Samsung-lifestyle-room.jpgIf you’re thinking ahead to Christmas, a new TV is a great gift for the whole family. If you got a new TV already last year, there are some awesome accessories you can add on this year to make the TV more functional, versatile and even more in demand as the home entertainment capital of the house.

Start with Streaming

If your new TV (or even a new one you’re looking at getting soon) doesn’t come with smart capabilities, don’t worry. There are several options from inexpensive to slightly more expensive that will easily allow you to add more functionality and versatility to your set.

Roku roku-streaming-stick_0.png

The Roku Streaming Stick one of my favourite streaming devices. It’s small but powerful, and lets you connect to web TV services like Netflix, YouTube and a host of other channels easily.  Roku also just announced a new app for its service (Roku OS7) which now means you can follow movies, TV shows, actors and directors and receive updates on availability of movies and TV episodes as well as changes to price, all within its app. Plus, as part of the new Roku 3 it just added voice search to its enhanced remote.

Apple

Not to be left out, the gurus at Apple gave AppleTV a major overhaul too. The ability to use digital assistant Siri to voice-search for TV shows not just within Apple’s content, but across the entire TV platform (Netflix, YouTube, etc) has been added, and the user interface itself has been refreshed too. The new hardware box will also have a faster processor than the old one.

Unfortunately, Apple TV is still the biggest of the streaming devices (about the size of a sandwich compared to Roku’s carrot-stick-sized option, and of course Google Chromecast’s newly announced Loonie-sized dongle is also refreshed for fall) and the most expensive. But in its new incarnation, Apple TV will have a new remote control with the aforementioned voice search/Siri built right in, plus a swipe-and-tap touchpad. Watch for the new one coming soon to Best Buy.

Google

new google chromecast.jpgSpeaking of Chromecast, Google did make-over its streaming stick, turning it from, yes, a stick, into the coin-shaped hanging tab it’s now marketing. It has much the same functionality, but its new shape makes it much easier to hide and fit behind a TV, particularly one with a 90 degree HDMI jack right in the back of the TV.

The big complaint about Chromecast is its lack of features and shallow pool of functionality, but as the cheapest of the streaming options, sometimes you just want to save cash and go for the most basic option, and that’s ok.

Read my write-up on the Chromecast announcement for more details.

Control Your Media

I’ve talked about universal remotes before. They’re a must-have for the home theatre.  This fall Logitech announced a brand new Harmony remote called the Elite.  It’s just one of the smart remotes you can get to control your aforementioned Apple TV, your cable box, amp, or whatever else you have connected to your home theatre, and its also a great family gift idea.  The Logitech Harmony Elite will even work with smart lights to give you a theatre-level experience right in your home. You can read my review of the Logitech Harmony Elite, or check out some of the other remotes from Logitech that run the price gamut from inexpensive to luxury.samsung tizen 5500 smart.jpg

Upgrade the TV

Finally, if you’ll be looking to upgrade the TV this year, Samsung has made a really beautiful, sleek new smart TV; the full HD Samsung J5500. I’m currently reviewing it and testing its functions out, so watch for a full report soon. Meantime though, (spoiler alert!) it’s the slimmest TV I’ve ever put in my house, with a gorgeous, crystal clear picture, easy to use interface and, well, let’s just say that while I wasn’t in the market for a new TV, I might be now!

Watch for more on the blog, including holiday previews, and my review of the Samsung J5500 coming soon. And if you want me to review something, or you have questions, reach out and share your suggestions. We can try those gadgets and tech toys for you so you know up front what you’re getting and whether it’s worth it.