Cheatsheet: The Top Rated Home Theater Equipment Of 2011

Sometimes you just need the facts — here is our cheatsheet listing all the top rated home theater equipment of 2011. This list is based on reviews we found on CNET, Amazon and Home Theater Review:

A/V Receivers

Home Theatre Systems and Speakers

Blu-Ray & DVD Players

Televisions / Monitors

The Best LED Flashlights Of 2014

The Best LED Flashlights Of 2014

Update: We have a new version of this article: The Brightest LED Flashlights For 2015

Most enthusiasts and reviewers agree that Fenix flashlights have the best build-quality and reliability for their price. Streamlight, one of the few brands of flashlights made in the U.S.A, is highly rated by reviewers on Amazon. Other top rated brands are: Cree, Dorcy and Surefire.

Fenix TK-41: 860 Lumens

The Fenix TK-41 U2, which shines at 860 lumens, is the brightest flashlight that runs on AA batteries. It uses eight AA batteries, and these can be rechargeable NiMH or alkaline AAs. The TK41 produces four brightness levels, the lowest (10 lumens) allows the flashlight to run for up to 240 hours.

The Fenix TK-41 U2, is available from Amazon for about $111.

Streamlight 74301 Strion Flashlight

Rated: 4.8 of 5 stars from 72+ Amazon reviewers

This 74301 Strion by Streamlight shines at 160 lumens. It is currently on sale for $94 (was $181)  at Amazon.

 

Fenix E21 Flashlight

Rated: 4.7 of 5 stars from 128+ Amazon reviewers

With a output of 160 lumens on its high setting, the Fenix E21 Flashlight, is perhaps the brightest and best quality flashlight under $50. It’s on sale for $32.45 (was $48) at Amazon.

 

Other top-rated LED flashlights: Coaster LED Lenser,  CREE X-Tactical ATE0C2L007 and the SureFire E2D LED Defender. We also like this mini LED flashlight:

The Fenix LD01 Keyring Flashlight

The Fenix LD01 is barely larger than the AAA battery it uses (we recommend using a low-discharge rechargeable NiHm AAA battery). The flashlight illuminates with 80 lumens on its highest setting, which is brighter than most full-size flashlights.

The Fenix LD01 is solidly built — it uses a Cree Q5 LED as its light source, and the lens is made of toughened, anti-reflective glass. It weighs 1.6 ounces, and it is “IPX-8 water proof”, meaning it is suitable for continuous submersion. The flashlight is also RoHS compliant — it does not contain non-toxic heavy metals or flame retardants.

You can the Fenix LD01 from Amazon for about $40.

Buy It For Life: Keychain and Pocket Tools

In our “Buy It For Life” posts we feature products that are built to last a lifetime. We also give preference to products that are very durable, are warrantied for life, and are made in the U.S.

The Fenix LD01 is barely large than the AAA battery it uses (we recommend using a low-discharge rechargeable NiHm AAA battery). It is very bright — it produces 80 lumens on its highest setting, which is brighter than most full-size flashlights.

The Fenix LD01 is solidly built — it uses a Cree Q5 LED as its light source, and the lens is made of toughened, anti-reflective glass. It weighs 1.6 ounces, and it is “IPX-8 water proof”, meaning it is suitable for continuous submersion. The flashlight is also RoHS compliant — it does not contain non-toxic heavy metals or flame retardants.

You can the Fenix LD01 from Amazon for about $40.

 

Schrade Titanium Keychain Pry Tool

Weight: 0.5 ounces (14 grams)
Titanium Type: 6AL-4V Titanium Alloy

This Titanium Key Chain Pry Tool by Schrade is made with solid 6AL-4V titanium — an alloy that is stronger than pure titanium (the exact chemical composition is: 6% aluminium, 4% vanadium, 0.25% iron, 0.2% oxygen, and the remainder titanium).

This is 6-in-One tool, it’s: a seal belt cutter, a bottle opener, a flat head screw driver, a wrench driver, a scraper, and a pry tool. It weighs just 0.5 ounces, and it’s 3.25″ long (8.2 cm).

 The Titanium Key Chain Pry Tool is available on Amazon for about $20.

