If you're a tech junkie who can't wait to get your hands on the hottest new hardware, you already know how important it is to have good service behind those devices. After all, what good is a smart TV with HD resolution if you only have an antenna that receives four channels?
Here are a few must-haves that will help you get the most out of your new gear – no matter what you're using it for.
The ultimate gaming experience
If you're a gamer, you had plenty to drool over at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Whether you're playing Xbox on an 85-inch TV or using a portable gaming table like the new Razer Edge, there's nothing that ruins an epic virtual battle quite like a slow Internet connection.
To avoid lag time during gaming, power your tablet or console with an Internet speed that can handle quick uploads and downloads. Some providers, like Comcast, offer Internet with speeds up to 105 Mbps, but that's probably too much – even for an avid gamer. Instead of going full-throttle, opt for an Internet connection with download speeds around 20 Mbps. This is sure to be enough for a multi-gamer household, and can easily handle everyone in the house being online at the same time.
Bundle your Internet with cable TV and, depending on the cable package and provider, spend anywhere from $69.99 to $119.99 per month. Be sure to find out how much you'll spend after the promotional period is up; this varies depending on provider, package and location.
Every movie buff knows that the latest in television and audio technology is a must-have for any home theater. Pair an enormous 3D TV with a top-of-the-line surround sound system, a comfy couch and some popcorn, and get ready for some serious in-home entertainment.
You'll need a few different things to get the most out of your 3D TV experience: a compatible television, an HD receiver and service from a provider that offers plenty of 3D channels. Currently, DirecTV offers the most options with three all-3D channels – n3D, 3net and ESPN3D. The provider also offers 3D movies on its DirecTV Cinema pay-per-view channel.
Other providers - like Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon - offer ESPN 3D and 3D movies. Like DirecTV, Comcast offers its own all-3D channel, Xfinity 3D. Dish Network also offers 3D options, with a wide variety of 3D movies available through Dish Cinema.
While many of these companies don't charge extra for 3D channels, customers may need to shell out extra cash for an upgraded 3D-compatible receiver or HDMI cable. Read the fine print, ask questions and always consider a bundle to save a few bucks on service.
The ultimate home office
Today's technology makes it easier than ever to enjoy the perks of a fully wired home office. And while it's not as exciting as playing video games on a high-tech console or watching 3D movies for hours on end, working from home is a lot more fun than braving a long commute. After all, who doesn't enjoy conference calls in their pajamas?
The lifeline of any home office is high-speed Internet, but a substantial data plan is equally important. Whether you're out of state or just working on-the-go, you'll need quick, reliable access to your smartphone and tablet. Now more than ever, providers are offering shareable data plans at affordable rates. To keep costs down, be sure to use WiFi at home and, when possible, while you're away. You won't whittle down your data limit, and you'll avoid overages that could cost big money in the long term.
Check with your provider to see how much data you need, and ask about bundling services to save money.
Powering all those tablets, smartphones, high-def TVs and gaming devices can get pretty pricey, but having the latest technology doesn't have to break the bank. Shop around for the best price on services, and set (and stick to) a budget for technology.
To really keep track of spending, use the same checking account or credit card to pay for devices and the services that power them. Audit the account every few months to make sure you're on-budget, and remember to contact your service providers as promotional deals run out. Re-bundle when you can, and if your provider won't work with you, find one that will.