Airplay Hits Home
A new generation of entertainment gear has arrived that lets you use your iPad to share your musical wealth in any room in the house. These new A/V receivers, Home Theater In A Box systems and standalone speakers let you wirelessly stream music from your iTunes library using your Wi-Fi network via the iPad (or other IOS device) so you and your friends and family can hear the music you want with quality that sounds far better than the iPad's tiny built-in speaker. Plus you can enjoy your tunes in the comfort of your living- or home theater room. In classic Apple style, the systems are very easy to setup and use.
Recently Yamaha introduced two new Airplay-enabled A/V receivers, the RX-V573 ($549) and RX-V473 ($449). Not only do these receivers have plenty of power to drive a multi-channel surround sound system for your HDTV they'll make it feel like Beyonce is singing in the middle of your living room (if she's in your iTunes library, of course).
Other top receiver makers such as Pioneer and Denon have embraced Airplay as have those who've added the feature to complete Home Theater In A Box systems. These HTIBs include all of the components for a 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround setup and are available from Yamaha and others.
For those who just want an audio system in the living room or anywhere else, Panasonic just introduced a new Airplay-enabled compact stereo system (SC-HC57) for $199. Expect to see many more Airplay-centric introductions throughout the year as the iPad becomes part of almost everyone's lifestyle.
Realize Airplay is a music-only feature. If you want to watch an episode of a favorite TV show you downloaded to your iPad on your HDTV—you can do that as well but you'll need Apple TV ($99) to do it. With this box you can also stream your photos and video to the big screen from your tablet or IOS device.
Beyond Airplay, it's easy streaming music to your home theater system using the iPad's built-in Bluetooth. This short-range wireless system is found in many Home Theater In A Box systems and sound bars. Once you pair the device with the iPad, you'll have a fine musical experience. LG, Panasonic, Samsung and many others offer this and it's a terrific feature for any iPad or smartphone owner.
Turn Your iPad Into a Remote
It's pretty hard losing the remote if you've turned your iPad into your main controller. And it's easier than ever as many HDTV brands have apps that let you do just that. And it's a heck of lot easier finding the buttons on your iPad screen rather than fumbling for the keys on your handheld.
If your set doesn't have a specific app, third-parties offer them for reasonable amounts. One very highly-rated system at the App store is the Griffin Beacon combined with the Dijit Universal Remote and TV show guide with Netflix listings. The Beacon costs around $50 but the app is free and together they put 200,000 devices at your fingertips, practically ensuring every component in your home theater will be at your command.
Searching and Staying Connected
My iPad has become indispensable part of my home theater experience. Doing searches for bits of trivia while watching television has nipped many debates in the bud—was "Mad Men's" Christina Hendricks in "Drive"?—and other such critical questions of the minute.
Beyond basic searching, the iPad is a great tool for choosing the best movies on demand for Netflix (IMDb) or managing your Netflix account (CineTap). Besides important movie and TV information, the iPad gives instant access to your social media accounts so you can comment on the presidential race or who's best on DWTS.