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How To Turn Your Android Smartphone Into A Home Entertainment Center

In the not-so-distant past, if you wanted to set up a complete home entertainment center so your TV and stereo could access vast video and music libraries you would have to add thousands of dollars in hardware peripherals and purchase albums, movies, and other media individually (think stacks upon stacks of CDs and DVDs). Now, all you need is an Android smartphone and perhaps one of several affordable media players. The following lists different methods for using your Android smartphone to stream videos and music to your TV and stereo.

Option 1: Direct Connect

The simplest way to stream videos and songs to your TV and stereo, respectively, is via direct connection. Many companies offer micro-USB to HDMI cables that allow you to connect your Android smartphone directly to your television. For stereo equipment, a 3.5mm-to-male stereo audio cable lets you tie your headphone jack to your receiver.

The direct connect method is simple, but it has one major flaw: your Android smartphone is tethered to your TV or stereo, so you can't use it to control what you're watching or listening to (let alone take phone calls).


Option 2: Wireless Connect

The more attractive option is to stream video and audio wirelessly to your TV and stereo. To accomplish this, you need a DLNA-enabled device on the receiving end. Most new HD TVs are DLNA-ready; if your TV isn't, you can still connect with a DLNA-enabled media player.

There are media players created specifically for this purpose, such as the WD TV Live, but many modern Blu Ray players, some game consoles, and stand-alone hardware such as Chromecast allow DLNA streaming. You'll need a WiFi connection for your devices to communicate with one another, and of course if your TV isn't DLNA-enabled you'll need to connect it to a device that is, which makes the wireless connect method slightly more involved than direct connect but way more convenient since you can keep your phone with you while you stream.

For wireless audio, you'll need either a receiver that connects to your WiFi network or you'll need to connect your selected DLNA-enabled TV, media player, or Blu Ray player to your stereo. You can also purchase wireless and Bluetooth stereo receivers designed exclusively for stereo systems at relatively low prices.

If your television and/or stereo is not DLNA-ready, you can consider some of the following hardware options for audio and video streaming from your Android smartphone:

Video

OmniBox
Roku (with PLEX app)
Chromecast

Audio

BlueGATE
SONOS

Note that the products listed here are simply representative of the different technologies and devices available; many other products are capable of producing similar results and it's up to you to determine which is the best for your home entertainment system. Moreover, some require additional apps or “channels” in order to stream from your Android smartphone, most notably the Roku.

Android smartphone video and audio streaming apps

Once you have the necessary hardware in place to stream your favorite movies and songs from your Android smartphone directly to your TV and stereo, it's worth noting that many apps can improve the user experience by helping you connect to your WiFi DLNA network, providing remote control options, and also by allowing you to access digital libraries that eliminate the need for you to store movies and songs on your own devices. The following lists some of the top Android smartphone video and audio streaming apps (keep in mind some services are free, while others are not).

TV and movies

Amazon Instant Video
Netflix
Hulu Plus

Songs

Google Play Music
Pandora
Spotify

File streaming and DLNA (videos and songs already on your Android smartphone)

AllCast
Bubble PUnP
MediaHouse PUnP

All you need to turn your Android smarthphone into a home entertainment system is a WiFi connection and a DLNA-ready TV (or other device), a DLNA-ready or Bluetooth wireless stereo receiver, and whichever media streaming apps you prefer. A far cry from the days of stacked physical media, your Android smartphone lets you tap into a massive digital library filled with nearly every movie filmed and song ever recorded, plus your personal library of home movies shot with your smartphone. Best of all, you don't need to drop thousands of dollars to launch an amazing home entertainment center; with some options, you can start streaming for as little as $30 – TV and Android smartphone notwithstanding.




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