The living room is where most people spend a good chunk of their time when they want to relax, but most people’s home theater setup could use a little TLC. While you can drop serious money fast in this space, that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’ve got a movie-lover on your gift list, or someone who’s particularly hard to shop for, getting them something to upgrade their TV-watching experience is usually a set bet. Here are some of the best home theater gifts for this year, and no, not all of them cost a fortune.
Apple TV 4K
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget
While the latest Apple TV model isn’t a massive leap over its predecessor, there are a few updates that make it worthy of a holiday splurge. The redesigned Siri remote is a big improvement over the previous version, both app and streaming performance is quicker than ever and there’s support for Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. As always, there’s deep integration with iOS, and HomeKit compatibility is a nice bonus. And when you tire of music and movies, the Apple TV also works as a gaming console with access to Apple Arcade and support for Bluetooth gamepads. — Billy Steele, Senior News Editor
$130 at Target
Monoprice Monolith THX Atmos home theater speakers
Sometimes, a soundbar just doesn’t cut it. No matter how many drivers you can cram in, or how good the virtual surround sound is, nothing beats the immersion of a full home theater speaker setup. Monoprice’s Monolith series is one of the best options around: It sports a powerful center channel, your choice of towers or bookshelf speakers with upward-firing Dolby Atmos drivers, and subwoofers powerful enough to rattle your walls. There are tons of surround sound systems to choose from, but the beauty of the Monolith line is that it has all of the latest speaker tech and it’s reasonably priced, at least compared to other Hi-Fi systems. It used to be that you had to mix and match speakers to create an affordable surround setup. You can start small with a few towers and a subwoofer—and once you’ve got a complete system, you may never need to go to the cinema again. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Reporter
From $109.99 at Monoprice
If you’re not a fan of the Apple TV, the Roku Ultra is the only other set-top box worth considering. It’s fast enough to stream 4K video with Dolby Vision, and it supports just about every streaming app you’d want. It also has a solid remote with voice-search capabilities, and you can still access all of Apple’s streaming video via the Apple TV app. And while Roku’s interface isn’t pretty, it’s fast and gets the job done. — D.H.
$92 at Amazon$100 at B&H Photo$100 at Lowe’s
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget
Don’t let the smaller size of the Sonos Ray fool you, it offers the same stellar sound quality you’d expect from the company. It’s more compact than the beam but it can still handle TV and music audio with ease. There’s a good amount of bass for a speaker this size and the initial setup is a breeze. If you or someone on your list has a smaller space that needs an audio boost, this is a great option to compliment your watching and listening habits. Plus, it’s only $279 – a reasonable price for a speaker that offers as much as the Ray. — B.S.
$279 at Sonos
Govee LED Strip Light M1
Govee’s LED Strip Lights M1 is a fun way to add some colorful mood lighting around your home theater. These thin strips deliver bold and impressively bright colors, and you can apply different effects to separate parts of the strip through Govee’s app. It works with Alexa and the Google Assistant as well as the new Matter standard (the latter doesn’t support dynamic lighting effects, however). Installation is simple, though the strips are something of an eyesore when they aren’t in use, so they’re best kept tucked behind a TV or somewhere else out of view. The lights can sync with music as well. If you’re just looking to add ambient lighting behind a TV, Govee makes dedicated backlights for that. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer
$100 at Amazon
Samsung 55-Inch S90C OLED 4K Smart TV
For years, we’ve mainly recommended LG’s OLED TVs as a splurge gift for anyone looking for the best possible image quality. But Samsung’s QD-OLED TVs, which use Quantum Dots to achieve a wider color range, have finally managed to outmatch LG’s tech. The S90C brings OLED quality to new heights, especially when it comes to overall brightness. The only downside is that it doesn’t include Dolby Vision support – but at least that content will show up via HDR10 and HDR10+. Gamers will also appreciate the S90C’s low input lag, making it ideally for shooters and fast-paced titles. — D.H.
