Which home theater approach is better: components or all-in-one systems?

Tips for Making a Choice Between an All-in-one and Component System

Consider the following factors when choosing between getting an all-in-one system and separate home theater components:

Budget: This one's a biggie, because you can only get a system that's as big and elaborate as your bank account or credit-card limit can handle. If you're of limited means or the frugal sort, an all-in-one system can be had for as little as $200, though one that contains an integrated Blu-ray player probably will cost $400 or more [source: Consumer Reports]. And like we said before, if you opt to go with components, count on spending at least $1,000 for basic stuff, and $3,000-plus for the more intricate stuff [source: Dolby.com]. The sky's pretty much the limit.

Your space: If you live in a cramped college dorm room, a component array with seven speakers isn't going to sound appreciably better than a simple all-in-one system. But if you're planning to watch movies with your buds in that sprawling man-cave in your basement, you probably need a component system to get the most out of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" [source: Dolby.com].

Tolerance for technical complexity: If you're a circuit-head who obsessively tweaks settings and enjoys playing with complicated features, components are the way to go. But if you like to just take something out of the box, plug it in, and then throw away the instruction manual, an all-in-one system should be your choice.