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The Samsung HT-BD2 is the second Blu-ray system to hit our test bench after the Panasonic SC-BT100, which offered some tasty features and stunning 1080p picture quality, but all things considered we felt it was bit cheeky asking consumers to fork out for optional rear speakers when multichannel sound is so integral to the Blu-ray experience.
So with that in mind, the HT-BD2's key advantage over the BT100 is one where you get a full 7.1 speaker system in the box for only a slightly higher price than the 3.1-channel Panasonic, making the Samsung seem like better value on paper. Of course, we'll reserve judgement until we've delved a bit deeper into its features and performance, but it certainly gets the Samsung system off to a flying start.
However, it falls at the first fence with the discovery that the built-in Blu-ray player is Profile 1.0, which means it lacks the secondary video and audio decoders needed for picture-in-picture features. Those of you looking for a system that supports everything the format has to offer need to look elsewhere - and you should start with the Profile 1.1 SC-BT100 or hold out for a BD Live-capable system (which Panasonic will no doubt come out with first).
But on the audio side of things, the HT-BD2 really delivers the goods. It boasts built-in decoders for Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, DTS HD High Resolution Audio and Dolby Digital Plus, which is why the inclusion of a 7.1-channel speaker system is so exciting. 7.1-channel HD audio soundtracks are found on many Blu-ray titles, and this system allows you to experience them in all their glory. You'll also find support for Dolby Digital, DTS and Pro Logic IIx, which turns stereo or 5.1-channel sources into pseudo 7.1.
All of the processing and amplification takes place in the main unit, which pumps out a respectable 1,100W (RMS) or power, which works out at 135W per channel with 155W for the sub. The built-in disc drive obviously plays Blu-ray, but it also spins DVDs (upscaling them to 1080p if you want), finalised DVD-RW/-Rs and CDs, and you can also play MP3 and JPEG files from recordable CDs and DVDs. However, the unit is locked into Blu-ray Region B and DVD Region 2 and you can forget about DVD-Audio playback, which would have been a nice bonus feature for fans of hi-res music.
The HT-BD2 also benefits from Samsung's exquisite taste in design. The main unit is a slim, sleek and beautifully built piece of kit, adorned with the company's usual seductive high-gloss black finish and blue lights, plus a grey section that juts out and houses the playback, volume and power buttons. The icing on the cake is the front loading disc slot, which sucks up the disc in a way that Alan Partridge would describe as a ‘nice action'.