Your TV Tech Fix: 5 Must Own Tech Essentials for Every TV Addict

Think popcorn and a cold drink are the only must-haves for a night of television watching? Think again! To get the most from your TV experience, let’s take a look at 5 technology essentials for the true TV addict:

The Big Screen
19″ hasn’t been considered a big screen experience since 1982, and unless you’re sitting 2 feet from the screen, it’s time to take it up a notch. For a modern day widescreen 1080p HDTV, you should be thinking 50 to 65 inches factoring in an eye to screen distance of 8 to 10 feet. If you want to know the minimum and maximum recommended size for a given distance, you can figure it out with a few simple calculations:

  • Maximum Size – take the number of inches distance eye-to-screen, and multiply by 0.575. (any bigger and you’ll likely get a headache)
  • Minimum Size – take the number of inches distance eye-to-screen, and multiply by .265.  (any smaller and you can expect eye strain)

DVR (or PVR for you Canadians)
There’s an old saying that goes, “Depend on others and you will go hungry.” The same is true when related to TV. “Depend on the station, and you will watch crap.” Don’t get me wrong – there are many good things on a variety of channels. However, they’re almost always on at the same time, or at times when you’re not able to watch. A DVR allows you to time-shift TV programming to your schedule. Record it now, watch it later. And since many DVRs sport multiple tuners, you can watch one thing while you record another. Better yet, be a REAL TV addict and watch something recorded while you record two things.

Universal Remote Control
Watching TV is supposed to be fun, but if you have to search and juggle between 15 remote controls during the process, watching TV can be anything but. Fortunately, there are ways to consolidate control into one device and let you perform complex command sequences in the press of a button. Does that sound too good to be true? I’m going to tell you how to do it and what devices to look for in an upcoming post called “It’s you vs. home theater – Who’s in Control?”

Whether you’re stuck in a waiting room, out of the house, in the yard, or even in another country, a place-shifting device like a Slingbox or Hava can be a life saver. With one, you can watch and control your home set-top box or DVR on a PC and many mobile devices  just about anywhere you have a broadband Internet connection. Pair it up with a DVR, and that means your TV shows anytime, anywhere.

I thought long and hard about it, and the DMR beat out a netbook or iPad for number 5.  This is a newer device I’m recommending these days, but the product category is mature enough now that when taken advantage of, this can be the most powerful tool in your TV arsenal. DMR is an acronym Digital Media Receiver, but they also go by names like network receiver, media tank, etc. Essentially, these devices connect your TV to digital media content from your PC, network shares, and the Internet.

For example, if you have a ton of TV on DVD (like me) it’s possible to convert it into a digital format and house it on a network accessible storage, allowing instant playback whenever you want. Over time, you can build a digital media library from a variety of sources and have it at your fingertips all the time. Internet capable ones even allow you to stream content from sources online (Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc), giving you on demand access to shows and movies from the cloud.

The XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 have some of these functions built in, but there are dedicated devices from Boxee, Netgear, Western Digital and many others well worth a look. In the future, I’ll talk more about these cool devices and how they can transform how you watch TV.

There are plenty of other tech devices out there a TV addict would find useful that didn’t make this top 5. Surround sound and a netbook or iPad would have been next. Tell me what tech you find essential to your TV experience in the comments section below.

Satisfy your inner geek while fueling your TV addiction… TV Tech Fix is a column by Matt Whitlock, editor of the Consumer Electronics Community (plus several other gadget-focused community websites), and lover of both technology and TV. In this column, he’ll cover a wide variety of tech topics aimed squarely at the TV addicts of the world – from tips and tricks to help you better your TV experience, to gear recommendations, to the impact technology is having on the TV shows we love.

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  • Eric – TV Geek Army

    Great list, and I have an addition: buying a high quality pair of wireless headphones has vastly improved my TV watching experience.

    This won't be applicable to everyone of course, but I live in a tiny house with terrible acoustics. Therefore when the spouse is sleeping, it's an absolute joy to be able to kick back with the speakers and hear every nuance of my favorite shows.

    Was thinking about this late last night while hearing subtle coughing and clinking scotch glasses while watching Mad Men season 3!