 

Titanium Inka Pen

Weight: 0.45 ounces (12.7 grams)
Titanium Type: Solid Titanium

The Titanium Inka Pen is designed to be attached to a keychain. Weighing just 0.45 ounces, the pen’s case is constructed with titanium, the and pen components are built from carbon fiber composite. It has a pressurized ink cartridge, which means the pen will write wet or dry at any angle, any temperature, and any altitude. If you’re going to be writing for some time, you can unscrew the stainless steel fob and reconfigure your pen into Full-Size mode.

The pen is made by Inka, a company based in Colorado, and created by Greg Adelman, a former marine engineer who worked for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Refills for this pen are available for about $4.

The Titanium Inka Pen is available from Amazon for about $32. You can get a stainless steel version for about $20.

 

Titanium Split Pea Lighter

Weight: 0.5 ounces (14.3 Grams)
Titanium Type: 6AL4V Series Titanium Grade 5 Alloy

The Titanium Split Pea Lighter can be used as an candle in an emergency and carried on your keychain. A removable lighter insert allows it to be used as a waterproof titanium pill vial. It sells for $30 from County Comm.

Leatherman Charge TTi Titanium Multi-Tool

Weight: 8.2 ounces (232 grams)
Titanium Type: Alloyed Titanium Handles, S30V Stainless Steel Blades

The Charge TTi Titanium Multi-Tool by Leatherman is one of the few multi-tools that incorporates titanium into its construction. This tool has titanium handles and a titanium outer coating for extra strength, and a little bit less weight.

You can get the Charge TTi Titanium Multi-Tool on Amazon for about $100.

 

Leatherman Micra Tool

Leatherman Micra is a keychain-sized multi-tool that contains a total of ten tools, including a pair of scissors. The Micra weighs 1.6 ounces, and it’s 2.5 inches long when closed. Leatherman tools are guaranteed for 25 years (10 years for their lights). Specifically, the company says “we will gladly repair or replace it, at our discretion, with one of equal or greater value”. Over 120 buyers on Amazon, rated it an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. The Leatherman Micra is available on Amazon for around $20.

Another good keychain-sized multi-tool is the Gerber Shortcut Mini-Scissor Tool.

 

Arc-AAA LED Flashlight

Designed for keychains, Arc-AAA flashlights are barely larger than the AAA batteries they contain. The exact dimension are: 2.5 inches in length, 0.5 inches in diameter, and 0.75 ounces in weight. The Arc-AAA is made in Phoenix, Arizona by Arc Flashlights. The company only makes keychain-sized flashlights, and put a lot of attention into the design of their lights (see the FAQ page of all the technical details).

Arc AAA LED Flashlight

The Arc-AAA is warrantied for life against manufacturing defects. It features a Nichia white LED light, and is waterproof to 100 feet. I’ve used this flashlight for about five years, and I’ve never had any issues with it. It has fewer scratches on it than my other keychain lights, perhaps due to its “Type III Hard Anodized 6061 Aluminum” casing.

The price is $29.95 for the standard model, and $44.95 for the premium model Arc AAA. It’s available directly from the manufacturer Arc Flashlights. There’s also three titanium models available that range in price from $125 to $140.

We like this flashlight because it’s made in the U.S. with a lot of attention to design detail. It’s also slightly smaller than the Fenix LD01 (below). However, the Fenix LD01 (see above) is much brighter than the Arc AAA, producing 80 lumens, which is quite bright for a keychain-sized flashlight. 

The Brightest LED Bike Lights

NiteRider-Lumina-650-Mounted-three-quater-view1

In A Nutshell

We list the some of the brightest LED Bike lights available below. However, the Niterider company has come out with the NiteRider Pro — this bike light shines with an amazing 3600 lumens! This makes it the brightest bike light available.

Personally, my favorite bike light is the Niterider Lumina. It’s as solid as a rock and shines with 700 lumens, and is priced below $100 on Amazon.

Brightest Headlight – Lupine Betty 12

The Lupine Betty 12 produces up to 2,600 lumens from a seven-lens LED array that can be mounted on a bike or on a helmet. The Betty 12 is available in three beam angles: the 16° version that produces 2,050 lumens for maximum range, the 22° version that projects 2,300 lumens with a balance of range and peripheral illumination, and the 26° version, which emphasizes side illumination and outputs 2,600 lumens. All versions weigh about 19 ounces (with battery), have aluminum bodies, and are waterproof.

