In 2007, one of the best televisions you could buy was the Pioneer Kuro. The 50-inch model cost $6,000 at the time. Fast forward a little more than a decade, and you can now buy a 4k 50-in Smart TV for between $150-$300 depending on brand and features. And it’s not just TVs, but accessories like home theater systems, streaming packages, and more that’s made it cheaper than ever to create your perfect home media system.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be streaming your favorite content in no time.
Before You Begin: Make Your Media List
The most crucial step is deciding what content you want to stream. More people than ever are cutting the cord and ditching the dish in favor of streaming platforms. There are plenty of them available. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+ — you know the drill. Thus, you need to decide which option fits your needs. That is if you don’t want to break your wallet and subscribe to them all.
Use the questions below to help you determine what options you need.
- Do you watch sports?
- Do you need live TV?
- Do you have children?
- Do you want a local TV?
- Do you want premium channels like HBO or Showtime?
- Do you mainly watch series or movies?
- Do you want multi-device access?
- Do you want extra screens in the bedrooms and other rooms?
Keep an eye out for deals as well. For example, if you use Amazon Prime for buying things online, you already have access to Prime Video and Prime Music. Likewise, cell phone carriers, broadband companies, and other providers add incentives like free Netflix and Apple Music with contracts along with other deals.
Finally, it’s hard to believe, but many people are going back to TV antennas. You can buy a digital antenna and get 20-40 free channels, depending on where you live.
Home Media Center: Essential Components
The best home media centers have a simple setup. You should be able to start streaming your favorite content in a few seconds. Here are the main things you’ll need.
1) Large Screen TV (Smart Functionality Optional)
You can’t have a media center without a good TV. Nowadays, smart TVs are everywhere, but anyone who has ever used them has noticed that they’re not very smart. You can use other devices to add some brainpower to your home media setup.
Focus on picture quality instead. Find the right combination of picture quality and size that matches your budget. Make sure it has enough HDMI and other outputs to support surround sound.
2) Choose Your Home Media Center Base
There’s no shortage of products on the market that can serve as your home media base. From Google’s Chromecast to the Amazon Firestick and Apple TV, you can add fantastic functionality to any TV with an HDMI port.
These products have overlapping features, so if you buy an Apple TV, you don’t need a Chromecast. Choose the one you find the easiest to use. These are all streamlined options with medium functionality.
Some people instead use a laptop or a computer as their media server. It has advantages of desktop functionality to run all types of media files you download to your computer. It’s also cheaper since you’ll be able to hook up any computer to your TV HDMI port. And software for media centers is often free and open-source, too — for example, Kodi or Jellyfin.
Plus, you don’t even have to sacrifice having a remote. You can use apps like Google Remote Desktop to control your computer from your phone.
3) Don’t Forget About The Sound
If you’ve invested this much into your home media setup, you can’t forget about the sound. It’s what really makes the experience. What’s the point of a giant 4K TV if you’re using a tiny internal speaker while watching Star Wars?
Sound systems have gotten better than ever. And, you can forget about wires running across your floors — everything’s wireless.
Your main challenge will be deciding between soundbars and speakers. Soundbars are easier to set up while speakers provide better sound. You can read all the online reviews you want, but you’re better off going to your local electronics store so you can hear the differences in person.
Harness the Power of Your Home Media Center
Now your setup is complete. You may consider adding a few more peripherals. You should download some remote control apps so you can do everything on your phone. Likewise, you may want to invest in a couple of Chromecasts to extend content into other rooms of your house. These are particularly helpful for older TVs and are less expensive than Apple TVs while still being quite functional.
Now that you have your streaming platforms ready, you can unlock even more content with a VPN. When you use a VPN for Mac, Windows, or mobile, you can access content from around the world. Netflix is one great example. It has tons of American TV classics like Suits, Brooklyn 99, and Archer only available outside the US. Likewise, it has tons of content you can only find in the US version. With a VPN, you can switch between Netflix regions to get everything you want.