You'd have to be pretty hardcore about networking to drop a $2,500 tax refund completely on your home network, but you can do it if you really try. Here's how you can put together a great networking setup with a supersized budget.
You obviously have to start with a good router, and with this budget, you don't have to go bargain hunting for the lowest priced 802.11n out there. Instead, you can splurge on something like the Linksys WRT610N Simultaneous Dual-N Band Wireless Router, which can work over 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies at the same time. It's perfect if you have legacy 2.4GHz devices, while the 5GHz performance is impressive. You even get a USB port so you can attach an external hard drive and have instant network attached storage. You'll also want to grab a Linksys Wireless-N USB Network Adapter with Dual-Band for another computer on the network.
Network Attached Storage
There seems to be a new NAS device released every day, including new Buffalo TeraStations. And with a load of money to burn, I can grab the new four-bay TeraStation III. It's pricey at $1,299.99 for 2TB, but you get RAID Level 0, 1, and 5 support, hot-swappable drives, support for Mac OS X’s Time Machine feature, a pair of USB ports with printer server capabilities, and DLNA media server capabilities. It also has power-saving features like a scheduler that can automatically shut down the device during off hours.
Internet Radio Device
I've been a big fan of the Logitech Squeezebox Boom since I had a chance to check it out last fall. Considering its compact size, it delivers high-quality audio, whether from Internet radio stations, online music services like Pandora and Rhapsody, or music files from your networked PC. It's pricier than some new Internet radios that have come out since, but it offers more features and better audio, making it worth the extra cost.
Streaming Media Player
While the Boom is great to place anywhere in the house, for bringing media files to our TV, I'm giving the nod to the Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD over Apple TV. That's because it support more file types, even DRM-protected iTunes songs, which gives you more flexibility than Apple's device offers. Considering the limited number of HD videos iTunes has available, the EVA8000's untethered file support means you have a much wider range of high-definition content to stream from your PC. It also comes with a pair of USB ports that let you attach iPods or external drives for file playing that's not reliant on your network.
Here's a bit of a curveball for my final product selection. Canadian company Ecobee has developed its Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat, which can be controlled remotely via Web browser and is able to download weather reports so you can program your home's temperature accordingly. The 3.5-inch color touchscreen makes it easier to program than the minuscule screen and buttons most other new thermostats have. For a little less than $400, it can earn back its price in energy savings probably in a matter of months.