Accessories are not nice-to-haves, they’re must-haves. Accessories make setting up and operating your devices and equipment easier.
Accessories are the content and apps that you will use and enjoy. Accessories transform your products into experiences.
Here are just some of this season’s must-have accessories:
Accessories for Enjoying Music
• Create a multi-room music system without running speaker wire all over your house. Wireless music “extenders” let you stream music over your home network. Send music from your portable player, PC, network hard drive or the Internet to multiple rooms or devices in your home.
• Want audiophile-quality listening experience on an MP3 budget? Invest in a pair of highperformance headphones and a headphone amplifier.
• Don’t forget the music. For casual listening, online sources like Spotify and Pandora are fantastic, as are online stores like iTunes. If sound quality matters most, the uncompressed digital music on CDs still reigns supreme.
• If you have a 2011 or later A/V receiver, there’s a good chance that the manufacturer offers a smartphone or tablet app to remotely control it over your home network.
• Your A/V receiver is arguably the most complex, feature-laden piece of hardware you own. Good Reader, a pdf reader for smartphones, gives you quick, easy access to your A/V receiver’s owner’s manual.
• Always searching for new music? There is no shortage of tunes playing in the background as you sip your latte or pump gas or shop for groceries. Song ID apps like Soundhound or Shazam listen to a few seconds of a song and instantly retrieve the title, artist, lyrics and more. Bookmark songs you like, download them or share them with your social network.
Tip: Since hard drive and cloud storage is plentiful and cheap, consider ripping select songs or CDs that you listen to most to a lossless file format like Apple Lossless or FLAC for uncompromised sound quality.
Accessories for TV and Home Theater
• DVDs are all but history. Consider legally “ripping” your movie collection to a media center hard drive or network hard drive. Once there, Blu-ray players, TVs, DVRs, etc. with network media playback features can access your movie library (plus photos, home videos, music, etc.) over your home network. Settop media players like WDTV Live and AppleTV will also do the trick.
• Chances are your TV, DVR or Blu-ray player lets you stream movies from popular services like Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and the like. Set up accounts and link your devices ahead of time so you’re ready to browse and rent on the spot with no hassle.
• PC’s are just as at home in the family room as the office. With a few accessories you can make your own media center or DVR. You’ll need free media center software like XBMC or Boxee, an HDTV tuner card, DVR software and a large external hard drive.
• As you rely on the Internet more and more for content and as your home network grows, you’ll want to consider upgrading your router. Offering two spectrums (2.4 and 5 GHz) of wireless coverage plus multiple wired ports, a Simultaneous dual-band router is ideal for streaming HD video and music over your network.
• Adding light and shade control is an easy way to transform your family room into a home theater (and back) at the touch of a button. A number of lighting control and automation solutions let you dim lights and lower shades from the comfort of your couch.
• Today’s HD and 3D flat-panel displays not only look great hung on your wall, but doing so frees up space and provides numerous placement options. Key accessories include flat-panel wall mounts, cable management “racetracks” for concealing cables, remote control extenders to control hidden components, and last but not least, professional installation.
• RowMote (iOS) and Unifed Remote (Android) are two great apps that let you remotely control your home theater PC with your smartphone or tablet.
• The IMDb app is a great way to dig deeper into the cast, crew and trivia of a movie or TV series.
• Before you rent or buy a movie, check out reviews and availability on Flixster.
Tip: Game consoles double as high-definition media centers. With their wireless controllers, on-screen menus, optical drives, access to online services like Netflix and Hulu+ and apps for premium content, they are just as suited for home movies and TV as they are for gaming.
Accessories for Gaming
• Gaming chairs are a must for avid gamers. If you really want to immerse yourself in a game, add a bass shaker to your game chair or couch. These “noiseless subwoofers” let you feel the impact of the action without disturbing roommates or neighbors.
• Need a quick break from modern gaming? The iCade turns your iPad into a tabletop retro arcade game.
• A new game-changing case for the DS is a real game changer. The protective case plugs into the cartridge port and lets you choose between three games secured on the underside.
• Keep up with your friends’ XBOX Live stats and scores while you’re on the go with the 360 Live app for iOS and Android.
Tip: Use your game console’s or device’s family safety settings to set parameters for which games your kids can play and which online activities they can access.
Accessories to Keep it Green
• Smart power strips prevent your electronics from drawing power when not in use while offering continuous protection against power surges. A mix of switched and always-on outlets ensures that devices needing continuous power will get it.
• More and more new electronics ship without cables. This is your opportunity to go green by purchasing eco-friendly cables made without PVCs, lead and other chemicals commonly found in traditional cords and cables.
• Save money while adding a touch of luxury. Light timers and dimmer controls will save you energy and create an upscale viewing experience, and can also help save money. Programming your automated shades to lower in the summer and rise in the winter can help reduce cooling and heating costs.
• When it’s time to replace the batteries in your remotes, go with rechargeable batteries. A USB battery has a super-convenient built-in plug hiding under the “+” terminal for charging in any powered USB outlet.
• Once you have your eco-friendly entertainment system up and running, celebrate by watching an Earth-themed movie like Who Killed the Electric Car?, An Inconvenient Truth or March of the Penguins.
• The Green Outlet app or CEA’s energy calculator on GreenerGadgets.org determine your energy consumption and carbon footprint based on which electronics you have and how much you use them.
Tip: Give older devices a new life by putting them to work in your home entertainment system. Download free media center software like XMBC and turn an old PC or laptop into a home theater PC. And an IR blaster turns old iPhones and iPod touches into high-end universal remotes.