What’s the best tech for simplifying my living room setup?
There is so much great tech for entertaining these days that it can almost get overwhelming. If you’re not careful, your living room table can become overrun with remotes for your TV, cable box, surround sound system and streaming boxes. Stop the madness!
It’s time to simplify that setup by incorporating the latest technology to either replace those remotes with voice control, or scale everything down to one remote or device.
Chromecast and Google Home
Google offers one of the best ways to simplify your living room using a combination of Chromecast and Google Home smart speakers. Chromecast Ultra is an essential TV accessory — it’s small and plugs into the HDMI port of any TV, and is fairly future-proof with support for 4K Ultra HD and HDR. With it, you’re able to use your phone to cast content from Netflix, Youtube, and content from a bunch of other great apps.
But that’s just the beginning. If you pair a Chromecast with a Google Home smart speaker you can not only control your Chromecast with your voice, but you’ll also get a pretty decent speaker for throwing on tunes for any occasion.
It’s a system that can extend well beyond the living room, too. If you have a Chromecast plugged into every TV in your home along with a few Google Home speakers strategically placed throughout your house you can basically live in the future with endless entertainment options available to you, and all voice-controlled.
Best of all: there’s a good variety of Google Home speakers to choose from now. You can get the standard Google Home speaker that features a swappable base for complementing your home decor, the discreet Google Home Mini which trades a bigger speaker for a compact footprint, and then beefy Google Home Max which looks to compete with Sonos as a top-end wireless speaker.
Amazon Echo and Amazon Fire TV
We couldn’t mention Google Home and Chromecast without also talking about the Alexa-powered equivalent. Amazon was the company that ushered in the A.I.-powered smart speaker, and perhaps you’ve already started building out your home with Amazon Echo products. Well, if you feel like you’ve already comfortable with Alexa over Google Assistant, it’s time to go all-in in the living room.
Amazon recently revamped its Echo speaker line up, with the second-generation Echo speaker looking like a natural pick for any living room, with its stylish fabric case options and respectable sound quality. Amazon also updated its Amazon Fire TV dongle for 2017, which includes Alexa voice controls built into the remote control.
Since both the Amazon Fire TV and Echo speakers are all controlled by the Alexa app on your phone, you’re able to control your Fire TV using just your Echo speakers. If your TV includes HDMI CEC, you’ll be able to walk into the room, ask Alexa to “Watch Fire TV”, and your TV and Fire TV will both turn on instantaneously. From there, you can use the remote to control things or use the built-in microphone to keep using voice controls.
The Echo speakers also work well for music and podcasts and can be linked together as rooms from within the Alexa app to fill your whole house with music — perfect for entertaining and parties.
Logitech Harmony Elite Universal Remote
Ok, so maybe you already have a pretty epic entertainment center setup in your living room and you don’t really need much else except for one remote to control it all. The Logitech Harmony Elite is the remote control of your dreams. Logitech says it’s compatible with an incredible 270,000 different devices that go well beyond entertainment and include home automation devices like smart lights, locks, and thermostats.
It also works with both Alexa and Google Assistant, so it won’t matter if you’ve got one or the other in your home the remote will work just fine with either. This remote is what happens when smartphone technology mixes with a remote control. You can program countless activities or scenes (based on the existing smart home tech in your house) and then easily select what you want using the full-color touch screen to at the top of the remote.
Now all these smarts don’t come cheap, and it might seem a tad ludicrous to spend $250 on a TV remote, but this thing goes so beyond just controlling your TV that it might just be worth it to be able to control everything — quite literally everything — with just one remote.
The NVIDIA Shield is the device that anchors my home entertainment system, and it’s probably the piece of tech that I use most beyond my smartphone. It’s a shame that Android TV isn’t a more popular platform because NVIDIA is really the only company out there that’s pushing it to the max.
The latest NVIDIA Shield supports 4K Ultra HD and HDR playback and now comes with Google Assistant built right into the operating system and controllable via the microphones built into the media remote and gaming controllers. There’s great app support for all your favorite streaming services, and there’s even an accessory from Tablo Tuner that lets you attach a digital antenna to the Shield and then watch and record live television for free.
The NVIDIA Shield is the cord cutter’s dream, and if you’re considering replacing your cable TV package with a streaming box in 2018, you should certainly consider the NVIDIA Shield. Oh, it also handles video games pretty well, and can also let you stream PC games to your living room. It’s the most versatile streaming box you can buy for just $169.