Top Gear for a DIY Home Theater System
A big-screen TV, sound bar, smart speaker, Blu-ray player, and streaming device that will turn any TV room into a movie house
There's no place like home for the holidays, especially when you can avoid the crowds and the movie theater in favor of the perfect setup in your own abode.
To help turn a living room or den into at-home movie theater, check out these recommended products—big-screen TV, sound bar, streaming device, and more—from Consumer Reports' tests.
Before you start that cozy movie marathon, be sure to stock up on some tasty treats. We have plenty of healthy snack ideas in our ratings, as well as some useful tips for mindful munching while you veg out on the couch.
Go to Consumer Reports' 2019 Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.
This 75-inch 4K smart TV from TCL, a Roku TV, is among the best big-screen bargains you'll find. It's well-priced for its size and delivers top-notch picture quality, plus an effective HDR performance, something most TVs at this price can't do. Thanks to the built-in Roku smart TV platform, this model has access to a lot of content, and it supports the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice-powered digital assistants.
Check our buying guide and ratings for TVs.
Not many televisions deliver top-notch sound, which is a major part of the cinematic experience. The Sonos Beam is a compact smart sound bar speaker that delivers very good sound quality and is offered in a choice of black or white color schemes. It has a lot of features at a price several hundred dollars below the company's Playbar and Playbase models, which are both also highly recommended. The Beam has Amazon's Alexa and Google's Google Assistant digital assistants built in, so you can control it, other Sonos speakers, and other Alexa or Google Assistant compatible devices, respectively, using voice commands. It also includes support for Apple AirPlay 2.
Check our buying guide and ratings for sound bars.
The Sonos One smart speaker takes the multiroom audio integration that Sonos is famous for and adds voice commands and smart speaker capabilities. It also pairs seamlessly with the company's Sonos Beam smart sound bar and can work as the rear-channel speakers in a surround sound system (with a Sonos Sub subwoofer, which we haven't tested, completing the 5.1 system).
The Sonos One can also sit at the heart of a whole-home system that will allow you to listen to the latest episode of the “Reply All” podcast in the kitchen while streaming Beyoncé on Spotify upstairs, and all you need to do is ask.
The One can even integrate with nonsmart Sonos speakers, most of which have done very well in our testing. It’s also one of the few assistant-agnostic speakers on the market. The Sonos One works with both Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as Apple AirPlay. This cross-compatibility makes the Sonos One look futureproof in a market that’s in a state of flux.
Check our buying guide and ratings for smart speakers.
Most new TVs have their own streaming platform built in, but many people end up buying a separate streaming device anyway, because they like the interface better or because it provides access to more streaming services. This streaming device is the updated version of the 4K-ready Fire TV Cube, essentially a mashup of two of Amazon's popular Alexa-powered devices—the Fire TV streaming player and the Echo Dot smart speaker. Like its predecessor, it adds an interesting element into the mix: universal remote-control capability that lets you control a host of other compatible A/V gear, including TVs, sound bars, receivers, and even some cable and satellite boxes. But that control doesn't just allow you to turn on your TV and adjust the volume; it also lets you use voice commands to find shows and movies, navigate to specific channels and programs, and call up streaming services that support it.
Check our buying guide and ratings for streaming devices.
The Sony UBP-X800 is a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player that delivers excellent 4K picture quality and UHD performance, plus a few more features than you'll find in the slightly less expensive UBP-X700 model, also in our ratings. This model has two HDMI outputs, which can be useful if your receiver can't pass through 4K video signals—you can run one HDMI for audio and then connect the other HDMI output directly to the 4K TV or projector. It supports HDR and high-resolution audio, as well as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive sound formats. It offers access to several online streaming video services and includes Bluetooth capability—which lets you send music wirelessly to a set of Bluetooth headphones or speakers. That's something the less expensive UBP0X700 model lacks.
Check our buying guide and ratings for Blu-ray players.