The best of today's home theater in a box systems are excellent, but how do you find the one that's right for you?
First, read my CNET reviews; they're loaded with information about how easy the HTIB is to use and how well it performs. It may be a dubious honor, but I probably hold the record for testing more HTIBs for magazines and Web sites than any other reviewer.
Most HTIBs come with Blu-ray or DVD players, receivers, and five or more speakers and a subwoofer. Right, HTIBs also come with lots of wires and setup chores, so they're almost as complex to install as separate receiver, player, and speaker-based home theater systems.
If that's more than you bargained for, maybe you should be looking for something simpler: a single-speaker surround system? That would eliminate most of the wiring and setup hassles. Check my CNET reviews to see if one is right for you.
For small bedrooms or dorm rooms, a budget HTIB or single-speaker surround system may be ideal. Family-size home theaters may require larger systems with larger speakers and powered subwoofers.
Connectivity varies a lot in this category, so don't assume all HTIBs have what you need. If you don't want to switch inputs on your TV every time you select a different video source, say from a game system to a Blu-ray player, make sure the HTIB has enough HDMI and other video inputs. Some HTIBs don't switch video at all. Some have USB inputs and iPod-docking capabilities.
HTIBs tend to sound best with movies; music comes in a distant second place. I always refer to HTIBs' performance with movies and music, so if you plan on listening to a lot of music over your new system, definitely look for that in the reviews. Don't assume the sound will be equally good for music and movies; it rarely is. … Read more