We spend a lot of time in front of the tube — probably more than we’d like to admit. But until they come up with a better way to have a catch-up marathon of Breaking Bad (like a downloadable season straight to the brain à la the Matrix), then lounging on the couch it shall be.
So you might as well take the time to optimize your TV space for maximum watch-ability, comfort, and general aesthetics. Here are some tips and products to help get you started.
If you cut the cord on cable, getting an antenna is an inexpensive way to maintain your local programming. But this isn’t 1987. You don’t have to resort to the ugly, wonky rabbit ear antennas your grandparents still have hooked up. There are several antenna manufacturers, like Mohu (check out our review) and RCA, which make thin, flat antennas that are more suitable for today’s homes.
The Mohu Leaf will set you back about $40, but its military-developed tech provides great reception. Plus it’s paper thin and can even be painted to match your décor. RCA’s flat antenna is a little cheaper, but it’s also a little thicker than an iPhone. Nonetheless, it can sit covertly on top of an entertainment center or another device, and the omni-directional tech means no more dipole fidgeting.
Note: The author has tested both, and actually found the thicker RCA flat antenna to blend in more with other home entertainment devices while still providing exceptional reception.
Those Dang Remotes
With an increasing number of home devices finally becoming more integrated, consumers are rewarded with technology, such as Bluetooth, that allow devices to better communicate with one another—meaning far fewer remote controls needed to act as paper weights or collect dust.
This also means that instead of searching under the cushions every time you want to turn up the volume, you can use a device already on your person, like your smartphone or tablet.
DIRECTV subscribers can get all of their remote control functions, and more, with the DIRECTV app for iPad and iPhone. They can even flick what they’re watching from their device onto the big screen, instead of using a remote to search for the appropriate channel.
Xbox owners have the luxury of the SmartGlass app. This cool app gives you convenient playback control of Xbox content right from your smartphone or tablet, in addition to second screen functionality for supplementary and bonus content.
Can’t part ways with those remotes? Need a place to stash your controllers? Then get yourself some furniture that will help you hide it all.
IKEA makes furniture for this very purpose. Coffee tables like this one or foot rests that open up for storage let you stow away your small accessories so you don’t constantly step on them or lose them to the dark abyss under the couch.
If you truly want one remote to rule them all, then you’ll have to drop some dough. Logitech’s Harmony line of universal remotes range anywhere from $60 to $350, but they will cure any case of remote clutter-itis.
The Art of Wire Management
Let’s face it. Some of us are willing to put up with wires hanging on the wall and running across the floor. But if you ever plan on entertaining, do your guests the courtesy of tidying up a bit.
While there are literally hundreds of wire-hiding and management accessories out there, there are a few that the author has personally tested to spectacular result.
First, the Container Store has nifty Cable Twisters for managing small batches of thinner cords. They are a bit more appealing than simple zip ties and don’t set you back much. For keeping entertainment centers cable-free, try the Cablebox. This handy stick-on solution is both durable and flexible enough to clear almost any cord mess you’re dealing with.
In a worst case scenario, go try some of these aesthetically pleasing wire concealment efforts. As they say, if you can’t beat’em, join’em.
Note: For mounted TVs, you can easily hide your cables without resorting to tearing apart the wall (which may not even be an option if you live in an apartment or condo). Simply use flat, paintable wiremold concealers to keep it all under control.
Or, Go Wireless
Most folks today have home Wi-Fi. But many people forget that means they can stream content from devices in other rooms—clearing out some of that TV room clutter.
One great solution is converting an old computer into a HTPC (home theater PC), from which you can stream videos, music, and pictures to your PS3, Xbox, or some smart TVs.
Check out part 2, which looks at functional optimization, including setting up your TV’s position, lighting, and more.