The 50 Best home entertainment systems
Sit back, relax and enjoy the summer of sport. David Phelan has all the hi-tech gear you need to enjoy the Games (or tune them out)
Saturday 07 July 2012
Sony KDL-55HX853 TV
Looks stunning even when it's switched off. Turn it on its 55in screen and Sony's image processing technology works wonders.
Ruark Audio R1 MkII radio
Highly portable, has great sound and spectacular looks. It's available in a range of colours and finishes.
B&W P3 headphones
Comfy pads that adjust to the shape of your ears thanks to memory foam. They also have neat design and splendid audio.
Sky+ HD 1TB box
sky.com, £149 plus subscription
The widest range of high-definition channels available, plus hundreds of HD movies and TV shows. A breeze to use.
Tiny enough to fit in your hand, this is a superb video streaming box. Connect it (wirelessly) to your broadband network. Simple, effective.
Marvel at this Smart TV's thin profile and chic chrome bezel, admire its great styling, and then be wowed by its amazing 55in picture. It stands out in a crowded field of products.
If you have the room for a 65in screen, this one is extraordinary. Nobody makes plasma as well as Panasonic and the images here are rich, crisp and amazingly detailed. Stunning.
Not all widescreens are equal. This 50-incher has a 21:9 aspect ratio, like a movie. So this TV is ideal for watching films with no black bars in sight.
Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D
The main problem with watching 3D on the telly is those darned glasses. With this you don't need them — not perfect, but pretty cool.
LG favours passive 3D tech (with glasses such as you'd wear in the cinema) and includes seven pairs, so you can have all your friends round. An alluring TV in 2D too.
If you fancy a smaller TV, this 32in model has a great picture quality and is equally good in 3D mode. It connects to the internet so you can stream HD movies from the Sony Entertainment Network.
Another plasma screen with a great picture. The 51in screen excels at 3D and is no slouch in the 2D stakes. The Samsung smart TV options are very strong, including Netflix. Sounds good, too.
Toshiba 22DL702 TV and DVD
Ideal for a tight space, the 22in Toshiba has a DVD player built in and full HD resolution. Perfect if the switch to digital left you with a useless TV and no room for a set-top box.
This good value 42in model is big enough for most living rooms. It comes with five pairs of 3D glasses and is designed to look like a cinema screen – if a little bit smaller than the Odeon's.
Any way you look at it, this 46in TV is a bargain. The picture isn't bad, the sound is solid, the contrast levels largely impressive and the inclusion of a Freeview HD tuner is a bonus.
virginmedia.com, free with subscription
If you're in a cabled area, this is a remarkable recorder. It lets you record three programmes at once. It learns what you like and has a great search feature.
Sony BDP-S790 Blu-ray player
This 3D-capable player can upscale content to work on super-high resolution displays. You can even control it with a smartphone.
Humax HDR-FOX T2
With HD channels on Freeview you can get the highest quality picture even without satellite or cable. This is a highly competent recorder and it's come down in price, too.
This small TV-streaming gadget has scores of channels, some free like BBC iPlayer, some subscription like Netflix, and it's especially suited to gamers.
Sony PlayStation 3
Easily downloadable updates make this gaming machine an excellent Blu-ray player too, taking 3D in its stride. Overall, this is a tremendous home entertainment hub.
Revo Heritage G2 internet radio
This beautiful and capable radio offers splendid sound and choice. There's FM, DAB, an iPod dock and access to thousands of internet stations.
Pure Evoke Mio
Pure spearheaded DAB radio in the UK and is still a leader. This features strong (mono) sound and has features like a kitchen timer, alarm and an optional battery.
Roberts SportsDAB2 Union Jack
Listen to the Olympics on the move with this cute DAB portable. Highlights include a rechargeable battery and a powerful loudspeaker.
Pure Avanti Flow
Along with FM and DAB, this radio has internet radio capabilities, too. It's big and powerful, with loud, clear sound including strong bass from the built-in subwoofer.
Tivoli Audio Pal+
Tivoli makes fine radios with timeless looks and tremendous sound quality. This latest version of their highly popular Audio Pal comes in suitably patriotic styling.
