How to Create a Dorm Room Wireless Home Theater

Access your dorm's Wi-Fi, choose a streaming service and device, or build your own projector and set up Bluetooth speakers

What to Know

  • To cast media from a phone to a TV, connect an Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick, or Roku.
  • Alternatively, you can build a projector out of your smartphone, a shoebox, and a few other items.
  • Connect portable Bluetooth speakers to boost the sound. Check the volume level with your dormmates.

This article explains how to set up a wireless home theater in your dorm, what sort of equipment you'll need, and solutions for possible problems that may arise.

Get Your Dorm's Wi-Fi Internet Sorted

Unless you're planning to only watch a DVD or Blu-ray in your dorm room, you'll need to organize a Wi-Fi connection. A wireless Wi-Fi signal is required to stream media from one device to another, such as from your iPhone to an Apple TV, and it's needed to download digital movies and TV series or stream them from a service like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon.

Odds are your student dormitory already has Wi-Fi, in which case you'll need to ask management for the password. If the internet in your dorm is wired, you'll have to create a Wi-Fi hotspot using your Mac or Windows computer.

Choose Your Media Streaming Service

Once you have your Wi-Fi set up, decide which service you're going to use for wireless streaming in your dorm room. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are easily the most popular, but there are several niche streaming services, such as Crunchyroll for streaming anime, that you might like to try.

The good news is all of the streaming services provide a free trial, so you don't have to pay upfront, and you can even create a new account once the trial is over for another free membership. However, if you're thinking of streaming some media you already downloaded from one device to another, you won't have to pay anything.

Potential Streaming Hardware You May Need

Now that you've decided what sort of media you're going to watch, you'll need to check what equipment, if any, is needed. Most streaming services require you to download one of their official apps onto a smartphone, tablet, or computer for their media to be accessed. You'll also need to decide if you're going to be watching on a small computer screen, casting the media to a TV set, or using a projector.

If you're thinking of casting media to a television from an iOS device like an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, you'll need to connect an Apple TV to your TV for it to work. Other devices capable of streaming to your TV are Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku. If your dorm TV is a smart TV, you likely won't need to buy much.

Does Your Dorm Have a Smart TV?

A smart TV is a television that has added tech built-in, enabling it to play apps in addition to the usual TV channels and HDMI sources. Many smart TVs come with streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu pre-installed. So if you're a fan of those services, you won't need any other devices; you can stream directly from the TV.

Some smart TVs also have built-in streaming or casting functionality, allowing them to receive Chromecast broadcasts from a phone or computer. The smart TV's app menu should mention if this particular feature is available.

Borrow or Build a Projector

Did you know you can quickly and cheaply build a projector out of your smartphone, a shoebox, and a few other crafty items? Try it and you can take your projector anywhere.

If you're not that crafty, most colleges and universities with an art or film department allow students to rent equipment for assignments, presentations, and art installations for free. All you need to do is ask someone who's studying in a related field to borrow a portable projector for your home theater screening.

Depending on how much funding your school gets, the projectors may need to connect to a media source by a cable. Newer portable projectors should support a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.

Your college's film and art departments may also supply portable projector screens capable of improving the quality of the movie projection enormously, so it's worth asking if one is available. If screens aren't available, you could buy one if your budget allows or use your dorm room wall. Even the outside of the building is possible if you want a starlight cinema experience.

Choose Your Home Theater Furniture and Location

Two of the most important decisions you'll make involve finding the best location for your wireless home theatre, and choosing the most practical seating solution.

Your personal dorm room will likely work well for your cinema. However, if you plan to use a common area, you'll need to ask other students if it's okay first. The last thing you want is to get in a fight with others because you're using the shared space without permission.

Once you have a location locked down for your small home theater, consider the seating arrangements. Most common areas will likely have a variety of chairs and lounges available, but if you're using an outdoor location, an easy solution is to use picnic blankets or plastic tarps. You can also invest in several cheap folding chairs.

Don't Forget Wireless Bluetooth Speakers

Watching a film or TV episode on a TV may provide okay sound, but if you're streaming media to a projector, you'll definitely want to incorporate some additional speakers to boost the sound.

Portable Bluetooth speakers can pack a punch when it comes to sound quality, with many offering solid sound quality and often selling for prices that won't break the bank. If a high volume isn't enough and you want the full surround sound experience, invest in a proper wireless home theater speaker system that has a variety of speakers for the rear, front, and side audio channels.

Avoid Drama and Inform Campus Security

If you're building your wireless home theater for a special movie night or event and you're planning to invite a lot of people, it's a good idea to inform campus security beforehand so they know what to expect. The last thing you want is your movie experience interrupted by security investigating a noise complaint.

It's also a good idea to check the volume level of your dorm room entertainment system with your housemates to make sure your new setup isn't distracting them from studying or interfering with their own downtime.

  • How much does a home theater cost?

    The cost of a home theater can range anywhere from $500-25,000 depending on your wants and needs. For smaller rooms, you can set up a budget home theater for less than that.

  • Are sound bars as good as surround sound?

    No. While sound bars provide a wider sound field than traditional speakers, they can't compete with surround sound systems.

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