From high-tech projectors to the latest apps, find out what's new in home cinema.
By John RihaMore in Home Improvement
Internet Streaming Capabilities
Bringing Internet content into home theater "is probably the most important development in the home theater experience," says About.com's home theater expert, Robert Silva. No longer confined to DVD movies and Super Bowl parties, HT is the venue for consuming all types of content. You can get news, weather, games, music, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more with a flick of your trusty thumb.
Internet-enabled devices include televisions, Blu-ray disc players, receivers and gaming consoles, such as Wii, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Lacking one of those, you can opt for a media extender - a standalone box whose job is to stream Internet content to your non-enabled entertainment devices.
Internet-enabled Blu-ray players are a current favorite, owing to the fact that they're already a highly desirable home entertainment component, and they sport a relatively low entry price. You can get a top-quality, high-definition, Internet-enabled player with built-in Wi-Fi for less than $250. For non-math majors, that's a lot less than a $5,000 Internet-enabled TV.
For a modest price bump, you also can add a 250 GB hard drive for storing your personal photos, videos and music files. And yes, 3-D capability is yet another option, with 3-D Blu-ray discs on the immediate horizon. Some Blu-ray players are "3-D ready," meaning they'll be able to convert to 3-D via a firmware upgrade whenever you - and the upgrade - are ready. However, you'll still need a 3-D TV to see those flinch-inducing scenes that pop into your living room.
Currently, manufacturers are busy hatching marketing deals with content providers so certain Internet services are only available on particular brands. You may get Picasa and Netflix from one manufacturer, and Flickr and Blockbuster from another. That kind of exclusivity is probably a short-term strategy, and it's likely most devices will eventually carry a fully developed suite of the most popular services.
Mobile Accessibility and the Impending App-Ocalypse
While there are those whose idea of entertainment is to use their mobile devices to watch reruns of Friday Night Lights on a screen the size of a tea bag while riding a commuter train out of the city, an increasing number use their mobile phone or pad to manage just about everything in their home environment, including their big screen home theater.
Via mobile apps, the touchscreen on your mobile phone or pad can use Wi-Fi to communicate with a centralized home automation control system, which then sends infrared or other signals to your devices and equipment. You can check your security system, adjust your home's heating and cooling, and tee up Hot Tub Time Machine. Later, from the comfort of your couch, you can use your mobile device as an all-in-one remote, switching between content sources, selecting programs and adjusting the light level in your media room.