The Best Home Theater Setup in 2021: How to Shop All the TVs, Projectors, and Speakers You Need

A QLED TV already employs a special filter over its light source that allows it to produce more accurate, higher contrast color. This one comes equipped with 4K Ultra HD resolution, along with Dolby Vision HDR, which offers stunning color contrast and brightness for any Planet Earth viewings you have queued up. Plus, it comes loaded with software from Roku, so even if you don’t purchase the Roku soundbar, your home theater will be as easy to use as a streaming stick.

Though the brand has almost exclusively run Roku on its 5- and 6-series TVs before now, TCL also announced Google TV versions of those same Roku models this month for the same price, with largely the same features, although these ones take voice commands through Google Assistant. The Google TV 5-Series also supports Dolby Atmos audio, which the Roku 5-Series does not.

The TV with Buttery-Smooth Motion: Sony X950

Sony X950H 49-inch 4K ultra HD smart LED TV

If you were to compare an image on a Sony X950G with the same image on a TCL 5-Series TV, you might not notice much of a difference. Both TVs have HDR support and full-array local dimming. HDR gets you accurate colors, so that one of those nature scenes you’ve probably seen in a demo look lush and vibrant. Full-array local dimming gets you a sharper, higher-contrast image, so that anything shot at night time is actually intelligible. But if you hit play on the same video, you’d immediately be able to tell which TV was more expensive due to Sony’s impressive full-array LCD technology, dynamic image contrasts, and impressive 120HZ refresh rate. Though you’ll want to hook this up to some speakers for a surround sound feel, another perk is that the actual speakers on the TV itself are impressive, with two amplifiers for enhancing and clarifying audio. Head-to-head, you’d choose the buttery-smooth accuracy of the Sony X950G every time. If you’re going to dedicate a TV for deep, theater-like movie experiences, this is absolutely worth the money.

The Money-Is-No-Object TV: LG C1

LG 55″ OLED C1 Series Smart TV (was $2000, now 25% off)

To get the best possible image quality on a TV, you’ll have to buy an OLED TV. OLED TVs are expensive, but that’s because the technology within them allows each of its pixels to be lit individually. Basically it means that if there’s a tiny part of your screen that’s supposed to be black, it’s black—even if every pixel around it is supposed to be lit. The LG C1 OLED TV offers an absolutely stunning, extremely crisp image that’ll wow anyone lucky enough to be invited to a screening at your place. 

The C1 is also a lot more affordable than some of its predecessors, with plenty of bells and whistles. For one, the streamlined design avoids any distracting flourishes, with a barely perceptible screen border and a discreet logo (so it’s ideal if you want a beautiful TV that’s not a clunker to mimic the smoothness of the big screen). It also offers HDR and 4K video as you’d expect, with enough to contrast to clean up the shadowy forms in a dark film scene. One downside of OLED technology is that these TVs don’t get as bright as conventional LED models—plan on drawing the curtains (some suggestions on that below) if you’re doing an all-day Scorsese marathon.

The Best Home Theater Projectors

A 65″ TV is impressive. But a screen the size of an entire wall? That’s the dream. The trade-offs for projector life are real: less color accuracy, lower resolution, the price of a full projector setup, and the fact that you need to build it into a space. But if you’re looking for that AMC feeling in your own home, here’s what we think you should get for your theater room.

The Best All-Around Projector: BenQ HT2050A

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BenQ HT2050A projector

This BenQ projector is one of the few we’ve found at a reasonable price that is easy to set up and has solid image quality.

Actually projecting an image that’s bright enough and color-accurate with a single bulb through an LCD screen is pretty complicated. The BenQ HT2050A is one of the few projectors under $1000 that manages to produce an image almost as clear and dynamic as the ones on our favorite TVs, and it’s a very popular model for that exact reason. The resolution of that image maxes out at 1080p, which is sort of a bummer, but it’s bright enough to be crisp in even a room with a little bit of ambient light. And it can easily get you an image that’s twice the size of a 55-inch TV without a massive black rectangle taking up space in your living room. It’s even 3D-capable if you’re screening a Pixar movie at home, and includes a lens shift feature for moving around the projection ever so slightly. 

If You Want Something With 4K: BenQ HT3550 projector

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If you’re willing to spend the money to get a projector capable of resolutions as good as today’s TVs, consider ones of the more premium models from BenQ. The HT3550 is on the cheaper end of 4K home theater projectors, which can be up to four times as expensive, but still manages to produce sharp and dynamic images. Especially when projected onto a massive wall in a dark room, it’s certain to impress more than a budget LCD TV.

For the Next Closest Thing to the Big Screen: Epson Home Cinema

Epson – Home Cinema 5050UB

For serious home theater nerds who are willing to splurge, one of the best projectors you can buy to mimic the feel of sitting back to watch a movie in theaters is the Epson Home Cinema. It’s certainly not cheap at $3000, but the frills of buying one of these are worth it. The projector’s 4K enhancement technology refines and demystifies images so you can fully experience all the vivid detail of a nature show, and the excellent native contrast ratio ensures that you see all the stunning bright light and parse out the more dimly lit space scenes of something like 2001: A Space Odyssey. At 2,600 lumens, it’s one of the brightest projectors out there in its price range, and the motorized lens means that the projector can automatically zoom in or out and correct the size of the image to fit any given screen size.

For Movie Night Anywhere: Anker Nebula Mars II Pro

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Anker Nebula Mars II Pro portable projector

Unlike both the BenQ projectors above, the Anker Nebula Mars II is portable—it has a battery and built-in streaming apps (which, yes, means you need to connect to it through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth). Like any projector, it’s best used in a controlled, dark environment with a screen. It maxes out at 720p—which is technically HD, but feels like YouTube video from 2009—but is exactly what you want if you’d like to take movie night outside when the weather warms up.

All the Other Equipment You’ll Need for Your Projector

Unless your living room has one large, windowless, art-free, pock-free, perfectly white wall positioned directly across from your couch, you’ll need to get a pull-down screen to get the most out of your new projector.

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Elite Screens Spectrum motorized screen

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Silver Ticket STR-196100-G projector screen

A projector screen is a corrective for these two problems, basically making it easier for you to get the best possible image. Plus, most have a special coating that improves the clarity of light reflected off its surfaces. The one from Silver Ticket mounts permanently to your wall, but if you want something that you can put away when not in use, get the motorized one from Elite Screens.

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Digital Image Ultra HD screen paint

To save a little bit of money, you could opt for screen paint to DIY the effect of a screen, without having to buy a physical version that you then have to set up on your wall. The paint has some of the same reflective properties as a screen, but it might not look as nice. And, if you have to move, you can’t take a painted wall with you.

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AudioQuest blueberry 5-foot 18Gbps HDMI cable

Atevon 6-foot 18Gbps 4K HDMI Cable

​And though it may seem trivial to you to split hairs about the quality of your HDMI cables, the right cable can make a world of difference in your visual quality, and even your audio quality if you’re linking them up to audio devices like soundbars and speakers.