Best Home Theater Systems For College Students

Great entertainment options for those study breaks

Vizio SmartCast TV Example
Vizio SmartCast TV Example. Image provided by Vizio

Going off to College doesn't mean you have to leave your home entertainment behind. Of course, you have your Android, iPhone, tablet, or laptop that can stream and/or store music and videos, but when you come back to your dorm, apartment, or group house after a long day of classes it is great to kick back in a comfortable chair or couch and enjoy some great entertainment on a good TV and audio system.

Check out some great TV options for college students that are perfect for a small apartment, dorm, or group house. If you are starting from scratch you can build an entire system based on my suggestions, or just chose one or two products to fill the gaps you might have.

Vizio D32f-F1 32-inch SmartCast TV
Vizio D32f-F1 32-inch SmartCast TV. Image courtesy of Amazon

Coming in with a screen size of 32-inches, the Vizio D32f-F1 should fit comfortably in a dorm room or studio apartment, and, if you have a desktop PC that has an HDMI output, and with this set's 1080p native display resolution, you can have it do double duty as a PC monitor.

Full Array Backlighting provides consistent black levels across the entire screen this means better contrast and more vivid color.

To receive broadcast TV signals, you can an connect antenna. With its HDMI and AV inputs, you can connect a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player, game console, cable box, and more. In addition, this set has both an Ethernet port and built-in WiFi.

The 32f-F1 features a selection of pre-installed apps but also includes Chromecast Built-in. This means that instead of having to connect a separate Chromecast dongle to access more apps you can download available apps directly to your smartphone and cast them to the TV.

However, Vizio also includes its own SmartCast platform which adds to Chromecast by automatically switching the TV to the casting source is detected, as well providing control many TV settings using the SmartCast mobile app. Also, if you select a TV or movie title on your mobile device, SmartCast will show you what apps have it instead of having to search through each app.

To top it off, you can even control some features using Google Assistant.

Vizio SB3220n-F6 Soundbar
Vizio SB3220n-F6 Soundbar. Image courtesy of Amazon

If you live in a dorm or small apartment, you can boost your TV's sound quality with the Vizio SB3220n-F6 soundbar — it definitely offers more than you expect.

Although it only has two built-in channels, the inclusion of DTS Virtual:X audio processing pushes elements of the soundfield vertically so that you can hear sound coming from slightly above your TV and your listening position.

The soundbar houses two compact full-range speakers, and although it doesn't come with a subwoofer, it does provide a subwoofer output connection so that you can add one of your own if you desire, that need not be expensive.

As far as input connections go, the SB3220n-F6 has you covered with both RCA and 3.5mm analog audio inputs as well as digital optical/coaxial inputs for a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player. There is even a USB port for access to .WAV files stored on USB Flash Drives.

Another bonus is that the soundbar also includes is built-in Bluetooth and Chromecast for Audio, which allows you to stream music wirelessly via compatible smartphones from select streaming services.

To top it off, the SB3220n-F6 comes packaged with a wireless remote, analog and digital optical cables, and even a wall mount bracket if you desire that setup option.

The SB3220n-F6 is a good alternative to those underpowered speakers built into your TV — especially in terms of improved voice/dialog clarity and adding more sound depth for music, TV, and movie viewing.

The soundbar is 32-inches wide and is priced at less than $99.

Pyle PSBV600BT Sound Base
Pyle PSBV600BT Sound Base. Image provided by Pyle Audio

Most TVs these days provide good picture quality, and lots of additional features, that provide a good viewing experience - but when it comes to sound quality, those built-in TV speakers just don't cut it. The solution is a connection to an external audio system and the easiest option is a sound bar or sound base.

One very affordable choice is the Pyle PSBV600BT. This is a space-saving self-amplified 2.1 channel system that includes four compact full-range speakers and one subwoofer. Audio connections for your TV and other components include RCA and 3.5mm analog audio, as well as a digital optical connection.