Philips Fidelio L1
The over-the-ears Fidelio L1 headphones are reassuringly luxurious, comfortable even for lengthy listening sessions and have a subtle but persuasive sound. There's plenty of bass, and bearable leakage.
Atomic Floyd SuperDarts + Remote headphones
Improve the sound from your iPod or smartphone spectacularly with this cute upgrade. The snug fit keeps the music in and the sound matches strong bass with great clarity.
Cheap they're not, but these exceptionally well-built over-ear headphones are surprisingly light. They have a powerful but detailed, warm sound. They are comfy enough for extended listening.
Monster Beats by Dr Dre Studio
Chunky, powerful and fun, they are loud and rich in bass. They have powered noise cancellation to quieten the outside world. Not heavy, even with the obligatory batteries.
This has an ergonomic design that fits the ear securely for better sound and less vibration. The materials are comfortable and different sized ear pieces add to the versatility.
Sonos Play: 5
It's small but very powerful, beating the sound of some full-sized hi-fis. Connect it to your broadband via the small bridge attachment and play music from your computer.
Onkyo CS-245 DAB mini-system
This handles CDs, home recorded CDs with MP3 tracks, DAB and has an iPod dock and a USB socket. It sounds great and includes decent speakers.
Stormingly good and great value. Its sound is bright and colourful. You can buy it without speakers if you have better ones already, though the system ones aren't bad.
Ruark R4i integrated music system
This has a lot packed into its sleek body: the radio has FM, DAB and DAB+ tuners (DAB+ isn't used in the UK yet), CD player and iPod dock.
Harman Kardon BDS-570 Home theatre receiver
Smaller than most home systems, this plays CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs. You need speakers to go with it.
Jawbone Big Jambox
Its smaller sibling is more portable, but the Big Jambox is louder and just as cute. It's a Bluetooth speaker so it can be paired with compatible smartphones and MP3 players.
Whether you use it to check emails while you watch TV or as a perfect catch-up telly in bed, the iPad's versatility is not in doubt. Movie playback is particularly good.
Sony Tablet S
The Tablet S is comfortable in the hand, works as a wireless TV remote, and you can throw the content from the screen to compatible TVs. It's also the most stylish tablet around.
If listening to the radio isn't enough, this portable Freeview TV tuner plugs into your iPad or iPhone so you can watch stuff too. You can even record shows and play them back.
Sony BDP-SX1 Blu-ray player
If you want to watch movies on the go, this is a real treat. A great screen, compatibility with Blu-ray and a chic design with swivel screen.
Pure Contour 200i Air
This new high-end dock includes AirPlay, the wireless streaming standard for Apple iDevices. The audio is good but what really stands out is the ease of set-up, even for adding extra gadgets.
Philips Fidelio AS851 Android dock
This dock has an adjustable connector and transfers the music through Bluetooth. So it'll work with a bunch of Android smartphones and make them all sound good.
As iPod docks go, this is a real winner: loud, bassy and highly appealing. It's reasonably light and the battery is big enough to keep going for hours. It can even work as a streaming wireless loudspeaker.
This system docks Samsung Galaxy S phones and Apple gadgets, and includes wireless software so you don't have to connect them. The vacuum tube amplifier technology delivers a warm, rich sound.
Sony RDP XA900iP
A very impressive dock that is designed to take an iPad without looking overbalanced. The inclusion of Bluetooth means it'll work with non-Apple players too. Sound quality is clear and sharp.
This is one hefty sub-woofer. Its design is ingenious with speakers facing each other so that they deliver deep, forceful sound with no rattling of the cabinet. Even up close.
La Boite LD series
Is it a dock? Is it a table? Quirky, beautifully crafted and finished in leather, the LD series of music systems are designed to work with laptops. LD stands for laptop dock.
Breffo Spiderpodium Tablet
This contorts to grip, and then hold in place, at any angle or position, almost any device. Small and lightweight, but with tremendous strength.
Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus
It may not look much, but the DacMagic turns the often iffy sound of MP3s into high-end audio. DAC stands for digital-to-analogue converter.
Sky Jubilee remote control
I mean, there's no certainty that it'll improve your viewing, but this limited edition Union Jack-decorated Sky remote control is fun and works well.
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