Samsung HT-BD8200 soundbar speakers
The Samsung HT-BD8200 offers a 2.1 home theatre experience, bringing with it the benefits of a Blu-ray drive and the convenience of a wireless subwoofer. Soundbars offer a simple out-of-the-box home cinema solution with minimal setup and configuration required by the user.
The design of the BD8200 screams "mount me on the wall". The design is flatter than many soundbars, being only 47mm deep, with wall mounting brackets and a drilling template packaged in the box.
Should you choose not to hang the BD8200 on the wall, Samsung supplies a plastic stand which plugs in to the bottom of the soundbar. Unfortunately this stand is a little too lightweight for our liking, only slotting into the bottom with no way of securing it.
At 1000mm wide and 195mm high, the BD8200 is still fairly dominating when set on your wall and the same can be said of the accompanying subwoofer. Measuring 256 x 365 x 289mm it's a large lump. It is practically featureless in its design, save for a blue LED that indicates a connection to the main unit. It pairs automatically, so all you have to do is plug it in and away you go.
On the rear of the soundbar you'll find the connections, including FM, optical audio, Ethernet, USB, HDMI, and video out. A panel offers additional connectivity on the left-hand end with USB, 3.5mm input and output and finally an iPod connection that works with a bundled dock (sadly missing from our review sample).
Inputs are limited here, so this isn't a stand-in for an AV receiver, and doesn’t have the versatility of something like the LG HB354, which will let you hook-up other devices to take advantage of the speakers.
If you happen to have a Samsung TV, then the BD8200 will happily talk to it through Anynet+ as well as letting you use the supplied remote to control your TV. The remote is fairly large and is dominated with buttons aimed at TV control rather than the BD8200 itself. Seeking out the buttons you want does take a few seconds, but once you are familiar with it, it doesn't present a challenge.
With such a slim profile, the BD8200 has a rather tasty loading mechanism which comes out the front of the soundbar offering you a chromed slot into which to insert your disc from the top. It's impressive, but if you are going to be regularly switching out CDs, you might find it a little too showy and a little too slow.
The centrepiece of the system is naturally the Blu-ray player, which delivers great performance for high definition Blu-ray movies with that 24fps mode for those what want the authentic cinema experience. Blu-ray Discs can be a little slow to load, but playback is glorious with nasties like judder kept to a minimum. DVD upscaling is good, not the sharpest out there, but you'll have no cause to complain about the quality.
The audio performance from the BD8200 is great, bringing detail and depth to your TV, but really enlivens your movies. The soundbar offers three levels of audio processing: Smart Sound, Audio Upscaling, and Power Bass, all of which inflate the levels somewhat and might not be to your taste.
If you do choose to use them, Smart Sound seemed the best suited to movie playback, giving the best balance for movie soundtracks. Audio Upscaling gets to best results from music, claiming to enhance MP3s and we found it the best setting for music overall. The final setting, Power Bass, didn't seem suited to anything we wanted to do.
When we reviewed the Samsung HT-X810, we found that the bass was too heavy with inadequate control to reign it in. The levels in the BD2000 are much more agreeable, but still sit on the high side. You do get some control over the subwoofer level, however it's only a minor tweak. For movie watching we found the bass was good, but when playing music, it did at times mar the overall clarity of the music, and can come across as rather brutal.
Discs aren't the only source of content you can play, as you'll also be able to plug in a USB drive and access video files on it. It's a feature that more players are now offering, but is often disappointing. We were happy to find that the BD8200 played DivX and DivX HD, as well as a stack of MPEG4 videos we tested it with, including some 720p camcorder footage. It will also happily playback your MP3 music or photos off a USB stick too.
The Ethernet port means you can connect the BD8200 to your home network to take advantage of BD-Live features (which will also require you to insert a USB drive for the content to be stored on), as well as a modicum of home networking. There is the option for a wireless connection with the appropriate adapter (£50).
We didn't find networking to be the most solid, sometimes returning errors for no apparent reason. You can also hook-up to a sharing PC and the BD8200 found our Cisco Media Hub, but couldn't find any content on it. Nor did it find a number of sharing PCs we had setup.
Added to the BD8200 since launch is YouTube access. You can simply head online and browse comedy clips, although searching can be a little tedious using the multipress numberpad on the remote. It won't redefine your viewing, but it is a bit of fun when there is nothing on TV.
The Samsung HT-BD8200 is a great single-box solution for those who want to boost their audio performance and get a Blu-ray player in the mix. The additional USB connectivity is nice, so long as your preferred formats are supported, but the networked side of things doesn’t offer too much to get excited about at this time. It won't provide connections for your other devices so if you have a console (or two) as well, then this isn't the final solution.
What the BD8200 excels at is its core functions - high-definition content looks and sounds fantastic and if you are after a standalone player that looks sensational, we'd recommend it.