Your family tech system: sorted
From new TVs to Netflix and Spotify – here’s how to sort it all out.
You’ve got your new TV and sound system home – how can you set it up as a great home entertainment system?
Once you’ve made a home theatre purchase, the set up can seem daunting. It’s best to take the ‘one step at a time’ approach to your equipment and read the instructions carefully and slowly. If you get stuck, remember Google can a lifesaver! A quick google can often lead you to the solution you need. In the meantime, we’re here to help with some of the big-picture decisions.
Get your sound sorted
One of the most important parts of your home entertainment system is the speaker set-up. You want the placement to provide the best sound for the system you have.
“Ideally, there should be speakers to the left, right and centre of the TV, and the rear of the room,” says home technology expert Frank Di Bartolo from Sydney’s Pacific Hi-Fi. “Whether the speakers are on the ceiling or on the walls, they need to be aimed at ear level.”
There will also be a subwoofer (a box that lets you hear all the low-level bass notes), which is ideally placed at the front wall near the television and front speakers.
For ease of set up, there’s another option that’s gaining in popularity. “Most people are buying sound bars, because they have a minimalistic look,” says Di Bartolo. “The disadvantage is that they generally only give you ‘comfort audio’, which is only a slightly better sound than the TV.” So if you’re really passionate about having a state-of-the-art surround-sound system, speakers will work best.
Set up your apps and accounts
Once you’ve got your TV set up, you need to choose what to watch. And the options are endless. Here are a few:
Starting from $8.99 per month, you can pay a little more for high definition quality and access on more than one device. There’s a tonne of original shows to choose from, as well as some oldies-and-goodies that are fun to look back on.
This Australian streaming option costs from $10 per month, with a slightly more expensive option if you want to watch it on more screens. The shows on Stan are different from Netflix – so many people have both. But choosing one and testing it for a month is a good idea so you can see if you use it.
The packages available from Foxtel give you access to different channels (for example, sports or movies), and start from $26 per month on top of an initial installation fee. There are three Foxtel streaming services (Go, Now and Play), which use 1.3GB of data per hour and cost from $10 per month. When it comes to watching sport, Foxtel has the best coverage.
Apple TV or Chromecast
Most new TVs are called “Smart TVs”, which means you can access the internet through them. However if yours isn’t a smart TV, these gadgets will give you access to the internet and streaming services (such as Netflix, Stan and Foxtel) on your television. Chromecast (Google’s offering) is cheaper (starting at less than $40), while Apple TV is around $225). Apple TV has its own remote control, while Chromecast is controlled through your smartphone or tablet device. Apple also has a gaming capability, while Chromecast is a more basic streaming device.
Your connection matters most
The most important part of having any apps or streaming services work well in your home isn’t the service itself; it’s your WiFi connection. “None of the apps work well unless you have a good WiFi network and internet signal,” Di Bartolo says.
“Make sure the WiFi equipment isn’t set up at the other end of the house from the TV. If it is, you can have a wireless access point set up closer to the TV, so the WiFi works better there.” Or you can get a signal booster installed that will strengthen the signal throughout your home. Whatever you do, you need to ensure the strength of your signal is strong enough for your TV to stream without glitches.
Universal remote or not?
When it comes to remote controls, there are two options: have a series of remotes that each control one device (for example, one for the television, one for the DVD player, one for pay TV), or a universal remote.
“A universal remote (which controls all your devices) is highly recommended,” says Di Bartolo. “It’s a significant investment – typically around $500 for the device and then the cost of having an expert set it up – but it’s worth it.”
“When it’s set up properly and you want to watch a movie you just press a button that says ‘Blu-ray player’ and everything else happens for you (the DVD player switches on, the input is set on the television and the sound system turns on).”
There are several options for listening to music and dancing around the kitchen at home. Here are two to consider:
Download Spotify onto your device and rather than purchasing the songs, you stream the music as it plays. You can do this for free (with ads) or purchase a plan for yourself or your family (up to six accounts). This is a great way to listen to whatever you want without having to buy the song. Plus, it means you don’t need to store the music on your phone. Be aware that if you stream the music when you’re not on wifi, you will suck up your data. However, you can download the songs to your phone when you’re over wifi so you can play them later when there’s no wifi available.
Whether or not you’re using it to buy music, most families have at least one iTunes account for downloading apps, TV shows, music and books. You also have the option to set up a family account, where you can restrict the content your children have access to on their devices and you can restrict their ability to download without your permission.
Once you’ve got your entertainment systems sorted, you can sit back, relax and enjoy.