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With so many all-in-one home cinema systems passing through our doors, it’s always refreshing when one comes along that offers something a little bit different. The HB45E is one such system. It’s a 2.1-channel affair with a couple of lovely design quirks and as many cutting-edge features as you can squeeze into a £250 system.
The HB45E is devilishly good-looking, with a Blu-ray/receiver unit unlike any other. It’s a compact vertical box, looking more like an Xbox or Wii than a Blu-ray player, and it’s styled in a deep gloss-black finish. On the front are a disc slot and a small display panel that shows the running time during playback and other selected messages. Prise open the flap at the bottom and you’ll uncover a USB port and minijack audio input for MP3 players. On top of the unit meanwhile is a cluster of buttons for up-close control, nicely accentuated by a silver ring. But here’s the clever part – if you can’t accommodate the unit vertically it can be turned on its side, and when you do the display also flips 90 degrees so you can read it properly.
As for sockets, the lack of HDMI inputs on the back is disappointing but the rest of the line-up is solid enough. Two optical digital audio inputs allow you to pipe your Sky box and games console to the HB45E for instance, and they’re backed up by a single analogue stereo input. You’ll also find a composite video output, FM antenna terminal, Ethernet port, connector for the supplied iPod cradle and an HDMI output. The panel of springclip speaker terminals makes it quite fiddly to connect the cables – give us plugs or binding posts any day of the week.
The front speakers also boast a touch of innovation. They’re separated into two sections, with the top half containing one of the woofers able to be twisted so that the sound is projected directly towards you. Aside from that, they’re styled in the same gloss-black finish and the silver band that separates the two sections is classy. It’s worth noting that they’re not particularly discreet – each one stands 484mm tall and has quite a chunky shape.
The same can be said for the bulky passive sub, although its fetching gloss-black styling with silver trim at least makes it pleasant to look at. It’s a shame it isn’t wireless though, which means placement is limited to the length of the cable.