Engadget's Holiday Gift Guide 2013: Home Theater

Welcome to Engadget's holiday gift guide! Head back to our hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the month.

For many of us, "home entertainment" systems can be tucked in backpacks or propped up on an airline tray table. For diehard media fanatics, however, such lightweight solutions won't do. If you or someone you love knows their LCD from their plasma -- and you have the money to spend -- the TVs below are sure to please. The days of 4K may still be early, but, hey, nothing makes watching Planet Earth more social than a giant, brilliant set. Even if your wallet isn't fat, you can upgrade a living room with our favorite set-top boxes and TVs.


Google Chromecast

After a long night of swilling hot toddies, there's nothing I love more than serving my best Downtown Julie Brown for my properly toasty guests. There are endless ways to get that YouTube Yule log up on your TV screen, but this little dongle is by far the easiest (and cheapest) streaming-video solution I've come across. If your giftee fancies herself a modern-day VJ, or spends endless hours hooked on Netflix or Hulu, it's a no-brainer. Just make sure they've got a steady WiFi connection and a TV with an HDMI port before you pull out your wallet. -- Christopher Trout, Managing Editor

Key specs: HDMI out; iOS, Android and Mac/PC desktop apps; connects over WiFi.

Price: $35 from Google Play

Roku 3

The Chromecast and Apple TV are great, don't get me wrong, but nothing compares to the Roku for sheer versatility. The granddaddy of streaming set-top boxes draws from the deepest library of content sources, including unique channels like PBS, Redbox Instant and UFC TV. You can even connect to a Plex server and stream music and movies you might have acquired through less official means than Amazon's store. -- Terrence O'Brien, Deputy Managing Editor

Key specs: 1,000-plus channels, 1080p, dual-band WiFi.

Price: $100 from Roku

Ceton InfiniTV 6 PCIe

While Microsoft may have put its Media Center software on the back burner with the release of Windows 8 and the Xbox One, the folks at Ceton delivered not one, but two reasons to stick with the HTPC dream this year. Along with its counterpart USB edition, this six-tuner card transforms a standard desktop into a powerful and easily configurable cable DVR. For $299, it's perfect if you know a techie that loves both TV and DIY projects. -- Richard Lawler, Senior Editor

Key specs: Six QAM 64/256 tuner, CableCARD M-Card DRM Processor, full 1080i and 3D support.

Price: $299 on Amazon


Klipsch Sub-12HG Synergy Series

There are much more expensive subwoofer options out there, but for $300, the Klipsch Sub-12HG Synergy Series 12-inch bass machine is the way to go. It reproduces the lowest frequencies the human ear can perceive and makes for a solid addition to just about any home theater system. What's more, it delivers gobs of drama to whatever you're watching without inflicting a serious wound to your bank account. -- Timothy J. Seppala, Contributing Editor

Key specs: 12-inch downward-firing driver, 300 watts continuous power, 24Hz-120Hz frequency response range.

Price: $300 on Amazon

TiVo Roamio Pro

TiVo is back, and with the Roamio Pro it's almost ready to deliver on the "do-everything" box promises made by its previous DVRs. Upgraded internal hardware means these run faster and smoother than ever, and they now even deliver recorded and live TV to mobile devices (iOS now; Android coming soon.) App support is still a bit limited and, with lifetime service, the upfront cost adds up quickly, but look no further than this for the best cable experience money can buy. -- Richard Lawler

Key specs: Six tuners, up to 450 HD (3,000 SD) hours of recording, built-in wireless networking.

Price: From $570 on Amazon

Panasonic ST60 Series

Looking for a huge TV that won't leave a huge hole in your wallet? Panasonic's mid-priced plasma series has a great color range, deep blacks and wide viewing angles, and comes in at a price well below the company's higher-end models. Moreover, it's available in sizes from 50 inches all the way up to 65 inches. -- Marc Perton, Executive Editor

Key specs: Available in 50, 55, 60 and 65 inches; three HDMI inputs; two USB inputs; active 3D; WiFi; Smart TV features.

Price: From $1,295 on Amazon


Samsung F9000 series Ultra HD TV

Want to pamper a home theater junkie? Pick up a Samsung F9000 TV. Its Ultra HD (4K) screen is about as sharp as it gets, and its support for Evolution Kit upgrades should keep the set relevant for more than just a few years. The F9000 is even relatively affordable; now that it costs less than $4,000 for a 55-inch model, it's a realistic choice for many who would have otherwise been stuck with a 1080p equivalent. -- Jon Fingas, Associate Editor

Key specs: 70W sound, voice control remote, Evolution Kit upgrade support, 55- or 65-inch 4K (3,840 x 2,160) LED-based LCD display.

Price: from $3,000 from Best Buy

Panasonic 65" ZT60 plasma TV

Panasonic may be shutting down its plasma TV production line entirely, and while that might be reason enough to snag its flagship display, the ZT60's unparalleled picture quality should be what pushes your favorite videophile over the edge. At 65 inches, it's not the biggest screen out there, but the fact that it can stand toe to toe with Pioneer's vaunted Kuro models in terms of picture quality makes up for any perceived shortcomings regarding size. -- Timothy J. Seppala

Key specs: Single-sheet glass design, Studio Master Panel, 98 percent DCI color space.

Price: $3,200 on Amazon

Sony XBR-65X900A 4K TV

Even with Sony's 4K media player and "mastered in 4K" Blu-ray discs, it's still a mostly HD world, but the X900A handles lower-res sources well. Toss in a Blu-ray (especially an impressive 3D presentation like Pacific Rim, or Gravity when that comes home) and you'll have an experience previously only possible in the theater. The $5,500 list price puts a hefty premium on those extra pixels -- especially if you're sitting far away -- but a coming update to HDMI 2.0 gives the early adopter on your gift list the promise of being future-proofed for whatever comes next. -- Richard Lawler

Key specs: Front-facing speakers with 65W sound, LED-backlit 4K display.

Price: $4,998 on Amazon


Sony Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

Sony's speaker is ready and waiting for your holiday playlist. Connect your gadgets via the aux input or stream via Bluetooth. There's also a built-in USB port for charging smartphones and tablets. Enter the raffle below for a chance to make it yours, and be sure to check out our giveaway rules.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The rules:

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.

  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States and the District of Columbia, 18 or older! Sorry, we don't make this rule (we hate excluding anyone).

  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One winner will receive one (1) Sony Bluetooth Wireless Speaker.

  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes a contact email. Social media contact details are not carried over into our system.

  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Sony and Engadget/AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.

  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.

  • Entries can be submitted until December 31st, 2013 at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!