Look up the word generous in the dictionary and you’ll find a little picture of Samsung’s latest Blu-ray home cinema system, the HT-C6500. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s one of the most feature-packed one-box systems we’ve ever come across, with a spec sheet that reads like an A to Z of the latest home cinema tricks and gimmicks.
But let’s start with the basics. In the box you get a main control unit, which combines a Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player with a 1000W receiver, and a set of 5.1 satellite speakers - basically, everything you need to enjoy high-def home cinema (apart from an HD TV of course).
Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll discover that Blu-ray is just one of many formats this system can play. As well as DVDs and CDs, it supports a long list of digital media codecs and containers, such as DivX HD, MKV, AVI, MPEG4, WMV, MP3, WMA, JPEG and AVCHD.
What’s more, these files can be played back in a number of ways: from discs, from USB devices (using the front-mounted port) or - and here’s the clever bit - from PCs and NAS drives on your home network using the All Share feature. The system comes with built-in Wi-Fi, and its support for the 802.11n standard means your content can be beamed faster and more reliably than other wireless standards. Built-in Wi-Fi also makes it a lot less hassle to download BD Live content.
Hooked up to the Web, you can surf Samsung’s Internet@TV service, which brings a bunch of web applications to your TV. Fans of skateboarding ducks and ranting Americans can get their fix on YouTube and then stalk ex-girlfriends on Facebook or Twitter. Other apps like games, TV listings and Google Picasa all provide an entertaining, if transient diversion when you’ve run out of Blu-rays to watch, while forthcoming apps like BBC iPlayer and LOVEFiLM will turn this into a must-have feature.
The list goes on and on - Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio decoding, 1080/24p output plus a plethora of oddly-named sound effects and DSP modes, including the Smart Sound volume leveller and MP3 Enhancer. There’s also a decent array of sockets - highlights include two HDMI inputs for switching between other high-def kit and an optical digital audio input. Samsung even throws an iPod/iPhone dock in the box, and if you’re feeling flush you can pick up an £80 SWA-5000 wireless kit for the rear speakers, which includes a receiver and a transmitter card that plugs into the back of the main unit. It won’t eliminate wires altogether, as you still have to connect the rear speakers to the receiver, but at least they’ll be easier to conceal at the back of the room.
Aesthetically, the HT-C6500 is quintessentially Samsung, with every component covered in gorgeous gloss black from top to bottom. There are also some neat features on the main unit like touch-sensitive controls and an illuminated window above the disc tray that shows the disc spinning.
The 33cm-high front speakers and dinky rears are equally stylish. Although they boast better build quality than typical one-box fare, there’s still a slight flimsiness about them. The passive sub feels like it might float away at any moment and sports a weird corrugated side panel, but somehow it’s still effortlessly chic.
Installing the system is a piece of cake thanks to the colour-coded speaker cables and Musical Auto Calibration (MAC), which sets all the channel levels and speaker distances for you using the supplied microphone and built-in test music. The onscreen menus are some of the best we’ve seen, simplifying even potentially tricky procedures like wireless setup, and in action, the system loads Blu-ray discs with astonishing speed (under 30 seconds in some cases).
We’re also big fans of the HT-C6500’s Blu-ray picture quality, particularly with Avatar in the tray. The reproduction of detail is meticulous, clinical even, revealing Pandora in all its intricate, imaginative splendour. It also scores highly on colour vibrancy, contrast, edge definition and motion tracking.
These terrific pictures are backed up by solid sound quality. HD audio tracks are dynamic and expansive, plus each of the speakers digs out a respectable amount of sonic detail. Speech from the centre is forthright, easily cutting through busy action scenes, and it’s underpinned by chunky bass from the sub - although it’s a bit boomy and poorly integrated to truly convince.
On the whole, the system falls some way short of the insight, integration and flat out punch of a decent separates system, but by one-box standards it’s a good effort.
With bucketloads of cutting-edge features, impressive Blu-ray performance and a typically stylish Samsung design, the HT-C6500 is a great value system that brings you high-def home cinema without the hassle.