With the last holiday shopping weekend of 2009 upon us, it’s probably time to list my favorite home entertainment boxes of the year. This list is by no means exhaustive, these are just some of my faves – top picks, suitable for mainstream audiences and geeks alike. Keeping in mind, that for the second straight year, the Xbox 360 ($300) is still my #1 digital media powerhouse – the one box I cannot part with. Take my TiVo. Take my Roku. But you better come armed if you want this 360. Not only does it feature the best online gaming experience, it also boasts THE best Netflix instant streaming client – in addition to offering a variety of other media playback options.
In the video category, there are two standouts for those sticking with physical media – and a higher quality of HD. But the snappy LG BD 390 set-top box (<$300) and the redesigned PS3 gaming console ($300) are much more than capable Blu-ray players. Both offer a variety of connected services (and 802.11n), including Netflix instant streaming. Those who have current or potential gamers in the house should probably look to the PS3 (and budget another 20 bucks for a remote), while everyone else would be quite happy with the Vudu-streaming LG. If you’re less picky and/or on a tighter budget with a higher tolerance for networking pain, look to the Samsung BD-P1600 (~$150) for similar features.