This headlight has high- and low-beam modes. High-beam mode will automatically dim if the airflow around the lamp isn’t sufficient for cooling. The Betty 12 comes with handlebar and helmet mounts for the LED engine and a Velcro strap to mount the battery. The battery has audible and visual indications of remaining life, plus its five red indicator LEDs can be programmed to stay on continuously to act as a taillight. Due to the low beam’s adjustable output, maximum operating time varies. At full power, the Betty 12 will run for about 3.5 hours; when the Betty 12 is running at its lowest output (250 lumens), operating time is approximately 84 hours. This headlight also ships with charger and carrying case.

The Lupine Betty 12 retails for around $1,200 and can be purchased through the manufacturer’s website. Also available for slightly less money is the Betty 6, which comes with a half-size battery.

The NiteRider Pro 3000 LED is available for $599 on Amazon.

Brightest Headlamp – NiteRider Pro 3000 Lumen

Niterider Pro 3000 LED

The NiteRider Pro 3000 LED is another great option for a super-bright lamp that mounts on a helmet. This light pours out 3,000 lumens from its six LEDs—three spot and three flood. Like the Betty 12, the Pro 3000 LED ships with a rechargeable battery, mounts for helmet and handlebar, and programmable output modes. At nearly 29 ounces, the Pro 3000 LED light and battery system weighs noticeably more than the Betty 12, and its 1½-hour run time at maximum output is two hours less than the Betty 12’s. The Pro 3000 LED will run up to 36 hours on its lowest output setting. Unique to NiteRider bike lights is the D.I.Y. software, which allows you to create your own run times, light outputs, and flash modes. Use the included docking station to interface with the headlamp via your PC and save four custom light profiles. This unit’s 8-cell battery has an onboard charge indicator.

Brightest Taillight – DiNotte 400R

 The two red LEDs of the DiNotte 400R taillight output 240 lumens. Customers unfailingly comment on the extraordinary brightness of this taillight, with some expressing concern that it may be too bright for use in traffic at night. The 400R can be mounted on a post or flat surface. It ships with a 4-cell rechargeable Li-ion battery pack (with charge indicator), charger, extension cable, battery straps, and mounting hardware. It has three flash modes—slow, steady with strobe, strobe and pause—and three steady modes—low (10% power), medium (50% power), high (100% power). With a full charge, operating time is anywhere from 5 to 48 hours. A low-battery indication occurs with 20% life remaining. Its battery weighs 7.8 ounces and the light engine weighs 4.2 ounces.

You can purchase the DiNotte 400R with 4-cell battery for $259 from the manufacturer. This light is also available for $229 with a 2-cell battery, which cuts operating times approximately in half.

The Top Rated LED & LCD TVs For 2012

We’ve consulted expert reviews on CNET, PC Magazine, Consumer Reports and PC Magazine to compile this list of the top rated LCD and LED TVs.

Note that we feature 55-inch TVs, but you’ll find additional sizes within each television’s series. You can expect virtually identical performance within any series of a given manufacturer.

The top rated inexpensive TVs for 2012 are: Samsung LN32D550 32-Inch ($475) and the LG 42LV3500 42-Inch ($530).

Samsung UN55D8000 ($2,179)

Samsung UN55D8000

Samsung UN55D8000

Top Review Sources:

  • CNET: 4.0/5.0 “The design is a spectacular success”
  • 3D TV Buying Guide: 9.2/10.0 “The dual sided remote control is one of the standout features”
  • SlashGear: “If your wallet can accommodate it, the Samsung UN55D8000 is unlikely to disappoint”

The Samsung UN55D8000 LED TV looks stunning even when it’s turned off. This television has an super-thin frame that is hardly noticeable when the screen is off and virtually disappears when the display is on. Picture quality is excellent, with great depth, sharp lines, and rich color. As with all LED TVs, there are some issues with color and black-level uniformity, however, the UN55D8000 is not one of the bigger offenders in this regard. Standard definition sources are well-represented, and its 3D capability is superior to most in its class. The backlight is capable of very high brightness levels. The UN55D8000 has myriad picture adjustments.

