The traditional home entertainment system with AV receivers, multiple speakers, and far too many wires is now passé; many are now looking for smart, wireless, and minimalist solutions. From televisions that can do everything, to soundbars that offer home theatre-like sound, to smart speakers that fetch the music you want on command, the home entertainment gadgets of 2020 are indeed a taste of the future. Our top picks for the year are exactly what you need to set up a truly future-ready entertainment system for your home.
We’ve reviewed a bunch of gadgets this year, and these are our top picks in the home entertainment segment, consisting of televisions, soundbars, smart speakers, and streaming devices. We’ve taken into consideration the overall appeal of the product, including the value for money on offer and just how well it fits within its price segment. Read on for our top picks among home entertainment gadgets in 2020.
Best television – OnePlus TV 55U1
OnePlus entered the television segment in 2019 with the OnePlus TV Q series, but the high price of these QLED TVs put them out of reach for a lot of buyers. In 2020, OnePlus tried a different approach, with more affordable LED TVs under the U and Y series. Priced at Rs. 49,999, the OnePlus TV 55U1 is a 55-inch 4K HDR TV that offers a lot, including good smart functionality, support for HDR up to the Dolby Vision format, Dolby Atmos sound, and reliable performance.
The OnePlus TV 55U1 looks good and is built well, feeling considerably better than most other reasonably priced 55-inch televisions. Picture quality is good across resolutions, and motion interpolation is quite impressive. Like on the OnePlus TV Q1 Pro, the software is a big reason to consider this TV, thanks to fast and reliable UI performance, plenty of updates, and the ability to control a lot of things through the OnePlus Connect app.
This TV isn’t without its issues, including awkward black levels, inconsistent sound, and the fact that you’ll have to use the company’s own wall-mount kit as other aftermarket options don’t fit too well. However, this TV strikes an excellent balance between reasonable pricing and performance, offering better performance than most entry-level 55-inch 4K TVs without bumping the price up too high.
Best soundbar – Sony HT-G700
A multi-speaker setup might sound great, but it’s often difficult and expensive to set up. The alternative is a soundbar, and one of the best ones launched this year is the Sony HT-G700. Priced at Rs. 47,990, the Sony HT-G700 is a 3.1-channel soundbar with a dedicated subwoofer, support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound formats, and plenty of connectivity options. It’s easy to set up, looks discreet and non-distracting, and works well.
The various connectivity options include HDMI, digital optical audio, and Bluetooth 5, which lets you connect the soundbar to various source devices. Ultra-HD pass-through with support for Dolby Vision HDR is also present, which is a useful touch if you find yourself short on ports on your television. Although the vertical surround sound mode is a bit gimmicky, the Sony HT-G700 does its core task well, giving you big, wide, and clean sound that is far superior to what the TV offers.
Good sound tuning, an excellent subwoofer, and great overall performance far outweigh the small shortcomings on this soundbar. The Sony HT-G700 is usually available for around Rs. 40,000, and it’s a good pick for the price, particularly if you have a decent television.
Best smart speaker – Google Nest Audio
Google Assistant is arguably the best AI-based voice assistant for smart gadgets today, but Google’s smart speaker range wasn’t quite as capable – until now. The Google Nest Audio is a huge step forward for the company’s product range, offering good looks, top-notch smart functionality, and excellent microphones, all at a reasonable price. Although options such as the Mi Smart Speaker might represent better value, the Google Nest Audio is an objectively better sounding and performing smart speaker for under Rs. 10,000.
The successor to the Google Home, the Google Nest Audio has been a long time coming, and checks all the boxes, with no significant drawbacks at all. Apart from good sound, the speaker works well as a voice controller for any smart gadgets and appliances you might have at home, such as robot vacuum cleaners, smart bulbs, and air purifiers. You can also control other linked devices such as TVs, or get your questions answered using Google’s massive repository of information.
From playing music to reliable smart home control, the Google Nest Audio offers the whole package. It’s the ideal smart speaker, and quite an easy choice for the top device in its category for 2020.
Best streaming device – Xiaomi Mi Box 4K
There weren’t too many options in the streaming device segment till this year, but the entry of various brands has thrown the space wide open. One of the most significant entrants is Xiaomi, and its first streaming device launch is one that’s transformed the segment massively. The Mi Box 4K is an Ultra-HD and HDR capable streaming box with plenty of connectivity options and a very sensible price tag. At Rs. 3,499, it’s considerably more affordable than competition with similar features such as the Fire TV Stick 4K (Rs. 5,999) and Apple TV 4K (Rs. 17,430).
Although a lot of buyers may not need a 4K-capable streaming device, the attractive price of the Mi Box 4K makes it possible to buy one anyway and future-proof your streaming. Running Android TV 9 Pie with support for all major apps and streaming services, the Mi Box 4K plugs into the HDMI port of any TV for easy functionality, taking over the interface and functionality from your TV’s own smart interface, if any.
There are some shortcomings here, including a less-than-ideal remote, iffy HDMI-CEC functionality, and no Dolby Vision support, but the price and overall experience largely outweigh these issues. The Mi Box 4K is the game-changer that the streaming device segment needed in 2020, and is our top pick for this reason.
Mi TV Stick vs Fire TV Stick Lite vs Mi Box 4K vs Fire TV Stick 4K: Which is the best budget streaming device for TVs in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.