Gift Guide: Gear for Dads & Grads

Posted Fri Jun 2, 2017 at 03:15 PM PDT by
TCL P series 4k TV

As June kicks off and summer approaches, families across the country are gearing up to celebrate two very important events: College Graduation and Father's Day. And what's the perfect way to show your pride or appreciation for any grad or dad? Well, a 4K Ultra HD TV of course!

For many dads, a sweet home theater setup can offer a welcomed respite from the pressures of daily work and parenting. And for many recent grads finally leaving their tiny dorms behind, a new AV system can be a great way to mark the transition to a real apartment.

But with TV, media player, and speaker models all varying wildly in size and price, figuring out which products are right for you or your loved ones can be tricky. With that in mind, we've put together a special gift guide full of worthy gear items for all dads and grads at every budget level.

From space-conscious audio systems suited for smaller apartments to premium 65-inch OLED displays made for big living rooms, these items have all needs accounted for. So, without further ado, here's HDD's 


Note: All listed prices reflect current retailer discounts at press time and do not include taxes.


In our first section, we're going to cover some great gift ideas that won't break the bank, offering some affordable gear suggestions for dear old dad that will show him you care... without exhausting all that money he taught you to save. Likewise, we've mixed in a few wallet-friendly, space-saving products that should help grads get the most out of a smaller apartment setup, with a focus on compact sound bar systems, Ultra HD TV models under 60-inches, and tiny streaming sticks.

40" Samsung UN40MU6300 Ultra HD TV ($448) - One of 2017's better performing Ultra HD TV sets under 50-inches, this 40-inch model from Samsung should be a nice fit for grads who still have to deal with some space limitations. Though the display lacks advanced features like Dolby Vision, local dimming, and wide color gamut support, the TV does include basic HDR10 capabilities, a very solid native contrast ratio, and Samsung's 2017 Tizen smart TV platform.

50" VIZIO M-Series Ultra HD HDR XLED Plus Display ($600) - This new wallet-friendly Ultra HD display from VIZIO boasts Dolby Vision and HDR10 support with 350 nits fullscreen output and 600 nits peak output, along with full-array local dimming with 32 zones, wide color gamut support (a new addition to the 2017 models), and VIZIO's SmartCast platform. With that said, the display does not include a TV tuner. 

55" TCL P-Series Ultra HD TV ($600 pre-order price) - In contention to become the top bang-for-your buck display of 2017, this TCL P-Series TV offers a host of premium picture quality features at a shockingly affordable price point. Key specs include Dolby Vision and HDR10 support, wide color gamut capabilities with NBP Photon technology, and HDR Contrast Control with 72 zones. Likewise, the set uses the Roku OS smart TV platform with access to more than 4,000 streaming channels and 450,000+ movies and TV episodes. With that said, first shipments are not expected to go out until later this month at the earliest, so buyers will be unlikely to receive orders in time for Father's Day.

VIZIO SB3821-D6 SmartCast38" 2.1 Sound Bar System ($163) - This 2-channel 38" sound bar unit includes a separate 5.25" wireless subwoofer for dedicated low frequencies, offering a space-saving alternative to a full 5.1 system while still providing a notable upgrade over integrated TV speakers. The woofer is rated for 50-90 Hz, while the system as a whole has a frequency response of 50 Hz - 20 kHz. Though the unit lacks HDMI connections and video pass-through, it does include digital optical and RCA inputs along with Dolby Digital and DTS audio. Likewise, the sound bar features Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and support for VIZIO's SmartCast system with Google Cast built-in, allowing users to control the speaker and stream music from the SmartCast app for mobile devices.