The included remote has a backlit, traditional layout on one side, and a QWERTY keyboard on the flip side. The keyboard side has a small screen for keeping track of typing without having to glance at the TV. It also features navigation controls for web browsing. The onscreen interface is best-in-class, with easy-to-read text and plenty of contextual explanations. Wi-Fi is built in to the UN55D8000 and there are many streaming services and applications available (Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and Twitter to name some). Inputs are 4 HDMI, 3 USB, 1 Composite, 1 Component, 1 VGA, and 1 Ethernet.

Purchase the 55-inch UN55D8000 on Amazon. This television is also available in 46-inch, 60-inch, and 65-inch versions. Note that the 65-inch version does not have the super-thin bezel.

 

Vizio XVT553SV ($1,400)

Vizio XVT553SV

Vizio XVT553SV

Top Review Sources:

  • PC Magazine: 4.0/5.0 “Top-notch HDTV tech, wireless and wired connectivity, loads of Web apps, and very good HD picture quality”
  • Consumer Reports: 74/100 “It did an excellent job displaying the finest detail in high-definition content”
  • CNET: 4.0/5.0 “The remote and menus of the XVT3SV series were among the best we’ve used, and surpass in many ways the efforts of more well-known brands”

The Vizio XVT553SV is an LCD TV with full-array LED backlighting and local dimming. While there are some issues with off-angle viewing and blooming—when lit panels leak light into unlit panels—overall the XVT553SV delivers black levels and color accuracy to rival much more expensive televisions. The XVT553SV really does well in brightly-lit environments, where its combination of strong backlighting and matte screen deliver a picture that isn’t washed out. There are a slightly above-average number of picture adjustment settings. 3D is not available, but the XVT553SV’s standard definition performance is very good.

Inputs include 5 HDMI, 1 Composite, 1 Component, 1 VGA, 1 RF, 3 USB, and 1 Ethernet—a generous selection. The bundled remote control is a highlight; it has a full slide-out keyboard, Bluetooth connectivity, and it does a good job playing the role of universal controller for all your devices. Wi-Fi is built-in to the XVT553SV. It is able to connect to services such as Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, Hulu Plus, and Pandora.

You’ll find the 55-inch Vizio XVT553SV for sale on Amazon. This television is also available in 47-inch, 37-inch, and 32-inch versions.

 

LG Infinia 55LW5600 ($1,450)

LG Infinia 55LW5600

LG Infinia 55LW5600

Top Review Sources:

  • PC Magazine: 4.5/5.0 “Inky blacks, excellent color quality, low power usage, and a robust feature set all help to make the 47LW5600 our latest Editors’ Choice 3D TV”
  • PC World: 4.0/5.0 “You’ll find very little to quibble about with this handsome 1080p HDTV”
  • TelevisonInfo.com: “A solid LCD TV that has excellent color and internet performance”

The LG Infinia 55LW5600 is a matte-screen LED TV with 3D capability. Its housing is a reserved, glossy black. Picture quality is terrific, with deep blacks and rich colors. There is some blooming caused by local dimming. The matte finish screen greatly reduces glare (compared to glossy screens); as a result, the 55LW5600 does very well in bright rooms. The 55LW5600 employs passive 3D technology. Passive 3D glasses do not need a power source to work; active 3D glasses do. Passive 3D glasses weigh less, cost less, and tend to produce less eye fatigue. Passive 3D also displays images at half the resolution of active 3D, so there is often a noticeable drop in 3D picture quality. Standard definition programs are well-represented. Connectivity options are HDMI (4), Composite (2), Component (1), USB (2), VGA (1), and Ethernet (1). A Wi-Fi dongle is included.

Reviewers really like the control systems of the 55LW5600. The on-screen menus are fast and logical, plus there are a plethora of picture adjustments. The internet and multimedia experiences are good, with a solid selection of apps and a decent web browser. The system is bundled with two remotes: one standard and one motion control. The motion controller responds to input aimed at the screen and is useful for most performing most functions, including web navigation.

The 55-inch LG Infinia 55LW5600 is for sale on Amazon. It’s also available in a 47-inch size.