Think back a few decades.
Those dark days are over. There’s no need to sequester screens to special rooms and there’s little desire to lock them up in cabinets. Storage is almost moot, as the music we listen to and the video we watch streams from a Wi-Fi network. There are no CDs or DVDs to wrangle, nor multiple pieces of equipment to attach with cables and connections. The screen is part of the style, and the media integrated into the space allows for multiple uses, says Jeff Grundahl, president of JG Development.
In fact, television technology and design has improved to the point that a large screen doesn’t have to overpower a room; no one has to choose between overall aesthetics and optimal viewing. What that means is simple. “People want big TVs,” says Tom Spinoso, divisional manager at American TV. “People want a big, beautiful picture.”
And the possibilities of “big” are ever-increasing. American now has whopping 90-inch models on the floor. “That wasn’t even true a year ago, when most of these TV sizes capped at about 60 inches,” Spinoso says.
Of course, optimal viewing takes more than just the TV. As viewing habits continue to evolve, more of us are accessing our content via streaming on demand. So, while we do not need discs or players, we do need to get our movies, shows and music from somewhere.
Wireless technology makes that easy, Grundahl says. “Homeowners can access all their content and control all their media from tablet computers or smart phones. Then there are smart TVs that even integrate Internet access. American TV’s audio/video design consultant Kris Hodgkins says that once you add the TV to your home network, you can update your FaceBook account or Skype with your sister in Dallas from your living room plasma screen, and you can watch, say, Netflix without any other components. It’s essentially taking the app technology that we already run on the smallest screens in our hands and expanding it to the biggest screens in our houses. Better still, Spinoso adds, the technology is nearly standard in any mid-level TV so you don’t have to pay a premium for it.
What many of us forget to consider, though, is sound. “The picture only tells half the story,” Hodgkins says, “and when you sit down and watch Jurassic Park, you want that dinosaur to come right through the living room.”
Televisions always come with speakers, but Hodgkins and Spinoso caution that as screens get thinner, so do the speakers. Hodgkins says that has hampered the standard sound quality on some models. “Additional sound has almost become a requirement,” he says.
One option is a bottom-mounting sound bar with a range of speakers that, Hodgkins says, can replicate the home-theater experience. The next option is a full surround-sound system.
Ultimately this means that the viewing and listening experience is better than ever before. The ice in your drinks can rattle during an on-screen explosion and you can hear the helmets smack during a Packer game. “It’s like being at Lambeau Field,” Spinoso says, “without the long lines for the bathroom.”