VIZIO SB3851-D0 SmartCast38” 5.1 Sound Bar System ($196) - Expanding upon the above model, this sound bar package includes a compact 5.1-channel system, complete with a 3-channel sound bar unit, two compact satellite speakers, and a wireless subwoofer -- allowing dads and grads to enjoy genuine surround sound without taking over the living room. The woofer is rated for 50-90 Hz, while the system as a whole has a frequency response of 50 Hz - 20 kHz. This unit also has an HDMI input and output with video pass-through and ARC, and a remote with an LCD screen. Likewise, the sound bar includes Dolby Digital and DTS playback, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity along with support for VIZIO's SmartCast system with Google Cast built-in, allowing users to control the speaker and stream music from the SmartCast app for mobile devices.

Amazon Fire TV Stick ($40) - Amazon's compact streaming stick offers access to over 15,000 apps, games, and Alexa skills including Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, YouTube, Amazon Video, NBC, WatchESPN, Disney, and more. Likewise, the device includes the Alexa Voice Remote, allowing users to control functions through voice commands. With that said, unlike more expensive full-fledged set-top boxes, the Fire TV Stick does include 4K playback.

Roku Streaming Stick ($49) - Roku's latest streaming stick provides access to 450,000+ movies and TV episodes across 4,500+ paid or free channels with a powerful quad-core processor. Voice control is also offered through the mobile app (but not the included remote). Like the Fire TV Stick, however, the device only supports up to 1080p playback. 


For buyers and gift givers with a bit more money to spend, this section includes AV options that offer more robust performance and extra features, including products with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X technology. Likewise, while there are still a few space-conscious items in the bunch, this lineup offers selections better suited for dads and grads with a bit more room to play around with in their home entertainment hubs, including larger displays and entry-level 5.1.2 speaker systems and receivers.

55" Sony XBR55X900E LED Ultra HD TV ($1,398) - At under $1,500, this is one of the best performing 4K sets in its price range, offering a full-array local dimming backlight, wide color gamut support with Triluminos tech, HDR10 support, and a firmware update planned for HLG playback (but sadly not Dolby Vision). Finally, the set uses the Android TV platform for smart TV apps and streaming. A smaller 49-inch model ($1,098) is also available.

65" VIZIO P-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theater Display ($1,600) - This affordable yet high-performance 2016 Ultra HD display from VIZIO remains one of the best bang-for-your buck 4K sets there is. The display includes full-array local dimming with 128 zones, Dolby Vision and HDR10 with 600 nits, and wide color gamut support. With that said, the display does not include a TV tuner. A 2017 version just launched as well, but since both panels are actually identical, the 2016 model presents a better value (while supplies last). 

55" LG B6 OLED Ultra HD TV ($1,997) - Though also a 2016 model, the B6 still offers some of the best picture quality performance on the market, along with cheaper pricing compared to 2017 OLED models (while supplies last). The display offers Dolby Vision and HDR10 support, perfect blacks, wide color gamut playback, great viewing angles, and Ultra HD Premium Certification.

LG SJ9 Sound Bar ($697) - LG's newest sound bar model is a compact Dolby Atmos solution for grads and dads who don't have the room for a fully immersive audio system. The sound bar features two powerful up-firing speakers and a wireless subwoofer to offer a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos experience. In addition, the device uses a Hi-Fi DAC with support for High Resolution audio. 

Pioneer FS-EB70 ELITE Network Sound Bar System ($1,000) - This premium 3.1.2 Channel sound bar is one of the only models to currently support both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats. The system includes a 2” Ultra slim design sound bar (wall Mountable), a wireless bass-reflex subwoofer, and a Slim AV center with powerful multi-channel amplification including 4 HDMI inputs with HDCP2.2 4K Ultra HD/HDR 10 support and upscaling. Full review here!

Samsung HW-K950/ZA 5.1.4 Channel Soundbar with Dolby Atmos Technology ($1,198) - The 47.6" HW-K950/ZA  sound bar takes its Atmos support even further by adding in two wireless rear satellite speakers with upward-firing drivers of their own, resulting in a full 5.1.4 system that is still very apartment friendly. With that said, while the unit can properly decode Atmos tracks, it does not include DTS:X support, resulting in upconverted DTS mixes. Finally, the 500-watt system also includes a wireless subwoofer, Bluetooth connectivity, Wi-Fi, and HDMI with 4K pass-through. 

