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Philips HTS4600/05 2.1-Channel Home Cinema System
Regardless of how you feel about 2.1-channel systems and how they compare with full 5.1, there's no denying that they're cooler than The Fonz in a freezer, and nobody makes them look groovier than Philips. The Dutch master has this unerring knack of creating two-channel systems that push all the right aesthetic buttons, making them the ideal accompaniment for similarly stylish flatpanel TVs in rooms with precious little space.
The last Philips system we investigated was the HTS6515, which made up for in style what it lacked in performance, but further down the range you'll find this cheeky little number, which replaces Philips' patented Ambisound surround-mimicking technology with Dolby Virtual Speaker.
In the box you'll find a slim main unit with a built-in DVD/CD player and FM radio tuner, plus a compact active subwoofer and two square speakers, each mounted on a table-top stand. The main unit can also be placed on a stand - making it slope backwards to match the shape of the speakers - or you can mount them all on the wall.
Naturally the whole system is dressed in black, with the DVD unit boasting a gloss black front section that attracts fingerprints but looks gorgeous. What we love most about Philips' systems is their innovative disc loading mechanisms, and the HTS4600 doesn't disappoint - hit Open/Close and that large silver-rimmed circle on the front exits stage left to reveal the disc drive, then clip in your disc and away you go. To the left is another smaller circle, which contains an LED display that shows the crucial playback information.
Philips keeps things simple around the back with a modest selection of sockets. There's an HDMI output, capable of zapping upscaled 1080p, 1080i or 720p signals to your TV, plus component and composite video outputs. There's also a coaxial digital input that lets you listen to external audio sources through the system.
On the side you'll find a USB 2.0 input for multimedia playback from flash memory devices, an MP3 Link port (which is just a fancy name for a 3.5mm analogue minijack) intended for MP3 players and a second minijack port for other devices.