We draw up a last-minute system-boosting wishlist of AV accessories, Blu-ray boxsets and more
We've been besotted with Now TV's low-cost, flexible approach to TV streaming since it first launched in 2013; new this year is a slightly bigger box that adds an extra layer of functionality while still keeping the price tag sensible (£40). So what is the new trick, exactly? A digital TV tuner. Not 4K playback, then, but it does make the Now TV hardware all-encompassing when it comes to telly content, integrating PPV Sky (movies, sport, entertainment and kids bundles) with terrestrial catchup and live TV (with pause/rewind function). Not to mention the plethora of other apps and media playback skills on offer.
Add an Atmos sprinkle to your speaker setup with these Dolby-certified upfiring speakers from Canadian brand PSB. £350 gets you a pair of Imagine XAs, designed to perch atop existing floorstander or standmount speakers; their angled baffle and bespoke grille then fire Atmos-channel audio to reflect off your ceiling. The two-way driver array packs enough bass punch and HF sparkle to work with whatever a sound engineer may choose to throw up there.
Okay, it won't spin Ultra HD BDs, but a new PS console is always worth consideration, particularly as this 'Pro' update of the regular PS4 does feature 4K gaming support. HDR is provided out-of-the-box, too (and is now an option on the original PS4 via a firmware update). Available for £350, the console has also had a slight design refresh to accompany its beefed-up spec. Want your games to be faster, sharper and generally better-looking? Stick this in your stocking.
Still our favourite when it comes to surround sound headphones, Sony's over-ear set features large 50mm drivers, a rechargeable internal battery for wireless use and comes supplied with an outboard HDMI-equipped transmission unit (also a four-in, one-out switcher). Employ this to hive off multichannel BD soundtracks which the HW700DS then reconfigures to its 9.1 DSP-crafted soundfield with real panache. The enveloping performance (and impressively dynamic presentation) make the £400 ticket worthwhile.
Pico projectors aren't a new concept, but the QUMI Q8 from Vivitek raises an eyebrow by offering a Full HD resolution in addition to the usual carry-around form factor (19cm deep, 11cm wide, 4cm high and 621g). A single HDMI input deals with your BD deck, console or set-top box, Wi-Fi connectivity enables quickfire screen mirroring and a USB port can be used for home media files. Brightness is rated at 1,000 Lumens from the unit's 30,000-hour LED engine. The £850 price tag includes a three-year warranty.
The Prime video-on-demand service from the monster e-tailer brings a healthy selection of original programming and big studio flicks (with Ultra HD and HDR embellishments on some titles) but that's not the only draw of a £79 (per year) or £7.99 (per month) subscription – Amazon also chucks in free next-day delivery on tons of items (including many Blu-rays), access to the Prime Music streaming platform, plus cloud storage. An excellent choice for a click-happy AV-Holic.
The £2,000 ticket of KEF's latest wireless speaker pair means you might have to cancel all other Christmas activities, but at least you can kick back with a premium music performance while the rest of the household dines on raw sprouts. These active versions of the brand's LS50 standmounts pack a whopping 2 x 230W amplification, time-aligning DSP control and cater for 24-bit music playback depending on source – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB, optical and phono are the connection options.
Hi-res audio on the go is the ethos of Pioneer's new XDP-300R, which joins the existing XDP-100R but adds some silicon refinements and a balanced headphone output for high-end cans. Using the Android OS brings access to plenty of music and movie content apps, in addition to in-built Tidal, Spotify, OnkyoMusic and Deezer clients. Memory for your collection (ranging all the way to DSD 11.2MHz and 24-bit/384kHz FLAC/WAV files) can be expanded to 500GB via dual microSD slots. Black or silver finishes, £600 approx.
Smarten up a 'dumb' speaker (a normal one, in other words) with Google's £30 Wi-Fi gadget. Chromecast Audio plugs in to your speaker via a 3.5mm cable (optical and phono options are available), and is then ready to stream from compatible music apps (Spotify, TuneIn, YouTube Music, etc) over your network. The AKM DAC handles 24-bit/96kHz files.
This could be the one BD boxset to rule them all as far as Peter Jackson's Tolkien adventures are concerned. The original Lord of the Rings flicks are joined by The Hobbit... trilogy (all with their extended cuts) in a £300 set that sees faux leather disc cases sitting in a wooden shelf. Also includes a 100-page book, concept art watercolours and the usual Mount Doom of extras.
Black leather jackets, luxurious hairstyles and squealing tyres abound in the cult 1980s TV series starring David Hasselhoff and his AI-powered Pontiac Trans-AM, here making its hi-def debut in a monster £150 Blu-ray set featuring all 90 episodes spread across 20 discs. They've even rustled up some extras to accompany the restored 1080p visuals.
Almost a companion piece to Knight Rider, this trilogy of 1970s/1980s car-crammed, stunt-filled, pregnant elephant-laden action comedies lands on Blu-ray courtesy of Fabulous Films' £40 boxset. There are no extras here, but at least star Burt Reynolds' winning smile dazzles in HD, and the debut flick is accompanied by a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundmix.
There's no good reason why this 3D BD edition of the mega-blockbuster couldn't have been released at the same time as the 2D platter this Summer, other than to make Disney huge piles of cash. But ...Force Awakens fans will no doubt want to double-dip, as there are new bonus bits (including a director's chat track) in addition to the stereoscopic presentation.
Trade a hundred of your Earth pounds for this bumper collection of Captain Kirk et al sci-fi japes – the original series, the animated series, and films from Star Trek: The Motion Picture to ...The Undiscovered Country all feature, in addition to a 'collectible' Starfleet Insignia badge and a new five-part retrospective documentary looking at the franchise's legacy.
Fox has released an Ultra HD Blu-ray starter pack for those looking to reap the rewards of a new AV setup. This £75 ensemble features The Revenant, The Life of Pi, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Independence Day and The Maze Runner. So, four out of six ain't bad... Note that Full HD Blu-ray versions aren't also included.
The Whoniverse is a new compendium from BBC Books to guide you through the battle-scarred history of the planets and alien races of Auntie's cult sci-fi series. If you've ever wanted to know why the Weeping Angels are so evil, this 320-page hardback is for you. Also recently launched is the Whographica infographic encyclopedia, a colourful tome which runs through the numbers and quirky statistics of the show. Prices are £23 and £12 respectively.
The smash hit Ryan Reynolds movie has ignited interest in sweary superhero Deadpool, and this deluxe art book from Titan traces his development over three decades from spin-off character to series headliner, via interviews and a plethora of gorgeous illustrations. £35.
Taschen has released this celebration of the late illustrator's astonishing artwork (although curation actually began before his death in 2014) that focuses on HR Giger's expansive career from film collaborations (Alien!) to album covers. Limited to 1,000 copies and signed for authenticity, it also includes an essay by Giger scholar Andreas J Hirsch and seven fold-out spreads. At £650 it's hardly an impulse purchase, but then alternate Art Editions (which come with supplementary sculptures) are even more expensive...
Movie merch maestros Dark Bunny Tees have a range of Christmas jumpers making subtle nods to your favourite festive flicks, including this £18 tie-in with National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Order today and you could be wearing it round the table come lunchtime on the 25th.
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