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June 21, 2016

How to make your family room smart

by John_A

Here you are: the family room. Kick back and relax. This is where you can watch TV, listen to music and more. Maybe it’s not the home cinema system you’ve yearned for, with projection room and seating in rows, but you can make it a brilliant den with lots going for it.

Panasonic DX902 TV

Start with the screen – and there are very few out there as good as this. It comes with the Ultra HD Premium badge that means it has the latest UHD resolution (four times that of a High Definition set) as well as HDR, that’s High Dynamic Range, for images that are dramatic and detail-rich both in bright skies and dark shadows.

This TV comes with a cute smart operating system from Firefox that adds apps and extra services like Netflix and Amazon. TVs like this have recently inspired Hollywood professionals to claim the picture is better than you can ever get in the cinema. Available in 65-inch and 58-inch screen sizes.

Apple TV


You’ll need something to watch on this fantastic TV, so try a streaming box like the Apple TV. It’s small but highly effective, with a great remote that includes a touch surface and a microphone so you tell the box to “Show me the episode of Modern Family with Edward Norton” or “Find the best Hugh Grant movies” – it’s plenty smart.

The interface is based around apps for Movies, TV shows and so on but also for other services like Netflix as well as games, Air bnb, magazines and more. There’s no UHD capability with this box, mind. 

PRICE: From $149,

Flatscreens are all very well, but flat speakers – which is all they come with – don’t match up to the picture. Here are two options to make your family room sound as good as it looks. 

Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar with Dolby Atmos 

Dolby Atmos is the ultimate theater sound system, using speakers across the ceiling to amplify the effect. Now, the same effect is available in home speakers like this one.

There are 46 speaker drivers in this soundbar, with individual timings and delays to ensure perfect audio. Six speakers at each end of the unit are angled upwards to bounce sound off the ceiling to create the authentic Dolby Atmos sound. The result is persuasive surround sound without any rear speakers. The speaker also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. 

PRICE: $1599.95,

Sonos Playbar and Play:3 speakers


The Playbar is tremendous. It sits under the TV, or you can wall mount it above if you prefer. It makes even an average TV show sound great. Match it with two Play:3 speakers, which you can set up as a stereo pair on the opposite side of the room from the TV, and you have spectacular surround sound.

The Play:3 speakers have power cables but are otherwise wireless, so there’s no trail of wiring around the room. The Playbar connects by optical cable to the TV and it sounds so good that you might not need a separate system for music. It streams audio via Wi-Fi from your smartphone, tablet or PC.

PRICE: Playbar $699, Play:3 $299 per speaker,

Amazon Echo

You can play music through the Echo speaker, from Spotify, Pandora and other services. The difference with the Echo is it’s voice-controlled, even when music is playing.

Begin a sentence with the word Alexa and the Echo listens (Alexa is the personal assistant’s name, you see). She’ll read audio books to you, tell you the news headlines and weather reports. You can even ask her to order you a pizza from Domino’s or an Uber from, well, Uber. 

PRICE: $179.99,

Logitech Harmony Elite remote control


This remote control is much more than most. It’s super-powerful, so it’ll change channels, turn up the volume and so on. It will also control up to 15 home entertainment machines though including Apple TV, Sonos, Xbox One, Honeywell, Samsung SmartThings and lots more. So, really, do try not to lose this one.

The touchscreen makes it easy to use and you can use it in the dark thanks to motion-activated, backlit controls. There are lots of customization options and it even has improved battery life than previous Harmony remotes. 

PRICE: $349.99,

Honeywell Digital Door Lock with Tuxedo Touch

Tuxedo Touch is a controller that works with multiple devices so you can see what’s happening in other rooms, for instance. It even knows if outside doors are ajar and can text you when the dog walker turns up.

With the right door locks, such as the Digital Door Lock which comes in different metal finishes, you can lock a door remotely. It doesn’t matter whether you remember to do so just as you jump on the train or anywhere else in the world so long as you have a data connection.

These are locks that can be programmed to lock or unlock at the same times every day – handy for peace of mind at night and even handier when the babysitter arrives.

PRICE: $169.95 for the Digital Door Lock,

The Honeywell Lyric Water Leak and Freeze Detector is an early warning system that notifies you on your smartphone when a leak is detected or the temperature drops below a temperature of your choice. By catching it early, you may be able to avoid expensive repairs and loss of treasured items. To find out more visit

This article was created in association with Honeywell.

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