$1,298 at Amazon$1,389 at Macy’s$1,930 at HSN
Hisense U8K Mini-LED Smart TV
If splurging for an OLED TV is out of your budget, the Hisense U8K looks to be one of the year’s best values among LED sets. We haven’t reviewed it ourselves, but the broad consensus around the web is that it delivers impressive brightness and good contrast for a non-OLED panel. It runs the easy-to-use Google TV interface, and since it has two HDMI 2.1 ports that can play 4K content up to 144Hz, it’s a nice option for gaming as well. Its picture isn’t as colorful or smooth as the S90C, nor will it look as clear when viewed from an angle, but it’s a solid alternative for hundreds of dollars less. — J.D.
$698 at Amazon
Sony PlayStation 5
You don’t need us to tell you that the PlayStation 5 would be an exciting holiday gift, but it’s also a serviceable Blu-ray player. The catch is that it doesn’t support Dolby Vision HDR (a dedicated player like the Panasonic DP-UB820 will suffice if that’s a requirement), but paying $400 to $500 for a separate device may be impractical if your loved one also likes to game. The PS5 still features a fantastic libraryof visually arresting games and, if you add on Sony’s $30 remote, it’s a simple-to-control media player as well. If your loved one is more of an Xbox fan, the Xbox Series X is a similar powerhouse, though it also lacks Dolby Vision for Blu-ray playback. Neither device is ideal for constant streaming, however, as both machines are power hogs. — J.D.
$499 at Walmart$499 at Amazon$500 at Verizon
Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X
For those late-night sessions when you’re gaming on the couch, but can’t blast your soundbar at full volume, a quality pair of headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X will provide rich audio quality in a more private manner. We recommend this pair in our guide to the best gaming headphones, as its open-back design delivers a spacious and detailed sound that makes it easier to stay immersed when trying to pick off enemy combatants online. It’s also built well, with soft velour earpads that hug the head firmly, but not too tight. Just note that, like most open-back headphones, the DT 900 Pro X lets in and leaks a good chunk of sound — so it’s not ideal if your recipient often plays their games in a crowded, noisy house. — J.D.
If your loved one has been musing about starting a vinyl collection, the oft-recommended Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB remains a fine first turntable. It sounds good, it’s durable (if a bit hefty) and it’s simple to set up. Its built-in phono preamp means it can connect to a wide range of stereo systems out of the box, while its USB output lets it connect to a computer and convert records into digital files. And, on the off chance your recipient wants to get into DJ-ing, the LP120’s tempo and pitch controls make it a nice choice for that as well. Audio-Technica also sells a model with Bluetooth support for $50 more. — J.D.
$349 at Adorama$349 at Amazon$349 at Macy’s
BenQ HT2060 Home Theater Projector
We’ve always loved BenQ’s sub-$1,000 1080p projector line, and this year it’s gotten even better. The new HT2060 uses an LED light source, which BenQ estimates will last for 14 years with four hours of viewing per night. Basically, that LED should last as long as the projector – your giftee won’t have to worry about replacing lamp bulbs every few years. Beyond that, it offers more vibrant colors than before, vertical lens shifting, and up to 2,200 lumens of brightness. Sure, it won’t be as sharp as a more expensive 4K model, but the HT2060 will still be a wonderful introduction to the world of home projectors. — D.H.
$949 at Amazon$999 at Adorama
LG Cinebeam smart portable projector
Projectors aren’t always easy to move around, but that’s not true of LG’s new Cinebam Smart Portable Projector, which weighs just 2.2 pounds. While it doesn’t offer a built-in battery like some other portable units, it’s small enough for your recipient to relocate whenever they need. It can spit out a 1080p image up to 120 inches, and it features LG’s WebOS apps for streaming whatever they’d like. It’s the sort of thing that would be right at home in a dorm room, where there may not be space for a TV, but they’ll probably find a blank wall just waiting for some big-screen content. It also has a 30,000 hour light source, which should be more than enough to last its lifespan. — D.H.
Karen Garrison is a news writer and editor at News Hack Arizona. She loves to write about politics, health, business, parenting, and finance. Karen also enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with her dog.