The time of year HR managers dread is almost here: March Madness, when productivity dives, office-wide gambling is tolerated (and often encouraged) and lunch breaks become multi-hour affairs.
Even if you didn’t go to an NCAA school, it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the three-week tournament, which kicks off on Tuesday. But if you live and breathe for the brackets, it helps to be prepared to catch the action in the best way possible—whether you’re at home or pretending to work at your desk while secretly watching a mid-day game.
Here are a few must have items to make the drive to the Final Four even more fun.
4K/Ultra high-definition televisions are becoming the de facto choice for most people buying mid-range to high-end TVs these days. Samsung makes a great set, but Vizio’s new LED-backlit E-Series is a more affordable option. Starting at $490 for the 50-inch version and up to $4,000 for the 80-inch, the sets uses high dynamic range (HDR) video, resulting in a much clearer, colorful picture. Google’s Chromecast is also built in, letting owners easily stream video to the sets. Vizio’s TVs may not be as paper thin as those from other manufacturers or boast bleeding edge OLED technology, but you’ll save thousands of dollars as a result.
Yamaha YAS-106 Sound Bar ( BUY HERE )
As TVs have gotten thinner over the past decade, so has their sound quality. But a good sound bar will make you feel like you’re sitting courtside. The $200 YAS-106 is Yamaha’s budget sound bar, but it does a tremendous job with both television audio and (for that post-game party) music streamed from your phone. It offers a number of ports, meaning it’s easy to set up, regardless of your home entertainment center’s configuration. And it’s an unobtrusive bar that doesn’t take up too much space. The only downside? There’s no subwoofer, so bass sounds won’t have quite the same depth.
We can’t always avoid the office—even when there’s a must-watch game on. The NCAA is helpfully streaming all of the games this year, though. You can watch on any tablet or phone, of course, but the iPad Pro, which costs $599 to $1,129, is our pick. The 12.9-inch screen on the larger model gives you plenty of real estate to see game details—and the keyboard cover (sold separately) lets you quickly look like you’re working when you see the boss coming. (Just remember to use headphones!)
Danby 120 Can Beverage Center ( BUY HERE )
Odds are that you’ll enjoy a beer or two during at least one tournament game—and that number increases substantially if you’ve got friends over to watch with you. A home keg system (aka a kegerator) may be tempting, but they can quickly get expensive and are a hassle to keep clean. This $192 mini-fridge will keep 120 cans of whatever beverage you want cold. And, since it’s canned, you can offer more kinds of beverages instead of just the one or two available with a tap system.
Yeti Rambler Colster ( BUY HERE )
No matter how efficiently chilled that beer or soda is, it will start to warm after you pop it open at tip-off. Coozies will slow that somewhat, but if you want to keep your drink frosty cold, Yeti’s Colster is the way to go. At $30, it’s more expensive than the logo’s promotional item your car mechanic might hand you after an oil change, but it’s essentially a mini refrigerator without electricity that keeps drinks ice cold for several hours, even in direct sunlight.
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