Updated for Cyber Monday
It’s time for Tech of the Hub’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide. Here’s my recommanedations for the A/V geek in your life. Many of the deals listed here are valid on Black Friday except where noted. As I see any other interesting Black Friday deals, I will update this story.
Streaming Boxes or Digital Media Players
Interestingly enough, the Roku 2 XS and the Apple TV (mind you, an earlier version) were picks from last year despite the all of the other products released this year. Roku and Apple have kept their products at the front of the pack with a steady stream of software updates.
If you’re just looking for a basic streaming box to play Netflix, I suggest the Roku HD. It’s easy to set up and use. Besides Netflix, it supports practically every major streaming service out there including Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, Crackle as well as the recently added VUDU. Note, it is limited to 720P resolution. It will be available at Amazon and Best Buy for $39 and makes a great stocking stuffer!
If you have an HDTV that can handle 1080P, I recommend you move up to the Roku 2 XS. It supports both 1080P video and wired ethernet. Both Netflix and VUDU are streamed in 1080P and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. It can also play games too such as Angry Birds. The Roku 2 XS will sell for $79 at Best Buy. It’s unclear if it will go on sale at Amazon but they offering a $10 Amazon Instant Video credit with it. Roku also added photo and music streaming via recently updated iPhone and Android apps. Update: Roku has stated that they will run a “big deal” on Black Friday. Roku has extended their deal through Cyber Monday (see below).
This year’s Apple TV builds on last year’s model by adding 1080P support. A recent software update also added Hulu Plus. The Apple TV’s strength is its ability to seamlessly stream all of your iCloud and iTunes content into the living room including your movies, TV shows, music and photos. Best Buy is supposed to have it available for $10 off, $89. Black Friday is the one day that Apple discounts their products and they’ve announced the sale again. No word yet if the Apple TV is included this year.
Finally, another notable streaming box is Western Digital’s TV Live. If you have your own server full of media in lots of different formats, look at the WD box. During the next few weeks, I’ll be taking an in-depth look at it.
Blu-ray Players and Blu-rays
My favorite Blu-ray player this year is the Panasonic DMP-BDT220. You can read my detailed review here. The player has great audio and video quality as well as fast disc load times. It also offers a wide variety of streaming services including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, VUDU and Hulu Plus. As of the time of this posting, it’s available for $99 at Amazon.
Of course, if you buy a blu-ray player, you will need some Blu-rays to play in it. This is one of the best times of the year to find low prices on Blu-rays. As an example, Best Buy is selling a number of Blu-rays for $3.99 including Sherlock Holmes, Iron Man 2, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. Walmart will have similarly discounted Blu-rays that vary by store including Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Thor, Captain America and the Matrix. Amazon has Iron Man, Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince and the Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers for $3.99. One of my favorite Blu-rays, X-Men: First
Class will go on sale Saturday. Personal favorites for $10.99 include the 10th anniversary edition of Fight Club as well as seasons of the IT Crowd. Here’s the Amazon list of of when Blu-rays and DVDs are going on sale througout the week. However, some of the Blu-ray offers are only good on particular days and times this week.
Walmart will be offering a variety of Blu-rays between Warner Brothers is also running specials on many of it’s DVDs and Blu-rays too. The digital copies on many of the Warner Brother titles have had their expiration date pushed back to 2017.
Saturday Update: Amazon is offering all 22 James Bond films on Blu-ray for $99.
TiVo now has its 4 tuner Premiere DVR. Why do you need 4 tuners? To better support accessories such as the TiVo Stream (our review) that lets you stream or download recorded content to your iPhone or iPad. Yes, there are other solutions out there now (new Boxee box, Simple.TV, cable co DVR), but the TiVo is the one device I dare not unplug from the living room or there would be a family uprising. The family likes its ease of use and unified search and program guide. Yes, the cable cards are easier to deal with thanks to self-installation options. Update: TiVo is running their own Black Friday sale; one offer is the base 2-tuner Premiere for $59.
On Thanksgiving Day only, Amazon is offering the Yamaha RX-V671 7.1-Channel Network AV Receiver for just $299. Roku has unveiled their Black Friday deals, the most interesting one is the Roku 2 XS for $75. Logitech is offering the Harmony One universal remote refurbished for $99. I’m strongly considering picking one up myself.
Cyber Monday Update
Roku has extended their holiday deal through today including the 2 XS for $75 and the LT or HD for $49. The Logitech offers are also extended through today. Amazon’s deal of the day is up to 60% off select Panasonic LED HDTVs. There’s also some good Blu-ray deals including the complete box set of Farscape for $40.