Home theater gifts for a digital media-loving grad
With physical media on its way out, we've rounded up all the best home theater gifts for grads that are built around streaming the best movies, TV shows and music that's available.
Give your grad the gift of streaming video. The Roku 3 is the best box out there, with a dorm-friendly remote with a headphone jack and a blazing fast processor. Roku's platform supports over 1,500 apps, including Neflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB.TV, Spotify, Vudu, and Showtime Anytime, and cross-platform search makes it easy to find what you're looking for no matter what services it's on.
For grads that love music, there's pretty much no beating the Sonos Play:1. It's a stylish, wireless speaker that works with just about every streaming music service, including Pandora and Spotify. Sonos is by far the most reliable wireless audio platform, beating out newcomers like Samsung and Bose. Bluetooth speakers are better if portability is a concern, but for a dedicated wireless speaker for the home, the Play:1 is an excellent value.
Even if your grad won't have a full-blown home theater, a solid universal remote can make even a simpler TV setup easier to use. The Logitech Harmony Smart Control is a truly unique universal remote system that makes it possible to control eight devices using your iPhone, Android phone, or the included simple remote. The remote is delightfully basic, letting you just hit "TV" when you want to watch TV.
If your grad is headed to a cramped dorm room, it's harder to get more space efficient than the Google Chromecast. It's the best device for watching and listening to Google-purchased movies, TV shows and music on your TV and its tiny size makes it virtually invisible stashed behind the TV. The Chromecast's app library also continues to improve, as it now supports Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, HBO Go and Rdio.
If you have a bigger gift budget, Roku's Streaming Stick is a nice step-up over the Chromecast. You get even more apps -- over 1,500 of them -- including Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB.TV, Spotify, Vudu, and Showtime Anytime. The Roku Streaming Stick also comes with a traditional remote, so you don't always have a smartphone handy to browse content. And on the Streaming Stick,Roku's cross-platform search also works on the mobile app, so you don't need to use a tedious onscreen keyboard.
There aren't not many devices more useful on campus than a good Bluetooth speaker. The Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III is one of the best, with excellent sound quality and a built-in rechargeable battery that lets you take it pretty much anywhere. And Bluetooth works with pretty much any smartphone or tablet, letting you play any audio app you'd like.
If your grad is immersed in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV is hard to beat. Apple's streaming video box has steadily increased its content offerings, which now include iTunes, Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, PBS, and MLB.TV. The Apple TV also supports AirPlay, an excellent feature that let's you stream audio or video from nearly any app on your iPhone or iPad to your TV.
If your grad's music listening revolves around a laptop, the Audioengine A2+ speakers are an awesome gift. They pack excellent sound in a relatively small design, plus you can connect them directly to a computer using the USB connection. There's even an option to add a subwoofer to expand the A2+ to a 2.1 system later down the road.
Students can get a significant discount on an Amazon Prime subscription, so if your grad will be continuing his or her education the Amazon Fire TV is worth checking out. Amazon's new living room box has some great features, like voice search built-into the remote and superfast loading times for Amazon Instant content. Other apps are supported as well, including Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora, although note that HBO Go isn't supported yet.