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Engadget's Holiday Gift Guide: Home theater setups


Welcome to the Engadget Holiday Gift Guide! The team here is well aware of the heartbreaking difficulties of the seasonal shopping experience, and we want to help you sort through the trash and come up with the treasures this year. Below is today's bevy of hand curated picks, and you can head back to the Gift Guide hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season.

Congratulations, you've reached the end of your holiday list and have only one person left -- unfortunately, they're the one that never leaves the living room. With eyes constantly glues to the screen, a simple sweater or even the finest Williams-Sonoma has to offer just won't cut it. Luckily, we're here to help, especially if that poor soul is limited to some old school XGA projector, juggling multiple remotes or still waiting to make the jump to Blu-ray. Dig in after the break and see what will distract them from the HDTVs unnatural light long enough to say thanks.

Gallery: Holiday Gift Guide: Home theater setups | 10 Photos

Stocking stuffer

Insignia NS-WBRDVD
- Missing out on the Black Friday deals doesn't mean you can't find a Blu-ray player that qualifies as a "stocking stuffer." At just $119 right now for a deck that brings WiFi, BD-Live and of course, Netflix Watch Instantly in one slim package, the only real question is whether to get one for yourself too. Trust us, they'll stop looking for a more highly regarded brand name once the movies start streaming.

$119 - Buy from Best Buy

Logitech Harmony PlayStation 3 IR adapter
- Good news, your Secret Santa draw is all 3D Blu-ray ready with their PlayStation 3. Bad news, they're still navigating disc menus with the SixAxis controller, while their high end remote is left useless without Bluetooth compatibility. You can be the hero and bring Harmony back with this adapter, it reads the IR commands from the remote and converts them for the PS3. When they're watching Avatar in 3D and don't have to remember which control does what, they'll thank you.

From $54 - Shop for Logitech Harmony Adapter

Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray
- Shopping for the home theater nut that likes to brag about their high end equipment and how much they paid, but doesn't actually have a clue how to make sure they get the most from it? Just $25 can significantly improve their A/V experience if you slip the Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray disc under the tree. It's got the high quality imagery, test patterns and explanations to walk anyone through adjusting every piece of equipment to perform at its best, and they deserve nothing less.

$25 - Buy from Amazon

Oh, you shouldn't have

Samsung HT-BD3252 HTIB
- For a maximum bang for your buck upgrade, we introduce Samsung's HT-BD3252. With a blu-ray player featuring Netflix Watch Instantly, Pandora and Blockbuster streaming at its core and additional bonuses like auto calibration and support for the highest quality audio codecs, it's hard to find a single box that will turn around your family's entertainment experience as quickly. Plus, it's got an iPod dock. You know you need that.

$599 - Buy from Amazon

LG BD390 Blu-ray player - Just need a Blu-ray player to complete Santa's list? LG's BD390 is the speedy, network connected box you've been looking for. You won't be stuck waiting for movies to load, whether they're from the disc or over Netflix with its 802.11n WiFi and 1GB of built-in memory, plus access to high quality 1080p flicks from VUDU. If you're trying to figure out which player to go with this holiday season, this is it.

From $250
- Shop for LG BD390 Blu-ray player

Optoma HD20
- Why limit your TV size to something measured in inches? With the proper setting, a projector can give a much bigger image with great quality, and you'll be hard pressed to find many that will do 1080p for less cash out of pocket than the Optoma HD20. This DLP PJ has a 4,000:1 contrast ratio, 4,000 hour bulb and 1,700 ANSI lumens of brightness. Slide one of these in your den and we can guarantee it's the go to spot for movies, games or regular old TV.

From $945
- Shop for Optoma HD20 projector

We can't afford the rent now, can we?

Harmony 1100
- For the ultimate in remote control technology, slip them the Logitech Harmony 1100 remote. Sure the price may seem steep at first, but at this level, it's not merely an input device, but also a lifestyle choice. Plus, even if no one can figure out how to change the channel (until all the custom images and layouts are adjusted as you see fit, of course) , you can always impress them with how much it costs.

From $319 - Shop for Harmony 1100 Universal remote control

Niveus Zone HTPC
- While some may prefer the DIY route, the more hands off home theater owner will be more than happy to accept this HTPC, imbued with much of what Niveus has developed for its designer custom install-aimed units, in a box that will easily find its way under a TV without professional assistance. Now shipping with Windows 7, it's packing a Blu-ray drive and set for remote friendly movie browsing, plus there's a suite of accessories if you need to add CableCard or anything else just to get everything going at first. Spending less on a HTPC is certainly possible, but finding a more complete setup out of the box? That could be tricky. We'll take the easy way out this time.

Starting at $1,499 - Buy from Niveus

Onkyo TX-NR5007
- Sure they have a nice receiver already, but Onkyo's TX-NR5007 brings the latest and greatest features available to bear. Whether its the DLNA, Pandora and Rhapsody streaming support, eight HDMI inputs or HQV Reon video processing, we're sure there's some box checked that will have the old audio equipment tossed in the trash and this hefty unit hooked up before you can finish caroling.

From $1,832 - Shop for Onkyo TX-NR5007 receiver

Sony VPL-VW85
- If only the best, within reason (there's always JVC's $175k 4K unit if one is feeling particularly generous) will do, then Sony's VPL-VW85 will bring the height of the company's impressive SXRD display technology to your living room. Ring up a custom installer and move the shelves, with 120,000:1 dynamic contrast ration and 800 ANSI lumens, plus 120Hz Motionflow image processing, you'll never even miss the overpriced popcorn, Icees and Jujubes from the local moviehouse.

From $5,941 - Shop for Sony VPL-VW85 projector

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