The SC-BT230 is a scaled down version of the SC-BT330 system we reviewed back in May, and like its bigger brother the BT230 provides an ideal entree into the world of hi-def home cinema without the fuss and expense of separates. It’s also packed with little added extras that make it more of an all-round entertainment centre than a straight up Blu-ray system.
The word that best sums up this particular system is 'compact', which is clear just by looking at the tiny box it comes in. Inside you’ll find five of the dinkiest satellite speakers this side of Sony’s golf balls, as well as an equally diminutive subwoofer and a main control unit that packs a BD Live Blu-ray deck and a 1,000W amplifier.
This unit is classic Panasonic, halfway between fancy and functional with a modern black finish and the sort of slim dimensions that could fool you into thinking it was a standalone player. The front panel is split into two drop-down flaps – the left one conceals the disc tray, while the right one covers a few playback keys, an SD card slot, a USB port and an illuminated display panel that shines through the flap when closed. It’s very easy on the eye but won’t be giving Samsung’s design team any sleepless nights.
Whereas the SC-BT330 used a pair of (rather flimsy) tallboy speakers for the front pair, the SC-BT230 uses compact bookshelf satellites that stand just 118.5mm high – that’s why this system is about £50 cheaper. But the centre and surrounds are the same ones you get with the BT330. All of these speakers boast sturdy build quality and are attractively styled with gloss black top and bottom panels, plus each one sports springclip terminals on the back for the supplied speaker cables.
You get a different Kelton subwoofer than the one supplied with the BT330, and from the front it’s a stylish affair with its glossy port and greyish black finish. But the exposed MDF on the back ain’t so hot and its astonishingly small dimensions (145 x 289.5 x 258mm) make you wonder how on earth it can generate the bass muscle needed to do justice to explosive movie soundtracks. That said, its compact size will make placement a breeze.
For a system designed to be the centre of your home entertainment world, the main unit’s rear panel is surprisingly light on connections. Most disappointing is the lack of HDMI inputs, which not only would have made it easier to play sound from external sources, but would also have turned the unit into a glorified switchbox, taking up only one HDMI port on your TV. File under 'missed opportunities'.
Still, at least there are two optical digital audio inputs and analogue phonos to take advantage of, as well as HDMI and composite video outputs, an Ethernet port for wired connection to the Web and a second USB port.