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‘Tis the Season
for Technology
It’s almost that time to look at
televisions, DVRs, Blu-ray,
Slingboxes and more


By Steven Traeger

With the coming holiday season, we often find ourselves caught in a last-minute rush to find gifts for our family and friends. With all the other distractions of the season and with store shelves that empty so quickly, it sometimes seems almost impossible to find a good gift — but not this year. This holiday season gift giving can be a lot easier since there are a number of great new ideas available — things everyone will love. Some of the most popular gifts with men and kids alike are electronics, particularly home theater gadgets, so let us help you make your list right now.
           
The foundation of a home theater today is the television. The newest LCD and plasma televisions are not only getting more affordable, they are getting bigger and better. You can now buy a quality high-definition television for less than $500. A larger one will run a little over $1,000. Sony and Samsung, for example, offer great televisions at affordable prices. If you prefer a more traditional theater experience, a projector and a screen are a great option. These combinations have come down immensely in price, even since just a few years ago.
           
Also becoming more and more popular are Blu-ray players that convert your old DVDs to high definition and play new movies filmed in HD. Sony has one for around $300. You can easily buy Blu-ray discs at almost all stores that traditionally sold DVDs, and you can rent them at most rental stores. Sony also makes a new system called the Home Entertainment Server. It allows you to store up to 200 Blu-ray discs and has 500 gigabytes of memory for music, movies and photos that will display on your computer or television.
           
No television or home theater setup would be complete without a set of surround-sound speakers. Today you can buy a good-sounding set of speakers that is relatively inexpensive and that doesn’t take up half the room. Bose offers a six-speaker Acoustimass Home Entertainment System capable of good quality sound for only $629. Its tiny speakers can easily fill a family room with great sound for movies, video games, television and whatever else you need. And, they can mount on the wall, freeing up valuable floor space. If you have space for the more traditional large speaker system, companies such as Bowers & Wilkins and Definitive Technology offer a large variety of speakers that have incredible sound.
           
One of the newest advancements in technology, and the talk of the season, too, is the Slingbox, a television streaming device that allows you to watch your home television on your notebook, computer or cell phone through the Internet from anywhere in the world. There are several different varieties to choose from, the most popular being the Solo. The Slingbox is not necessarily designed for a home theater, but it can be a great addition to your trove of fun technology. The best part is that it is capable of high definition, and there are no monthly fees associated with this device.

Now that you have all this great new equipment, it is still useless if you cannot properly control it. Today there is a plethora of universal remote controls that can make the average home theater user’s life a lot easier. Logitech has a series of remotes called the Harmony Series that take every system over and incorporate all into one remote. For example, if you wanted to watch a DVD, the remote will turn on the television, DVD player, speaker system, and dim the lights — all with the push of one button. Then after the movie, you can push the “TV” button, and it will change everything over to the satellite dish.
           
While stores nationwide carry products like these, it is best to establish a personal relationship with a local store salesman that can work with you and one you can contact if there is any trouble with the equipment. You should look for a store that has demo theaters and that can work with or repair any equipment you buy. This ensures that you don’t have to send your blown speaker to California for two months. Also, a salesman whom you can learn to trust makes the shopping experience much more enjoyable and relaxed. There are many home theater stores in the San Antonio-Austin area, one of the most popular being Bjorn’s.
           
When you take the step to finally purchase home theater equipment, it is important to buy the best equipment you can afford. Quality equipment can make for years of hassle-free enjoyment and can make your movie-watching experience on par with that of commercial theaters. A good setup can change an old boring family room into a relaxation haven, making it a wonderful holiday gift for you and your family to enjoy for years to come.

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