The latest advancement in TVs is 3-D technology. Movie studios, gaming companies, and broadcast networks are creating more content for the format, and manufacturers are responding by offering a variety of 3-D-capable TVs and Blu-ray players. To enjoy the multidimensional visual experience, homeowners must buy a compatible TV, now available for as little as $800, as well as 3-D glasses, which cost about $100-$200 apiece.
For a true home theater experience, many believe a jumbo retractable screen and a video projector are essential elements. The latest advancement in projection is LED "lampless" technology. Traditional projector lamps are notorious for burning hot, draining energy, and dying quickly. These new high-intensity LED versions, however, run cooler, last thousands of hours longer, and are energy-efficient. The technology isn't, with projectors averaging $2,000. A retractable screen, measuring 70-200 inches diagonally, will add $1,000-$2,000 more to the home theater bill.
Speaker systems are trending toward compact, affordable, and wireless designs. Sound bars replace multispeaker systems with a single thin bar that creates dynamic surround sound without a separate amplifier. Many also include MP3 docks, satellite receivers, and built-in DVD players.
Put your smartphone or tablet to work in a new way using a Web-based mobile app that turns the touch screen into a centralized home automation control system. From a single spot you can now control your home's lights, HVAC, security, and home theater components. Turn on the TV, select a pay-per-view movie, adjust the volume, and dim the lights -- all from the comfort of your couch or bed.
The Internet is quickly changing how people watch TV. Forget the national networks; there are now thousands of sources for music, movies, and TV shows, and many ways of accessing that content beyond cable or satellite subscriptions. Internet-enabled TVs offer one-click access to Web-based content. Homeowners who are happy with their current TV or theater screen, however, can opt for an affordable Internet-enabled Blu-ray player, gaming console, or stand-alone media extender (Roku, for example). Any of these devices provides a portal to free, subscription, and pay-per-view content.