For added convenience, the PSBV600BT also includes wireless Bluetooth for streaming audio from compatible portable devices, and can also serve as a platform to set your TV on top of — which saves more space.

Onkyo HT-S3900 Home Theater-in-box System
Onkyo HT-S3900 Home Theater-in-box System. Images provided by Onkyo

Getting a sound bar or sound base to enhance audio for TV listing is one option, especially if you have a small room, but for a better surround sound experience, a home-theater-in-a-box system is a good step-up option.

One choice in this category is the Onkyo HT-S3900. This system includes a 5.2 channel home theater receiver, 5 bookshelf speakers, and a 6.5-inch passive subwoofer in one package. The speaker wire and subwoofer cable are included. In addition, the receiver's rear connection panel also includes a speaker setup diagram.

Additional features include 4 HDMI inputs with video pass-through for 3D and 4K/HDR video signals, as well as access to Audio Return Channel.

Audio decoding is provided for the Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio formats that are commonly used on Blu-ray Discs. Also, there is a front mounted USB port for connection of iPods and USB Flash Drives.

Bluetooth is also built-in, which allows direct wireless streaming from compatible portable devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

Sony STR-DH590 5.2 Channel Home Theater Receiver
Sony STR-DH590 5.2 Channel Home Theater Receiver. Images courstesy of Amazon

Although a Home-Theater-in-a-Box system is definitely a cut-above most soundbar systems, choosing your own home theater receiver and speakers gives you more options to find the receiver and speakers that suit your room and your listening preferences.

In the home theater receiver category, one very affordable option is the Sony STR-DH590.

The Sony STR-DH590 provides a 5.2 channel configuration for 5 speakers and up to 2 subwoofers, along with Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding and additional surround sound processing.

To make setup easier, the 590 also incorporates Sony's Digital Cinema Auto Calibration system. Just plug in the provided microphone and the will fine-tune the speakers and subwoofer for the best audio performance for your room.

Bluetooth capability is built-in allowing direct streaming from compatible smartphones and tablets. A rear-mounted USB port is included but it can only be used to power or charge USB devices, it cannot be used to access music files on USB flash drives.

On the video side of the equation, the STR-HD590 can pass-through any currently used video signals (including 4K and HDR) via its 4 HDMI inputs.

Monoprice 108247 5.1 Channel Speaker System
Monoprice 108247 5.1 Channel Speaker System. Image courtesy of Amazon.com

OK, so you have a home theater receiver picked out - but you don't have much money left for speakers - but you still need speakers that provide decent sound on college student budget.

As it turns out, there are some speaker systems that are surprisingly affordable, but still sound good. Although not designed for large rooms, for a small room, one example of a good sounding, inexpensive speaker system is the Monoprice 108247.

The 108247 is a full 5.1 channel speaker system that consists of a center and four satellite bookshelf speakers, combined with an 8-inch 60-watt powered subwoofer. The satellite speakers are housed in plastic cabinets. The connections on the center and satellite speaker are the easy-to-use spring loaded push in type, and both line-in and speaker terminal connections are provided on the subwoofer.

The package even includes wall mounting brackets for the satellite speakers (mounting screws are extra, though). For the college student budget, this system is definitely worth consideration.

Sony BDP-S3700 Blu-ray Disc Player
Sony BDP-S3700 Blu-ray Disc Player. Image provided by Sony Electronics

Although internet streaming is fast becoming the most convenient way to access TV and movie content, if you want the best possible video quality for watching movies, definitely consider a Blu-ray Disc player.

The Sony BDP-S3700 is a very affordable player that is compatible with Blu-ray discs, DVDs, and audio CDs.

Also, Ethernet and WiFi connectivity are provided, enabling access to audio/video streaming content from Netflix, Pandora, Hulu Plus, as well as content stored on network-connected PCs.

