Upgrade Your Home Theater with These Top Holiday Picks

By on November 11, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide

Looking to help someone upgrade their personal home theater this year? One of the nice things about having a personal home theater is being able to get the surround sound benefits of a real theater without having to put up with the annoying sounds of people talking on their cell phones, babies and young children making noise or chatterboxes commenting about everything that’s happening on the screen. Check out our picks from some of the best home theater tech that would make great gifts this year.

Buy This for Someone Who’s Stuck with a “Dumb” TV

Great for transitioning a home theater into the age of streaming video, the Roku 3 is the best set-top box to access applications like Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU and Amazon Instant Video. Superior to the Apple TV in the number of apps available to users, the speed of the Roku 3 is also superior to gaming consoles, smart televisions and other home theater gear that play streaming video. It’s also a fantastic product at introducing someone into the world of streaming video.

MSRP: $99 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $90

Roku 3 with headphones

  • Pros: Inexpensive price point. Extremely fast compared to competitors. Plays 1080p video. Includes headphone jack in remote for private listening.
  • Cons: Motion controller is a little spotty at times within games.

Check Amazon for Roku 3

Buy This for Someone Who Wants to Upgrade a Bedroom / Office

Using a full home theater with a large 10-inch subwoofer is not ideal for other rooms in your home outside of the main home theater. It’s also tough to fit tons of large speakers into a small room. That’s where the VIZIO S4251w-B4 5.1 soundbar system comes in. The large, 42-inch soundbar provides a much higher quality of audio than speakers built into a television and the additional surround speakers make sure the directional audio is still alive and well.

MSRP: $99 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: n/a

Home Theater VIZIO-S4251w-B4-Soundbar

  • Pros: Ideal for a kid with a gaming console. Remote control offers digital display. Subwoofer is completely wireless. Includes Bluetooth for smartphone streaming.
  • Cons: Bass level controls could be more granular. Sound field won’t be as impressive as a full 7.1 system.

Check Amazon for VIZIO soundbar system

Buy This for Someone Who Needs to Protect their Home Theater

It’s surprising how often people purchase expensive televisions and home theater systems, but neglect to protect their investment with a powerful surge protector. While Monster has actually produced a decent line of these devices, we are partial to the Tripp Lite HT10DBS surge protector. This hardcore surge protector provides 3840 joules of total protection and includes connections for coaxial cable, the home phone line and the high speed Internet line.

MSRP: $139 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $48


  • Pros: Out of 10 outlets, 4 are made for extra wide power adapters. Comes with $500,000 insurance if any electronics are damaged. Has built-in diagnostic tools for testing outlets.
  • Cons: Large, bulky design may not fit easily behind home theater furniture. Expensive compared to other alternatives.

Check Amazon for Tripp Lite surge protector

Buy This for Someone Who has Finicky Neighbors

It’s tough using a home theater sound system when living in an apartment with thin walls. When you don’t want the neighbors giving you dirty looks around the apartment complex, look into the ZVox 555. It’s an ideal system for anyone who wants high quality audio, but doesn’t want to shake the walls with bass. The ZVox 555 also has an extremely small footprint, superb for tiny apartments.

MSRP: $399 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $349


  • Pros: Sits comfortably underneath a HDTV. Excellent vocal clarity. Built-in Dolby Digital decoder. Includes compression system to silence loud commercials.
  • Cons: Simulated directional audio isn’t as good at the real thing.

Check Ben’s for Deals on ZVox 555

Buy This for Someone Who Isn’t Happy with a “Small” 60-inch HDTV

Definitely a great gift for someone with a room in their home dedicated to a home theater, the BenQ W1070 home theater projector offers 1080p playback as well as 3D playback for those who like to wear the glasses. Providing 2000 lumens of total brightness, you can easily project a 120-inch image from 11 feet  away. The lamp life is rated up to around 6,000 hours depending on brightness levels, and the projector includes multiple HDMI inputs if connecting a secondary video source like a gaming console.

MSRP: $999 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $800


  • Pros: Color levels are top notch. Includes SmartEco mode to preserve the lamp life. Works well in living rooms where all the light cannot be eliminated.
  • Cons: Since it’s DLP, users could be subject to rainbow effect. Fan noise can be annoying during quiet scenes.

Check Ben’s for Deals on BenQ W1070

Buy This for Someone Who Has Speakers Already

Ideal for putting old speakers to use, the Yamaha RX-V673 7.2-Channel network AV receiver is an excellent receiver for a high-powered home theater. Including decoding for newer formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, the receiver is also ideal for anyone with an Apple gadget since it includes audio streaming over AirPlay. It also includes 4K upscaling tech over HDMI when someone decides to upgrade their 1080p HDTV to a 4K model and wants to watch their Blu-ray collection in 4K resolution.

MSRP: $649 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $275


  • Pros: Includes 6 HDMI inputs for multiple components. Latest firmware enables Pandora / SiriusXM / Rhapsody & Napster support.
  • Cons: Firmware updates require manual USB connection. Requires a separate wireless adapter to connect over Wi-Fi.

Check Amazon for the Yamaha RX-V673

Buy This for Someone Who Has a 7-channel Receiver Already

Ideal for someone setting up their first 7.1 system, the Onkyo SKS-HT540 7.1 Channel speaker system is an extremely well-reviewed speaker package that includes a solid 130-watt rating per speaker and a powerful 230-watt, 10-inch subwoofer. The speakers have a fairly small footprint compared to large, floorstanding models and are ideal for content with significant directional audio effects such as action movies or video games.

MSRP: $349 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $150


  • Pros: Powerful, tight bass effects. Extremely clear vocals during conversation scenes. Extremely competitive price for a turnkey speaker solution.
  • Cons: Difficult to wall-mount due to large size (but not impossible). Sub has no phasing switch. Included speaker wire is very thin.

Check Amazon for the Onkyo SKS-HT540

About Mike Flacy

By day, I'm the Editor-in-Chief for The CheckOut in addition to being the content manager for Steve's Digicams and High-Def Digest. During my free time, I love to write about pop culture, home theater, digital photography, social media, mobile technology and cool gadgets!

One Comment

  1. Gram

    November 21, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    I know some family members who could use some of this stuff. Great ideas.

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