Cheap HDTV and home theater tricks

Entertainment doesn't have to be expensive, even with a large HDTV and great content.

Stop buying CDs, start saving cash: If you're still buying CDs, you're paying too much for music. Consider Coldplay's Viva La Vida, one of my favorite albums of 2008. If you buy it at the mall, you'll pay around $15 plus tax. sells it for $11 shipped--but you will have to wait a week or so to get it.

Amazon MP3 store (click for full-size image). Then there's the Amazon MP3 store, where the album costs $9 and gets downloaded immediately to your iTunes or Windows Media Player library, ready for play or for syncing to your portable jukebox. Audiophiles may disagree, but to my ears a 256-kbps MP3 sounds just as good as a CD.

And don't forget Web services like Pandora and Slacker, where you can build custom radio stations based on your favorite artists and stream music to your heart's content--all free of charge. Estimated savings: $70 annually, based on a rate of one album per month.

Skip the Blu-ray player: Blu-ray won the high-definition DVD war over a year ago, but Blu-ray players still cost a couple of hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Blu-ray movie selection remains limited (about 1500 titles to date), and they cost more than their DVD counterparts. What's a cash-strapped HDTV owner to do?

Simple: Forgo Blu-ray for now and buy an "upconverting" DVD player. These models give ordinary DVDs an HD makeover, upscaling the pixels to take advantage of your TV's higher resolution. The results aren't quite on par with Blu-ray, but they're a definite improvement--and you get to enjoy the movies you already own. Upconverting DVD players range from $50 to $100. Estimated savings: $150.

Ditch cable television: Seems like the cable bill gets bigger every month. If you're willing to make a few changes to your viewing habits, you can kiss the cable company goodbye. It all starts in your Web browser: You can stream the latest episodes of your favorite shows--many of them in HD--from both the networks' sites and TV hubs like Fancast and Hulu. These offerings are free, on-demand shows with only brief commercial interruptions. Like sports? Head to to watch live and recently played games.

To cover your premium-channel bases, subscribe to Blockbuster or Netflixto get shows like Flight of the Conchords and Dexter on DVD (or on-demand in the case of Netflix, which can now stream movies and TV shows to your PC, Xbox, or Roku set-top box). Packages start at around $9 monthly.

The downside? You'll have to watch everything on your PC (unless you connect it to your TV, which entails a few hassles). Plus, now that some cable companies have instituted bandwidth caps (hmm, wonder why), you could run into trouble if you stream too much content. Estimated savings: $600 to $1800 per year.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags projectorshome entertainment

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Rick Broida

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?