Mother's Day is best known for flowers and long-distance phone calls, but if you really want her to know how much you love and appreciate her, how about replacing that tiny, terrible TV in her living room? Or if that's too expensive, give her an easy-to-use streaming device for as little as $40. Here are a few ideas for updating how mom watches her stories.
Why it deserves a mother's love: How many times has mom reminded you how she "spent a fortune raising you kids!"? Now you can make it up to her with a complete overhaul of her entertainment experience for the price of taking her out to dinner.
The Fire TV Stick is the cheapest high-performance streaming device that doesn't require mom to whip out/find/recharge her cell phone every time she wants to watch HBO Go on the TV (cough, Chromecast, cough). As long as she has good Wi-Fi in the living room, and is an Amazon Prime member, she'll get plenty of use out of the Stick.
Why it deserves a mother's love: What's that you say? Mom isn't a Prime member and doesn't know Amazon Instant Video from Carnation Instant Breakfast?
Enter the content-agnostic Roku Stick, with its easier access to non-Amazon video, an even simpler interface than Amazon's Stick, and (if she wants it) access to thousands of other apps from Netflix to Vimeo. She still needs good Wi-Fi, but that's not a problem, right?
Why it deserves a mother's love: So maybe mom hasn't upgraded her basement-mounted 802.11b router yet, but does happen to have a convenient wired Internet connection. Or maybe she wants to drown out dad's snoring by plugging headphones into the remote control. Or maybe you just want the bonus brownie points you'll earn from buying her the best streamer on the market. The awesome Roku 3, our favorite streaming device, period, will meet all of those needs, and many more.
Why it deserves a mother's love: Maybe it's the reassuring logo, or the mostly-fulfilled promise of "it just works," or the prestige, but for whatever reason she's always been an Apple gal. So if she doesn't have one yet, now's the time to get her an Apple TV.
You'll love the recent price drop, and once you explain to her that it's not an actual TV, she'll love the profusion of apps and dead-simple access to all of her oldies music (and shows, and movies) on iTunes. Once you display her iPhone photos on her TV via AirPlay, she'll gratefully make your favorite meatloaf right then and there.
Why it deserves a mother's love: Has mom ever called you asking her to fix Netflix? After a lengthy investigative process you discover her TV is set to the "VCR" input, and her VCR has been disconnected since 1983. Roku TV to the rescue!
She's probably never heard of TCL (it's "made in China," but just tell her everything else is too) but she'll learn to love Roku's interface and its access to her favorite apps--and her cable box, VCR or DVD player--from one simple home screen. You will love receiving one fewer tech support call.
Last year's TCL Roku TV is still on sale for cheap and it's still perfectly recommendable, but the 2015 models, which include a 32-inch, cerca $200 size, just started shipping (there's also a 48- and a 55-inch size). We expect the 2014 and 2015 versions to perform basically the same, which is to say, a good enough picture for most moms.
Why it deserves a mother's love: So maybe "good enough" picture quality isn't good enough for your mom. The highest-rated TV at CNET last year, Vizio's E series earned its chops with the combination of very impressive picture quality and an inexpensive price. If mom enjoys watching movies with the lights off, and you'd like the peace of mind knowing she's getting a deep black levels, you'll want to get her a TV with local dimming. E series sized 40 inches or larger offer that important extra--not that she needs to know about it.
Vizio just started shipping the 2015 sets and we haven't reviewed them yet, but again we expect very similar performance to last year's models.
Why it deserves a mother's love: On the off chance your mom insists on a 4K TV, here's a nice-looking candidate that isn't curved. The JU7100 is Samsung's least expensive 2015 4K series to include local dimming. We expect the same kind of great picture quality we saw on the HU8550 models, but we haven't reviewed this one yet so we don't know for sure. Beyond the picture it comes with all the other bells and whistles she'll never use, and looks pretty sleek to boot. The downside is that it costs a mint.
The JU7100 is available in 40-inch ($1,199). 55-inch ($1,797), 60-inch ($2,797) and 75-inch ($4,997) sizes.
Why it deserves a mother's love: So remember all that money mom supposedly spent to raise you? Adjusted for historical inflation, it happens to work out to exactly $3000! So go ahead and relieve yourself of that particular burden of guilt by giving mom the best TV ever.
Before she even turns it on she'll love the graceful curves and razor-thin panel. Once she does, its picture quality will give her a great reason to invite her book club over for "movie adaptation night." And to brag about what a tech-savvy, amazingly generous kid she raised.