How to give yourself the home theater you’ve wanted, on a budget

A beautiful home theater room.

COVID-19 means that a lot of us are staying at home more. Maybe you are like me, and you are working from home even, which means you rarely even leave home.

The only reason I leave nowadays is to get groceries — even for these, I simply drive up and pop the trunk.

With so much time spent at home, I am finding oh so many projects that I can’t ignore. Perhaps this is heightened for me as my wife, son, and I just moved into a new house. Perhaps you feel it too, especially if you have lived in your home for years.

Regardless of your reason, I know I am not alone in finally completing projects that have been sitting on the to-do-list for a while now.

One of these projects was to upgrade my entertainment area. I have a TV, I run everything off of Apple TVs right now, and I love the setup with my Apple Ecosystem. So I wasn’t looking for a new way to do that, simply some upgrades.

Below are some great upgrades that I found for my current setup and even a couple of surprising additions.

Mounting Dream TV Wall Mount

I’ve had an entertainment stand/TV shelf for as long as I can remember. I never wanted to put in the work to mount a TV, nor did I want to spend the cash on a mount worth buying. Then something happened when I moved into this house that changed my mind. Perhaps it was the blank slate I haven’t had in years; maybe it was the desire to invest a little bit in my home setup. Either way, I went with the Mounting Dream brand TV Mount, and I could not be happier. I tried both the tilt and full motion models and chose the full motion one after some testing. The different ways I choose to have the TV angled do not vary that much. Yet having the ability to move the TV when I need to plug things in (or to get the occasional odd viewing angle) was a bonus I didn’t want to lose.

The setup was so easy, even when I added a soundbar mount to the bracket. I completed the entire process in about 20 minutes which included checking and rechecking the measurements, verifying it was level, and triple checking the drill placement.

Vizio V-Series 2.1 Home Theater Sound Bar and Subwoofer

My TV setup looks great now, thanks to the above mount, but I wanted it to sound better too. In my search for an audio upgrade, I chose the Vizio V-Series 2.1 Sound Bar and Subwoofer. This was a sweet and simple way to get immersive sound without needing expensive stereo equipment or excess wiring for surround sound. This soundbar is sleek and smart, and the wireless subwoofer sounds powerfully deep, just what I wanted for my budget subwoofer.

Personally, I love having my soundbar connected via an optical cable, but what is great about this soundbar is that you can also connect via a headphone jack, HDMI ARC to your TV, or Bluetooth! All of these allow for many connection possibilities that truly make this soundbar more than just a way to binge-watch your Netflix obsession louder.

Now we get to some of the items that I was shocked I would find and enjoy.

Anker Nebula Solar Portable Projector

Growing up, my uncle had a projector in his basement. He had an XBOX 360 on it (along with other things but as a kid, that XBOX is all I cared about). We would play Rock Band, larger than life, with surround sound. I remember singing my heart out to Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life” and drumming away to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” — Thanks, Unc.

Ever since then, I loved what projectors could offer, but I always thought of them as cumbersome and not something I was interested in installing myself. That was until I found Anker’s Nebula line of projectors. Specifically, the Solar Portable. Immediately the small profile with huge image projection set itself apart from the crowd. Further, I found that this projector has Bluetooth capabilities and a built-in battery (estimated 3-hour battery life), allowing me to bring it with me wherever I go.

This came in handy while moving. While carrying boxes upon boxes, I temporarily entertained my son by projecting his favorite show on a blank wall.

This projector also runs off an Android operating system, allowing many built-in apps to stream content. I was also able to Chromecast to this projector or plug in anything via HDMI. 

HyperDrive 60W USB-C Power Hub (for Nintendo Switch)

When I first found this device, I was intrigued but not sold. That was until I started thinking about its portable nature and the ability to use this with my projector.

This hub can power not only my USB-C device (MacBook, Switch, iPad, etc.) but can also connect it to USB-A peripherals, a 4K HDMI output, and can charge a second USB-C device. All in one hub.

If that doesn’t seem impressive enough, I started thinking about how to utilize this with my current setups best.

I was able to charge my projector (above) via the secondary USB-C charging port, plug in my iPad Pro to display content and charge, and have the HDMI run to the projector. I could even then charge my iPhone or my son’s iPad via the other USB-A port if I wanted!

The capabilities of this little hub are truly amazing. I currently have it powering my desk while I get settled in my new home because it is just so simple and powerful.