A streaming video box is an excellent gift and the Roku 3 is the best box you can buy. Roku continues to have more apps than its competitors -- over 1,200 -- including Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB.TV, Spotify, Vudu, and Showtime Anytime. The user interface is simple and the speedy processor makes it feel more responsive than any other streaming box. And don't forget the killer feature: the remote with a headphone jack, so Mom can listen without worrying about disturbing anyone else.
If Mom loves 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. It's super easy to use and setup, plus you can add more speakers for true whole home, wireless audio. Best of all, Sonos is by far the most reliable wireless audio platform, beating out newcomers like Samsung and Bose. At $200, you can't beat the Play:1 -- although Mom will need the $50 Bridge accessory if it's her first Sonos device.
If Mom's always complaining how many remotes are on her coffee table, get her the Logitech Harmony Smart Control. It's 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. It certainly takes a little work to set up initially, but once it's up and running, it's one of the best living room devices there is.
Google's $35 Chromecast streaming stick is a great gift for Moms -- especially if she's invested in the Android ecosystem. It's the best device for watching and listening to Google-purchased movies, TV shows and music on your TV and it's tiny size makes it virtually invisible in the living room. The Chromecast's app library also continues to improve, as it now supports Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, HBO Go and Rdio. Just make sure Mom's okay with using her smartphone or tablet as the remote, as that's the only way to control it.
Roku Streaming Stick
If you have a bigger budget, Roku's Streaming Stick is a nice step-up over the Chromecast for a Mother's Day gift. You can even more apps -- over 1,200 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 my favorite feature Roku's cross-platform search, which combs through several major TV and movie services to find the content you're looking for.
Time for Mom to ditch the old table radio and move into the 21st century. Whether she likes NPR or Lady Gaga, the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III is a great way for her to listen to her favorite online stations, streaming services, or MP3s straight from her smartphone or tablet -- and the built-in rechargeable battery makes it easy to move from room to room, or take on a road trip.
Is Mom fully stocked with Apple devices? Then check out the Apple TV. 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. And if Mom's an iTunes Match subscriber, the Apple TV makes it easy to access all her stored music in the cloud.
Flat-panel TVs tend to have lousy sound, so sound bars can make a great Mother's Day gift. The Bose Solo is a good pick Its small footprint and dead simple remote make it a great product if Mom likes her tech unobtrusive and easy-to-use. It may not be my favorite pick for sound quality, but it's a clear step up from the built-in speakers from a TV. (That being said, there are a wave of new pedestal-style sound bars coming this spring, so there may be even better options soon.)
If Mom's a fan of Amazon's tech hardware like the Kindle and Kindle Fire, give the newly-announced Fire TV a look. 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. The Fire TV really only shines if you have an $99/year Amazon Prime subscription, so make sure Mom's a subscriber -- or add that to the gift list.