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The media streamers and soundbars to buy this holiday season

You can get a TV too, but we assume that's a gift for yourself.
Engadget, @engadget
11.11.19 in AV
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Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

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There are lots of reasons to consider gifting home entertainment products. Whether you're searching for the perfect gift for that one friend that's always glued to their TV, or you're selflessly trying to bring your mom's living room setup up to speed before you visit for the holidays, we have a heap of suggestions for presents big and small. From $30 streaming sticks to $400 soundbars, we've got your back.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

holiday gift guide 2019

Just because the Fire TV Stick 4K comes with a low asking price doesn't mean it's lacking in features. The Fire Stick is similar to an Android TV box -- meaning it supports most popular streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu and a variety of sports channels -- but it also delivers Amazon's own services like Prime Video, Music and more. Add in Alexa support and there's a whole lot of entertainment and smart home features for less than the cost of a meal out for two. -- Matt Brian, Managing Editor, UK

Apple TV 4K

holiday gift guide 2019

Apple has gone to great lengths to ensure that its media services work on a number of set-top boxes, but for iOS or Mac users, the Apple TV 4K stands out as the streamer of choice. The box is tightly integrated with all of Apple's services, and it has support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10 along with Dolby Atmos audio. Add in access to thousands of apps -- including Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu and Plex -- and it can play almost anything.

What's more, TV+ has just launched, offering a wide array of original TV series and movies for $4.99 per month. Buy an Apple TV 4K and a yearly TV+ subscription is thrown in for free. That, on top of the recent launch of Apple Arcade, the company's all-you-can-eat gaming service, means Apple TV can easily double as both a home entertainment box and gaming console. -- M.B.

Roku Soundbar & Wireless Subwoofer

holiday gift guide 2019

If you know someone who could use an audio upgrade but doesn't want anything too complicated, this could be the perfect gift. Connect Roku's soundbar to a TV, plug in the wireless subwoofer somewhere out of the way and congratulations, you're finished!

Since it has a Roku Ultra built in, they'll get one of the simplest and easiest-to-control smart TV interfaces with apps included for every service, plus home-theater-quality audio to fill up the room. Roku's soundbar itself costs $180 while adding on the subwoofer doubles the price -- but that's more than worth it to level up movie night for the next time you're over. -- Richard Lawler, Senior News Editor

Roku Express

holiday gift guide 2019

If the only thing they need is an easier way to stream, the new Roku Express is also an option. It's ready to stream everything from Netflix and Amazon to newer options like Disney+ and Apple TV+, all for just $30. It doesn't even need its own power cord, since the USB ports on most TVs can do the job, and an easy-to-use remote means they don't have to relearn how to watch TV in the cord-cutter era. Plus, if they use smart home setups with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, it can tie in with those too. -- R.L.

Sonos Beam

holiday gift guide 2019

The Beam is Sonos' best all-round soundbar, and it makes a great gift even for technophobes. Setup is simple -- just an HDMI cable and a power outlet required. Once installed, it simply works, bringing superior sound quality to anything on TV. Built-in Google Assistant and Alexa mean many functions can be controlled using voice alone, and the Beam can field questions like an Echo or a Google Home. On top of soundbar duties, the Beam can also play back music or radio stations through the Sonos app or be directly controlled through AirPlay 2 or Spotify Connect. -- M.B.

Vizio SB36312 Soundbar & Subwoofer

holiday gift guide 2019

For a slightly more powerful home-audio upgrade, Vizio's SB36312 system is easy to live with and sounds great. Forget running cords everywhere for surround sound, because this only has two parts, the soundbar with integrated, upward-firing speakers to blast audio in all directions and a slim subwoofer that can go behind or underneath practically anything in your living room.

Vizio's built-in Chromecast support means there's all kinds of audio streaming just a button press away without the hassle of Bluetooth connections. Plus it supports Google Assistant and comes with six months of Tidal Hi-Fi audio service. For $470, it brings Dolby Atmos audio to any home, which is enough to make it sound like you spent a lot more money and time setting everything up -- exactly what you're looking for in a gift. -- R.L.

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box

holiday gift guide 2019

It's never been easier to build a smart home, especially with intelligent lighting. It's simple to set moods for different rooms, but for entertainment fans there's something quite special about having a lighting setup that reacts to what you're watching. Philips' Hue Play HDMI Sync Box sits between your TV and up to four media devices to synchronize Hue lights with whatever movie, video game or music is currently being played. It makes the perfect gift for someone who's already peppered their home with Hue lights, turning their living room into a colorful light show that mimics the colors and movements of a movie or a video game. -- M.B.

Images: Will Lipman Photography for Engadget (All photos barring any press images)

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