No room can be called a man cave if it's just a TV, a recliner, and a table to hold your snacks. That's basically the living room. No, this room needs to be decked out with gadgets and electronics to indulge your senses and your hobbies. You could easily go into debt when outfitting your man cave, choosing the latest, most expensive electronics. But that's not necessary. You can create just as enjoyable an experience while adhering to a budget. Here's what you need, and how to get it without taking out a loan.
TelevisionWith so many options to choose from, what TV to get will probably be the most difficult decision you make when outfitting your man cave. It's also the most important. The TV will be one of the focal points of the room. It's where you'll watch games, play games, watch movies, stream video, and maybe even surf the Internet if you hook it up and make it your monitor. With your budget in mind, you need to figure out what kind of television you want: plasma, LED or LCD; 1080p, 1080i, or 720p; stand or wall-mounted; plus every size from 19 to 65 inches, or more. The good thing is, there are TVs out there in every price range. The type of flat-screen TV you choose is going to depend on everything from where it will be located in the room and how much lighting is available, to concerns about power consumption and just personal preference.
The best, most basic piece of advice is, get the best TV you can afford, and buy at the right time. Look for sales and discounts, and consider buying from a big box store rather than a specialty electronics store where the prices will probably be inflated. The other advantage to doing that is general merchandise stores usually offer better discounts. For example, instead of Best Buy, check out Target, but look for Target coupon codes before you shop. Just don't tell your significant other you're so shopping-savvy.
Blu-rayIt's doubtful that at this point, you're not familiar with Blu-ray. But just in case you've been living in an actual cave, Blu-ray is to DVD what VHS was to Betamax. Blu-ray devices use a blue laser to read discs rather than the red one DVD players use. Because the blue laser has a shorter wavelength than a red laser, Blu-ray discs can store more information than DVDs.
Technical stuff aside, what you really need to know is, the picture generated by a Blu-ray disc is far superior to one from a DVD. Lines are sharper, colors are brighter, resolution is greater, and it makes the movie-watching experience much better and more enjoyable. There are Blu-ray players out there that go for more than $1,000. But we're talking affordable here. You can get a good Blu-ray player for under a hundred bucks, or a little more if you want bells and whistles. Just remember—if your man cave doesn't have a Blu-ray player, it's just a den.
Gaming SystemNow, the ultimate man cave would probably have one of each of the main gaming consoles available—a Playstation 3, an Xbox 360, and a Nintendo Wii so you could choose what to play depending on what mood you were in. But if you're going to outfit your man cave and stick to your budget, you'll want to choose a favorite. You can always add a second or even a third later. Each console has its pros and cons, but there's an area where the PS3 and the Xbox clearly excel over the Wii—online gaming.
Having a man cave means you'll want to have friends over to hang out, watch manly movies, and yes, play video games. But you don't want other guys in your space too often. That's where online gaming comes in. You can embark on missions together, see each others' avatars on the screen, and communicate via headsets. This feature is available on all three consoles, but the Xbox and PS3 outdo the Wii, and between those two, the Xbox seems to outperform the PS3. The decision comes down to what games you want to play, and whether they're multi-platform-compatible or platform-specific. Another feature all the consoles share is the ability to stream video from services like Netflix, so no matter which one you choose, you'll have access to a ton of great content in addition to games. Opt for that, and you may be able to save money on premium cable channels.
Home Theater SystemWhat is the point of having a flat-screen TV, a Blu-ray player, and a top-notch gaming system if you're just going to listen to everything through your TV's built-in speakers? If you go that route, you may as well just stick with a CRT, a VCR, and your old Atari and call it a day. Sure, television speakers have come a long way, and they don't have that tinny TV sound anymore. But they're still inferior compared to a home theater stereo system with surround sound.
Installing speakers around your man cave and trying to replicate theater sound can definitely be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Home theater systems go for anywhere from 35 bucks to more than 3,000. You don't want to go the cheapest route because you do want quality, but you don't have to go broke, either. Look for a home theater system somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 to 300 dollars, from a good, reliable brand like Sony, Samsung, or Philips. That way, you'll know you're getting both quality and affordability. And by the way, the PS3 doubles as a Blu-ray player, so that may factor into your decision of what gaming console to buy because you can cover two man cave essentials with one purchase.
Universal RemoteAnd one remote to rule them all! Come on, you know you've made that reference before. Okay, maybe you didn't actually say it out loud, but you thought it. Ahem. Anyway, nothing will ruin the ambiance of your newly outfitted man cave more than a bunch of remotes lying around, getting lost in the couch cushions. You're not going to be able to replace your gaming controller—nor would you want to—but you can definitely consolidate the TV, Blu-ray, and home theater system remotes into one.
To really get the most out of your universal remote, you do want to spend a little more here than you normally would on a remote. You need something that's going to allow you to control three or more devices, with the ability to quickly and easily switch between them. Universal remotes with hybrid touchscreen interfaces seem to be the best for this. Even then, you can still get a high-quality remote for less than $100. Just be sure it's compatible with all your device brands.When it comes to decorating your man cave, well, you're on your own there. You can go Mad Men with it, or make it a room no woman would want to set foot in, if that's your goal. Whether you go for comfort or style, as long as you have the right electronics, it won't really matter what you're sitting in when you use them.
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