5.1.2 Onkyo HT-S7800 All-In-One Home Theater System ($899) - Perfect for customers looking for a compact yet complete Atmos package for under $1,000, this affordable home-theater-in-a-box system includes 5 surround speakers and 1 subwoofer (with 2 Dolby Atmos-Enabled height speakers), and a 5.1.2 AV receiver with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support. Full review here!

Pioneer SP-PK52FS Andrew Jones 5.1 Home Theater Speaker Package with SP-T22A-LR Dolby Atmos Add-on Speakers ($850) - While compact sound bars and home-theater-in-a-box systems are nice for their space-saving size, if you want the best performance, then you're going to need a slightly more robust package. Designed by speaker engineer Andrew Jones, this fantastic 5.1 system from Pioneer just might be the best in its price range. The package includes two SP-FS52 Floor-standing Speakers; two SP-BS22 Bookshelf Speakers; one SP-C22 Center-Channel Speaker; and one SW-8MK2 Powered Subwoofer. Add in two SP-T22A-LR Dolby Atmos modules, and you've got a very solid 5.1.2 speaker system that should please any dad or grad.

Denon AVR-X1400H 7.2 Channel Receiver ($409) - This entry-level AV receiver offers 7.2 channel support with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding for up to a 5.2.2 system. In addition, full 4K Ultra HD, HDCP 2.2, HDR (High Dynamic Range), Dolby Vision, BT.2020, Wide Color Gamut and 4:4:4 Pure Color sub-sampling pass-through is featured as well. HEOS multi-room wireless music streaming tech is also integrated, and connectivity options include Bluetooth, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Apple AirPlay.  

Onkyo TX-NR575 7.2 Channel Receiver ($449) - Another feature-packed entry-level receiver, this 7.2 channel Onkyo model also offers support for up to a 5.2.2 Dolby Atmos or DTS:X system. The unit uses a 32-bit DSP chipset, high-quality AK4458 384 kHz/32-bit DAC, and proprietary VLSC filtering, along with Dynamic Audio Amplification and proprietary non-phase-shift amp circuitry. Likewise, the device includes AccuReflex technology for phase-matched sound with Dolby Atmos-enabled elevation speakers. Chromecast built-in, DTS Play-Fi, FireConnect, Spotify Connect, AirPlay, and Bluetooth connectivity are integrated as well. Finally, the unit supports HDMI pass-through of HDR10 and Dolby Vision, the BT.2020 4K Standard, and 4K/60 Hz video.

Marantz NR1608 7.2-channel Slim Design Receiver ($749) - With its special slim design this model will allow grads and dads to save some extra space in their entertainment units while still providing 7.2 channel support for up to a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos or DTS:X setup, along with 4K/60 Hz full-rate pass-through with 4:4:4 color resolution, HDR and BT.2020, plus Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG via future firmware update). Network streaming capabilities, Bluetooth playback, and Airplay connectivity are integrated as well. In addition, the device includes support for the HEOS wireless multiroom audio system. 

Roku Ultra ($110) - As the company's current flagship media player, the Roku Ultra offers support for 4K Ultra HD streaming and HDR10 with access to access to 450,000+ movies and TV episodes across 4,500+ paid or free channels. A Dolby Digital Plus decoder, USB input, Optical Digital Out, enhanced point anywhere remote with voice search, premium headphones for private listening, and gaming buttons are integrated as well. Full review here!


Okay, Mom might have to help out with this last section, where we've put together some truly premium gear selections free from any cost or space considerations -- including 65-inch displays and full 7.1.4 systems. And though these choices might seem a little pricey for a Father's Day or graduation gift, after years of schooling or parenting, that special dad or grad in your life deserves only the best... don't they?! 

