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The Semi-Wireless Living Room Buying Guide

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If you’re like me – a gadget enthusiast – you are a slave to wires. Entertainment centers, personal computers, stereos, and your home appliances all require a certain amount of clemency from my slightly obsessive-compulsive disdain for wires. Until recently, our only release from our relationship with wires was to hide them. While not a complete solution, it certainly masked the problem. And what a problem it was in my house. I had wires just to plug in more wires.

It’s time to break free from wire slavery. We’re going to take a room-by-room breakdown of your gadgets, and ways that you can cut the cord. Although it’s nearly impossible to go completely wireless, eliminating the wires we actually see are probably the best bet to start with. Today we’re going to focus on the living room, and your entertainment system specifically.

Television – Samsung Smart TV

It all starts with the television, if you’re me at least. While the television itself isn’t a problem, all the cords that snake their way in, through, and behind your TV can make even the sanest of technophiles crack. Besides the obvious solution of buying as many wireless devices you can find, there are great television options that can multi-task, thus removing some of the devices that you may have connected to it.

A great new television option is a Samsung Smart TV. The Samsung Smart TV allows me to ditch my home theater pc in favor of a multitude of apps, as well as a web browser built right into the television set. When you access the “smart hub” feature, you are directed to a menu which allows you to view the usual suspects, such as Hulu and YouTube, but it also gives you the ability to download apps, rent movies, update your Twitter account, and browse the web through their semi-robust web browser. The “Your Video” feature not only allows you to rent movies, but it custom tailors recommendations based on your viewing habits.

The Smart TV comes with a two-sided remote which gives you all the functionality of your current remote, while allowing you to flip it over and use the full QWERTY keypad for your internet browsing convenience. While browsing the web, you can take full advantage of the picture-in-picture feature to never miss a minute of your favorite shows.

One more cool feature of note is the “Social TV” function. When you use the Social TV feature, your whole viewing experiences changes into a social gathering. While television is displayed on a large window, you can chat with multiple friends in a side window. What a great way to talk about the game as it’s happening.

Other than the DVR function, this television has all of the features my current home theater pc offers while removing a plethora of cables. It’s also affordable, starting at about $2,300 for the entry-level 51-inch plasma model.

Receiver and Surround – Onkyo HT-S3300

While offering all of the traditional functionality of the audio receiver you currently have, the Onkyo system (including wireless speakers) has a few tricks up its sleeve. Not only is it 3D compatible (able to pass 3D signal from 3D Blu-ray player to 3D TV) but it also allows you to pass audio through the HDMI cable, which normally requires a secondary audio cable. This saves you one wire, while adding wireless speakers which saves you from running speaker wires to 5 speakers and a subwoofer.

The receiver features your semi-standard features: 3 HDMI ports, 55 watts per channel, and connections for an iPod dock or HD radio tuner. The speakers are crisp and clear, and the bass from the subwoofer is crisp and clean. The reviews at CNET are outstanding, and the system comes in at under $400 for the entire package.

Blu-ray Player and DVR – Samsung BD-D8900

To minimize wires, it’s always better to pack multiple functions in one box. In my home, I still have my TiVo as well as a standalone Blu-ray player. With the Samsung BD-D8900 system you get all of the functionality of a standalone Blu-ray/DVD player and an integrated DVR to save your favorite shows much like your current DVR or TiVo system. With a 1-terabyte HDD storage system you can store up to 240 hours of HD video and recall it in an instant whenever you are ready to watch.

If you feel like shelling out the cash for the Blu-ray/DVR combo, you can actually migrate towards a cheaper television, as this combo has most of the features of the “Smart TV” mentioned above.

IBM Home Director

Although this item is strictly optional, and does require wiring, the convenience factor makes it worth adding to the list. The IBM Home Director is a control hub for an entire house worth of electronics. Whether it be home theater systems, whole house music, or a server-like media storage (movies, pictures, music), the Home Director is a very cool option.

As I said, this does require some wiring, although most of the wiring is in-wall, so we’ll count it as wireless. It’s becoming a pretty popular options when constructing new homes and you aren’t out of luck if you didn’t get it installed in yours. If your home doesn’t come with the Home Director, they do have an install guide included, as well as an excellent tech support team that will guide you through any hiccups you may encounter.

Extras (Remote, Slingbox, Video Game Console)

To control this beautiful, and mostly wireless setup you’ll need a universal remote. This is a problem in most cases because, let’s be honest, most universal remotes suck. Two Logitech remotes head to the top of this list. The Harmony 900 as well as the Logitech Harmony One which is about half the price. Let’s focus our effort on the Harmony One as it has most of the features of the 900 and runs about half the price (about $200). The Harmony One supports up to 15 devices and has home theater pc support. You can program the remote online via Windows or Mac, and it has an excellent button layout with a heavy concentration on ergonomics.

Ever wished you could watch your own television while on the run? I know that I’d love to have the ability to watch sporting events while I’m out, or to catch up on my favorite television shows while I’m on a plane. Slingbox is the answer to all of your television-on-the-go questions. The Slingbox is a small box (about the size of a modem) that plugs in to your TV and allows you to stream anything you would normally watch on TV to your wireless device. Smart phones, iPads and even your laptop are now capable of streaming anything you might miss out on while on the run.

As far as video games go, all of the three major systems come with wireless controllers, so you can’t really make a bad choice here. The PS3 is generally considered the favorite for hard core gamers, while the Wii tends to cater to the casual gamer and kids. The XBOX 360 falls somewhere in-between.

Hopefully these suggestions get you one step closer to a wireless home. While it’s nearly impossible to go completely wireless with today’s technology, we can do all we can to move closer to that direction. Keeping cords from speakers, video games, and other entertainment devices out of your home or entirely hidden might just appease even the most adamant wire hater.

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