though this is still a relatively new industry, Roku has made a name for itself with its low-cost, simple setup and excellent set of watching, listening and game-play choices. These mini media centers come with access to great content from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB and many other services built-in and ready to go. Connecting to your TV with an HDMI cable, these discreet devices are a great value, with all current options well under $100.
Roku isn't the only option. Apple TV has been streaming for years using the same technology and interface as the iPhone and iPad. Currently, it delivers HD-quality movies and videos to your TV with support from Netflix, Vimeo, YouTube as well as archived sports. Apple TV also employs AirPlay to allow you to stream your music, pictures and videos right from your iPhone, iPad, Apple laptop or desktop computer.
Google recently shipped their media streamer called the Google Chromecast. Its unique selling point (besides its current sub-$40 price) is that it's small and easy to use, plugging directly into the HDMI port of your TV. But like any streaming device, it's all about content and support. Right now, the Chromecast only works with Netflix and YouTube as well as with Google Play through your web browser when appended with the Chromecast extension.
Little sound bar, big sound
For the ultimate home movie experience, you'll need great sound. Dedicated sound bars are designed to be wall-mounted under your TV, or sit on your TV shelf, and use fewer wires than big speaker sets. Some can even deliver full 5.1 surround sound in a single box.
With many models retailing under $100, they're an affordable way of adding a deluxe experience to your movie night. Look for ones that feature a built-in or included subwoofer and audio inputs or Bluetooth so you can enjoy great sound from both your TV and your music collection.
The right TV: Bigger is better
What's the best TV for movie night? It has to be the right size and have HD resolution. The right size can vary, so go the extra mile, and take some measurements of your home. Experts suggest you should divide the distance from couch to screen by two to get the optimum TV size. So, if you'll be sitting 80" from the TV, you'll feel most comfortable viewing a 40" set.
The next choice will be whether to go for LCD or LED. LED TVs, especially OLED TVs, are slimmer, use less energy and generally render shadows and highlights very well. Though LCD models still look great, and are generally less expensive, the price of LED TVs is dropping rapidly.
Finally, you can get everything you want in a smart TV. With a selection of streaming media services built in, there may be no need for an external box. But remember a smart TV is only as good as its apps. Make sure the TV you buy has the apps you want.
Whatever kind of TV you prefer, don't be afraid to go big! You can find smart TVs over 50" in size for under $500.
That's it— everything you need for a great night in at the movies. All that's left now is to pick something to watch, grab your favorite snack, sit back and enjoy the movie!
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