Stay Home : Stay Entertained
Updated: Jun 13, 2020
2020 has been a year few of us will forget but its also a year that we have more options that ever before to keep us entertained when we're stuck at home. From virtual reality to streaming services and smart speakers there are plenty of gadgets to whittle away the hours at home when you've given up on books or newspapers to keep you entertained.
Virtual Reality (VR) headsets have never been so cheap or come with so many options. Whilst these devices come with a whole new set of VR games that can provide hours of fun, there is also a great opportunity to use these devices with traditional media to take you out of your living room. Two great examples are Netflix and Amazon Prime, both have fantastic apps that allow you to watch your favourite shows in an entirely different setting. From sitting in a ski lodge (Netflix) to your local cinema (Amazon Prime) you can get all the benefits of the big screen experience right in your living room. On top of that you can use these devices to visit cities and places you've never been or are unlikely to get to. Meeting people, attending consorts and seminars or even just hanging out with friends all from the comfort of your sofa makes VR a interesting choice to pass the hours. There are three main types of VR headsets, mobile (you plug your phone into a headset), tethered (you need to connect to another device such as a PC or games console) or standalone (the device works with no need to connect to any other devices). Some of the leading devices available to buy include:
Oculus Go Standalone - Facebook has developed its own series of VR headsets under the Ocuus brand. This device is a great standalone model that you don't need to connect to a PC or any other device. Not the most powerful but should provide you with more than enough tech to allow most users to get the most out of VR unless you are a serious gamer and even then there are options. Also an affordable price point to match at under £/$200
Oculus Quest (tethered)- the more powerful option from Facebook, but comes with a heavier price task. The technology in this device is impressive and the interface and game play will literally take you to another world. If you want to use your VR for gaming this is a great option for you.
Sony PlayStation VR (tethered) - the leading game console option comes from Sony who have developed a powerful gaming headset to attach to the PlayStation to bring gaming to your living room. The price of this device is very reasonable for the power it comes with and the bundle packs with a PlayStation device go even further to help your wallet.
With so many great streaming options available you really are spoilt for choice. Most of these will come with apps that you can use on a Smart TV or games console but sometimes for the best experience of syncing your phone or table to your television you need a bespoke device that works well with your chosen ecosystem. The three leading contenders available today include:
Google Chromecast - a simple and cheap device that plugs into your TV and allows you to 'cast' media from any app or device that supports it. One of the best ways to sync your phone or tablet to your TV seamlessly and this also allows you to use popular apps such as Netflix on your phone and view on your TV. Don't forget, whilst this is a Google product it also works with Apple devices so not to be ignored by Apple users who want an affordable option to turn their TV smart. The Chromecast will also work well with Google assistant and can be used with some devices to turn your television on and off with voice command.
Amazon Fire TV Stick - Amazons offering which is more traditional in that it is similar to a set top box that comes with a remove control and does not rely on your use of a mobile or table device to operate. This also comes with the added benefit of Amazons Alexa voice assistant build in which allows you to operate with voice command and works especially well with Amazon Prime video which gives you unlimited streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows
Apple TV - if you're an Apple user you probably want to stick with the Apple ecosystem and Apple TV is your best option for this. As with most things Apple this is a premium product with a price tag to match but does operate similar to Amazons Fire stick in that it comes with a remote and set top box style setup. Apple are also investing more in the TV offer more than ever so expect the accessories and media that are bespoke to this device to continue to grow and get better over the coming years.
Smart speakers with in built virtual assistants are another great addition to any home, making it easy to keep track of your daily schedule, set notifications or even control your home with a few simple commands. The speakers are also now more than good enough to be your sole home entertainment system with three mainstream options to choose from.
Amazon Eco and Echo Dot - Amazon really brought the smart speaker market to life when they launched the Echo Dot, and whilst there were plenty of virtual assistants in play before this they took the virtual assistant to the mainstream including it in a low cost speaker. The Eco is a great speaker and can easily form part of your home entertainment system, the dot is powerful for its size but is best for using Alexa for low level audio (talk radio and background music). Both of these speakers work great with Amazon Music which comes with over two million songs, hundreds of hand-built playlists and stations. The only downfall with Alexa is the assistant does not sync as well with your phone (email, calendars etc.) as Google Assistant or Apple's Siri but it's still one of the best virtual assistants and is a powerful combination with the Eco speakers.
Google Home Speakers and Google Home Hub - Google also have entered the smart speaker market and have an impressive offering of products. Google offers its own hardware with the Google home speakers (the mini is most comparable with the Amazon dot) as well as products like the google home hub which also provides a small screen interface alongside the speaker. If you're on the Android operating system these are great products which will sync well with your phone but you can also use Googles software with no real issues on Apple devices. The Google assistant is one of the best around and gives Alexa a run for its money, here the main deciding factor is the ecosystem you want to use with your phone and what music subscription service you've opted for.
Apple Homepod - much like the Apple TV option Apple also have a premium speaker option for customers to choose from. A good quality speaker that works with Apples Siri assistant and Apple music. If you want to keep within the Apple ecosystem this one is for you and will work well with your iPhone, iPad and Mac. As with all things Apple it comes with a price tag but the sound quality and design are worth it with this option.