A universal remote control
Speaking of watching in comfort, there’s nothing like a good all-in-one remote control to serve as an easy button. But for many of us, this is the most puzzling piece of personal technology ever created. Using remote to control your decked-out home theatre system doesn’t have to result in hair pulling and teeth grinding, though. Instead, browse your preferred app store for a thousand different downloadable mobile remote controls, or check out online reviews to find a favorite. Your remote control soulmate is out there -- we just know it.
A copy of XMBC or Plex
Media center software options run the gamut from user-friendly to intensely technical, but two standouts are XBMC or Plex. Both of these applications organize your movies, TV shows, and other content into a neatly organized structure that makes it easy to search, select, and stream, even from portable devices like an Amazon Fire, Roku, or Chromecast stick. XBMC is a bit more intricate, but its customization possibilities make it a favorite of in-the-know tech geeks.
Xbox 360 controllers if you’re going the gaming route
To game or not to game -- that is the question. And it’s one that most of us will answer with a strong “yes” or “no” from the get-go. If you are going to download and play games through your media center, Xbox 360 controllers are the best for universal use across different consoles. Sadly, it won’t work for is Duck Hunt, but it will help you ace all those other vintage Nintendo favorites.
A second screen for multitasking
We say take a break and leave it for tomorrow, but if you must keep up with emails and social media while you’re enjoying your favorite show, there’s a simple solution: set up a second small monitor next to your main TV and keep your desktop viewable there. Set your home theatre system up with a TV tuner to stream live sports or news events and you can even Tweet up a storm while you watch.
Any other software plug-ins or add-ons
iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, Picasa, Google Chrome… as anyone who’s ever browsed an Apple TV menu can tell you, the number of software plugins and add-ons for entertainment purposes is infinite. Find the ones you can’t live without, download them to your new system, and savor the fact that you built it yourself, exactly the way you wanted, for a fraction of the price you would have paid a few years ago. High five!