10 perfect Christmas presents for... AV lovers
Welcome to the next of our Pocket-lint perfect Christmas gift guide installments. So you've bought presents for the Apple fanboy/girl in your life, the photographer, laptop addicts, the console gamer and PC gamer. Now is the turn for your favourite couch potato. Here are 10 perfect gifts for AV lovers everywhere.
Philips BDP 3000 Blu-ray player
It's all very well having an HDTV but if you're still watching DVDs on it, you're living in the Dark Ages. Fortunately, quality AV supplier Philips has come up with a budget Blu-ray player this year for under £100 that'll save you having to plumb the murky depths of unknown brands. The BDP3000 measures a standard 435 x 58 x 308mm, boasts "ultra low" 0.5W standby power, 1080p 24fps Full HD images, while also upscaling existing DVDs to near 1080p HD quality. It also offers Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround sound decoding, x.v.Colour tech and DivX, MP3 and Jpeg support too. All that and it's still a fully fledged BD-Live capable, Profile 2.0 machine. An utter bargain.
Film & TV on Blu-ray
There's buckets of Blu-rays out there but our advice to you would be to make sure you buy films with footage that was recorded in HD rather than SD recordings that have been remastered. Some have been done very well but it's no substitute for something that was shot with high resolution in mind.
Action and sci-fi are usually the best genres to go for to get the most out of the experience and the pick of the recent crop would have to be - Watchmen, Star Trek XI, Batman: Dark Knight, Iron Man, on the TV front the two BBC nature series Planet Earth and Life will look fantastic otherwise the first season of Mad Men or Torchwood would both make a pretty good watch too. If you can wait 'till just after Christmas, then both District 9 and Hurt Locker would be excellent choices too.
Sharp HTSB200 2.1 Soundbar
We're not going to tell you that this is the world's most electrifying piece of home cinema kit, because it isn't. But the Sharp HTSB200 is a damn site better than whatever speakers you've got tucked away inside those shallow cabinets of your flat screen TV. What's more, it cost a smidge over £100 and so it just about qualifies as something you might buy as a gift.
It's a no frills device and like many of these units, it's missing a little something at the bottom end but it still offers 2.1 surround and you're giftee isn't going to need an AVR to plug it into either. It works straight off a headphones jack on a normal TV. For anyone with no external speakers at all, they'll absolutely fall on it at Christmas.
It's only marginally less boring than it sounds but the fact remains that you rarely have too many of these things. You can go with some expensive gold plated version if you like but the sensible move would be to go for one of the Amazon Basics HDMI cables that come in at £12 or less and see them as a stocking filler instead. As a main present, no one will be impressed, as an additional, you'll receive much love and front row seats at the next home cinema screening.
Logitech Harmony 700
Universal remotes are an excellent way of keeping AV faff down to a minimum, so long as they're themselves not too complicated to work. Logitech has a good track record in making the devices and the Harmony 700 is one of their more simplified models offering features like "one-click control".
Rather than turning your TV to the AV channel, changing your amp over to movie mode, and turning on your DVD player, one button press of "Watch a DVD" can batch-control everything. It also means that there's only one item to worry about losing. Like most good AV accessories, it comes in at just over £100, so perhaps go for the BD films option instead if you don't love your giftee quite that much.
WD TV Live HD media streamer
There's quite a few media streamers out there including the Xbox and PS3, if you happen to own one, but otherwise, the Western Digital Live HD device is pretty much the best around. This gadget makes it easy to play HD videos stored on USB and network drives, from PCs and Macs, as well as stream content from websites onto big screen HDTVs.
It boasts a more responsive interface than the previous award winning model, it's now Ethernet and Wi-Fi-enabled and it also comes complete with remote control, internet radio, two USB ports, one HDMI port and SPDIF digital output. Once again, it's around the £100 mark, but trust us, it's a winner.
HDTV Subscription (Sky/Freesat)
The gift of Sky can be a wonderful thing. It's about nothing else other than the fact that the satellite service provider has more HD channels than any other service in the UK at the moment. Prices start from £17 per month and include a free Sky box, but seeing as that works out as a fair whack, the other option is to go with Freesat instead.
Freesat has just two HD channels as opposed to Sky's very healthy stock of sports and movies, but there is no subscription fee. All you'll need is a decoder box, a dish and someone to install it. Sounds complicated but it's actually a lot easier and cheaper than you think.
An alternative way to go from Sky, Freesat and buying Blu-rays is to set your loved one up with a subscription to Lovefilm where they can choose whatever movie rentals they like throughout the year. While packages start at £3.99 per month, gift subscriptions cost from £16, which means that Lovefilm will mail out one disc at a time twice per month or, if you're happy to spend a little more, there are unlimited deals to be had as well. New releases can be a little harder to get hold of due to lots of requests for them but it's a good service nonetheless.
We'll admit it, we put the Slanket in our 10 perfect gifts for console gamers list too, but a couch potato is a couch potato regardless of their choice of weapon. What's more, the fact remains that the Slanket. is really good.
The fleecy half dressing gown, half blanket bundle of goodness gives you total body coverage while allowing easy access to your remote controls and bio-fuels. There's even a double version out specially for this Christmas but the single will probably do.
Drinks & Snacks
A home cinema just isn't a home cinema without a few tasty treats to go with it. It all rather depends on what your loved one prefers, but popcorn would be a good one to go for. Either grab the Princess Deluxe Popcorn Maker and a bag of kernels to go with it or just order a load of Butterkist online. If sweets are a better idea, then check out Cybercandy for a selection of the world's treats or the Retro Tuck Shop for some fizzy cola bottles and other old school penny action.
On the drink side of things, both Virgin and Laithwaites run a good wine of the month club that you could sign your giftee up to and if they prefer beer, then the Beer Club of Great Britain or the Camra Beer Club are the places to look.