Samsung HT-C6200 2.1 Blu-ray home cinema system

With Blu-ray now firmly ensconced in the home entertainment landscape, it’s about time it was included in all-in-one home cinema systems - and this sub-£400 package from Samsung is one of the best value.

It’s hardly cable-free, but if you can stomach three speaker cables winding their way from the back of a Blu-ray player to two speakers and a subwoofer this is a good value solution that instantly upgrades your set-up in three ways; Blu-ray, Wi-Fi internet content and, of course, decent sound - are all offered by the HT-C6200.

There is always a choice to be made when choosing a home cinema system, and the flipside of this relatively cable-light system is that the HT-C6200 doesn’t actually offer surround sound. So it’s not actually a home cinema system, though it does boost the sound from any flatscreen TV.

Selling online from the usual big retailers (and for as little as £340), the core of the HT-C6200 is its Blu-ray player. It’s unusually well specified, hosting Samsung’s online content platform - Internet@TV - that gives you access to a plethora of online widgets comprising YouTube, Lovefilm movie streaming (subscription only), Twitter, Picasa, Facebook, Google Maps, USA Today, Rovi TV listings and Getty Images. It’s still lacking BBC iPlayer despite Samsung promising it in the recent past, but Internet@TV does appear to be set for bigger things, so it might be worth investing in. For now, at least all of this can be done over Wi-Fi so there’s no need to trail an Ethernet cable all the way to a router.

The Blu-ray core also holds a USB slot that sports decent file compatibility; we managed to play DivX, DivX HD, MPEG2, MP4 and AVC HD files, though the machine can only cope with the sound from a WMV file and, conversely, just the video from a WMV HD file. BD Live downloads, meanwhile, can be stored directly on the unit’s own 1GB memory. Over Samsung’s All Share wireless DLNA streaming feature we managed to fetch only DivX and AVC HD files from a Mac computer - DivX HD files weren’t even picked-up over the network. We also noticed that, if watched over DLNA, video files cannot be scanned-through. JPEG photos and MP3 and WMA music files can be played from a USB stick or streamed from a computer.

On the rear of the slim, gloss black Blu-ray player is a host of ins and outs that include HDMI switching (two in, and one out), Component video and Composite video, both optical and analogue audio, and a slot for attaching an add-on (Samsung) iPod dock. Along the front is a flap hiding a USB slot.

Picture quality from a Blu-ray disc is exquisitely detailed, smooth and judder-free, while DivX HD files aren’t half bad either, though they are blighted only by the usual judder from fast-moving shots. The same goes for DVDs, which are upscaled well.

The main reason to choose the HT-C6200 over a £100 Blu-ray player is, of course, for cinema sound. Although the machine can decode the Blu-ray HD audio formats - Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio - you’d best forget 5.1 sound effects. The system’s two speakers can deliver stereo only - its quasi-surround mode is less than successful. Instead a DPS button on the remote supplies modes for Smart Sound (detailed and reasonably cohesive, though bass can seem separate), Power Bass (initially frighteningly boomy - especially with action movies) - and a superb MP3 Enhancer that audibly lifts lo-res music.

Verdict

Loaded with extra - and generally effective - features, there’s no getting away from the fact that the HT-C6200 isn’t a "proper" home cinema system. Although it struggles to produce the kind of exacting audio promised on Blu-ray discs, at this price that’s no surprise.

The HT-C6200 remains a great value way to immeasurably improve on your flat TV’s weedy speakers and simultaneously instantly upgrade your home ents system, though a "soundbar & sub" set-up could be a much cleaner solution.