65" LG SIGNATURE C7 OLED Ultra HD TV ($3,997) - Though it lacks some of the design flourishes and audio upgrades found on the company's more expensive models, this display just might be the best overall picture quality performer of 2017. The TV offers Dolby Vision and HDR10, brighter picture over 2016 models, industry-leading black levels, great viewing angles, and wide color gamut playback. A smaller 55-inch model ($2,797) is also available.

65" Sony XBR65A1E Bravia OLED Ultra HD TV ($5,498) - While LG's 2017 OLED displays can get a tad brighter, Sony's first big-screen OLED Ultra HD TV rivals and maybe even bests the competition in almost every way. Key features include HDR10 and Dolby Vision support (HLG via future firmware update), perfect black levels, wide color gamut playback with Triluminos tech, great viewing angles, and a unique Acoustic Surface sound system that produces audio directly from the screen itself. A smaller 55-inch model ($3,998) is also available.

65" Samsung QN65Q9 Ultra HD QLED TV ($5,998) - Samsung's flagship 2017 Ultra HD TV uses new metal quantum dot technology to deliver industry-leading color and brightness performance, offering support for a wide color gamut, 100 percent color volume, and a peak luminance between 1,500 and 2,000 nits. Likewise, the set includes HDR10 support and is among the first displays to include new HDR10+ support. Sadly, however, there are no plans for Dolby Vision and the panel's edge-lit backlight with local dimming does present some clouding and uniformity issues in dark rooms. 

7.1.4  SVS Prime System in Black Ash ($3,648) - Includes (2) SVS Prime Towers ($499 each), (1) SVS Prime Center ($350 each), (4) SVS Prime Bookshelf Speakers ($500/pair), (4) SVS Prime Elevation Speakers ($400/pair), and (1) SVS-SB-1000 12" Subwoofers ($500 each).

7.1.4 Klipsch Reference Premiere System ($5,221) - Includes (2) RP-280FA floorstanding speakers ($1598/pair), (1) RP-450CA Center Channel ($599), (2) RP-140SA Dolby Atmos speakers ($399/pair), (4) RP-260F floorstanding speakers ($499 each), and (1) R-112SW Subwoofers ($629 each). Or go in-ceiling with the Klipsch CDT-5800-C II ($399 each) switching to the RP-280F towers ($479 each).

Onkyo  TX-RZ3100 11.2 Channel Receiver ($2,276) - This 11.2 channel receiver supports up to a 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos or DTS:X speaker setup. Likewise, the unit uses AKM 384kHz/32-bit digital-to-analog conversion technology and VLSC noise-free processing on all channels. In addition, the device uses the Onkyo Hi-Current Digital Amplification system that pairs with AccuEQ and AccuReflex technologies. Google Cast, AirPlay, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity are included as well. HDCP 2.2 compatibility and BT.2020 color, High Dynamic Range, 4:4:4 color space, and 4K/60 Hz passthrough are also provided -- and the receiver is one of the first 11.2 channel models to confirm a Dolby Vision firmware update set for later this year.

LG UP970 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray Player ($267) - LG's first Ultra HD Blu-ray player is also set to be one of the first models to receive a Dolby Vision firmware update later this year. In addition, the device offers HDR10, 10-bit color, and Rec. ITU-R BT. 2020 color gamut support, along with Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity for 4K streaming.

NVIDIA SHIELD TV 500 GB ($300) - This premium streaming media player is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor; 256 core NVIDIA graphics 64-bit CPU; and 3 GB of RAM. The player is also Android TV Google Cast Ready and offers 4K Ultra HD playback at 60 fps. Likewise, the streaming box includes support for 10-bit color and HDR (high dynamic range) content. A cheaper 16GB model ($200) is also available.

So, there you have it, those are our top gear picks for that special grad or dad in your family. What do you think about the selection? Do you have suggestions of your own? Let us know your thoughts in the forum!

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