Best home entertainment device 2013: 10th Pocket-lint Gadget Awards nominees
Home entertainment has really come into its own this year, with a range of systems now available to make your living room the most exciting place to be in the house. From streaming to audio to making that old TV smarter, there're a host of options to look into.
Sonos extended its range of speakers with the introduction of Play:1, a smaller and cheaper option to the around-the-home audio concept, while we've seen many different takes on set-top boxes that don't come with the full-on Sky price tag.
After much deliberation, here are the top five Best Home Entertainment nominees in a little more detail.
Now TV Box
Sky launched the Now TV Box priced at just £10 in July last year, adding Sky Sports in March this year, and the clever little set-top box means you can turn any old television with a HDMI socket into something capable of receiving movies, sports and BBC iPlayer, all via the internet.
READ: Now TV Box review
With a footprint no bigger than a beer mat, the Now TV Box brings you one of the best ways of adding movies without breaking your bank. And if you don't want to subscribe then you don't have to, the box will still work once it's been activated.
The performance is impressive, the menus were responsive, the interface easy to use and the overall experience was one we would recommend to those wanting to expand their TV viewing for a reasonable price. We would have liked 1080p streaming, which isn't available, but given the price point it's a great deal.
Philips Fidelio HTL9100 Soundbar
Philips announced the Fidelio HTL9100 Soundbar for £600 in January. Not only does it sound great, but it also has plenty of input types and is easy to set up. You won't get any on-screen menu faff with this device, and it will amp up your TV sound, as well as give you surround sound, thanks to the two detachable speakers to the side of the soundbar.
The Fidelio HTL9100 Soundbar works great as a Bluetooth speaker system and it will give you plenty of volume, plus it is a beautiful-looking system - just make sure you have enough space for the included active subwoofer. We can't find a bad word to say about it: it's got the visual and audio aesthetics covered and we love it for that.
Sonos has delivered some fantastic products, and when you pair them all together, you get one excellent system. Whether you want it for multi-room audio, as a modular surround sound home cinema set-up, or just a single solution speaker for one room, there are options here aplenty. And we've checked out all of 2013's releases.
The Sonos PlayBar arrived in February this year with a £599 price tag; the Sub arrived in May last year and also costs £599; and the Play:1 greeted us with its presence a couple of months ago in October, priced at £169.
READ: Sonos PlayBar review
READ: Sonos Sub review
READ: Sonos Play:1 review
The PlayBar is easy to install, sleek and has a good sound, while the Sub also features an easy set-up, along with a good design and good bass. Then you have the Play:1 speaker, which we love for its small size and relative affordability. But what really makes Sonos is the multi-room support, with which you can build up a system over time - perfect for audio, streaming or home cinema. But it's never tied down to just one use, you can get it all. And that makes it a truly marvellous home entertainment solution.
Roku 3 was released in September with a price tag of £100. It's another small set-top box that can turn your TV into something considerably smarter - just plug it in and you'll have catch-up services, online streaming, access to music and games, plus all your local content from USB, hard drive or network-connected drives in glorious 1080p.
READ: Roku 3 review
It doesn't include 4 On Demand or ITV Player, but the Roku 3 is still a decent TV set-top box that will offer plenty to most people. It comes with a USB socket for localised file support, along with an Ethernet port for speedy streaming and it is smoother and more invested than the company's previous efforts. It features a well built design, with an easy to use interface and what really sets it apart is the included remote complete with 3.5mm jack so you can plug in headphones to listen and give the rest of the house a break.
Western Digital WD TV Play
Western Digital offers the WD TV Play set-top box for £50, sitting it between the budget Now TV Box and pricier Roku 3. The device is the ideal solution for anyone who wants to access a little more content on their TV without having to dig too deep into the pockets, and for the cash delivers plenty of thump.
It may not be the most comprehensive media player out there, and the provided "apps" aren't as wide and varied as some, but it's still got the key services such as BBC iPlayer. The WD TV Play comes with built-in wireless connectivity, a USB input and plays pretty much everything, plus it puts out a great picture quality with it. Overall it exceeded our expectations, particularly when streaming local files from a NAS drive in 1080p. Indeed the WD TV Play turned out to be better than almost anything else we've used as a media player and is a great deal for price.
Voting for your favourite
Voting in the 10th annual Pocket-lint Awards is now open. You can let us know which one of these great devices should win the Best Home Entertainment Device 2013 award and give us your verdict about all the other tech across the 12 select categories. To vote, all you have to do is visit pocket-lint.com/awards.
Winners will be announced at the exclusive event in London on 28 November in association with O2 and Hotwire. For now, keep an eye on the Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2013 hub for all the latest on how the voting works, who the elite judges are and the complete 10th Pocket-lint Gadget Awards shortlist.