Built-in Web Browsing is also supported. You can even stream content directly from compatible smartphones and tablets using the player's Miracast capability.

For additional content access from flash drives and other compatible devices, a USB port is provided. To make operation easier, the BDP-S3700 provides access to Sony's free TV SideView iOS and Android remote control Apps.

NOTE: The Sony BD-S3700 is not 3D compatible.

Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote—Package
Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote—Package.

Photo by Robert Silva

 

So, when your parents sent you off to college they gave you their old TV. Well, if that TV has at least one HDMI input, you can give it new life by adding internet streaming capability via Amazon's Fire TV Streaming Stick.

This product is about the size of USB flash drive and plugs into any TV that has an HDMI input, and for power, there is USB power cable provided that is also adaptable to an AC outlet if you don't have a USB power port nearby.

The Stick contains everything you need to access streaming content, starting with built-in WiFi

Although Amazon Instant Video is emphasized, Amazon's Fire TV Stick also includes access to a larger number of content services, including Crackle, HBOGo (must already be an HBO cable/satellite subscriber for access), Hulu, iHeart Radio, Netflix, Pandora, YouTube and more.

Amazon's Fire TV Stick also provides access to over 200 online games and is compatible with several game controllers.

It also comes packaged with Alexa-enabled voice control remote, or you can control it by voice using an Amazon Echo device.

Fluance Ai40 Powered Speaker System
Fluance Ai40 Powered Speaker System. Image courtesy of Amazon

If you don't have room for a surround sound system, and a sound bar might be too wide for your space, consider the Fluance Ai40 speaker system.

The Ai40 consists of a two matched speakers (one powered and one passive). The speaker that is assigned for the right channel contains the built-in amplifiers for itself and the included left channel speaker, which connects to the right channel speaker via standard speaker wire.

The right channel speaker also provides both analog RCA and 3.5mm audio inputs so you can connect your PC and one other device, such as a TV, DVD player, etc...

The system comes with a remote control which includes power, volume, bass, and treble control (you can also turn the system on and off and adjust the volume using the control button on the right speaker).

Eight feet of speaker wire is provided to connect the two speakers together, as well as an auxiliary cable for connecting your TV or another device to the right speaker. The system also incorporates Bluetooth which allows you to stream music content directly from a compatible smartphone, PC or laptop).

The system produces a very good sound listening experience supported by a frequency range of 40Hz to 20kHz which produces clean highs, solid midrange, and acceptable bass. It must be noted that no subwoofer output is provided.

The Ai40 system also looks as good as it sounds. It has an open front design (there are no speaker grill covers) and is available in three colors: Ash Black, Walnut, and Bamboo.

AAXA P300 Neo Pico Projector
AAXA P300 Neo Pico Projector.

Image courtesy of Amazon

 

The AAXA P300 Neo may be tiny, but if you desire a big-screen viewing experience, it packs in a lot of features and great performance for the price.

This DLP-LED pico projector can run conveniently on standard AC power, its built-in 150-minute rechargeable battery. However, it is important to note that you can't charge the battery while the projector is in use.

HDMI and Composite A/V inputs for sources such as VCRs, DVD players, and game consoles, as well as a mini-VGA input for PCs and laptops and a USB port for Flash Drive. It even comes with a TF Card slot.

The P300 NEO has a built-in speaker, but it is best to plug in a pair of headphones for private listening or use an audio system for room-filling sound.

Although the picture quality is not what you would find on a standard-size projector, with its 30,000-hour life, 720p native display resolution, and up to 420 lumens light output, it projects a colorful image that is bright enough for darkened rooms.

Depending on your room size, the P300 Neo can project an image as large as 90 inches from a distance of about 7 feet. To fine tune the positioning of the image, the projector includes digital keystone correction via its remote control.

All you need is large enough white wall space, bedsheet, or screen and you are all set for a night of movie-watching or video game play. Also, since it is portable, you can take it to your friend's room or apartment.