3D is infiltrating every area of the home cinema market – TVs, Blu-ray players, AV receivers and projectors – but 3D-ready all-in-one systems have been slower to take off. But as Christmas crawls ever nearer we’re seeing plenty of one-box systems hitting the market from the likes of Panasonic, LG, Sony, Onkyo and Samsung, whose HT-C6930W was the world’s first 3D system and greatly impressed us earlier this year. The HT-C9950W takes everything that was good about the 6930 but pushes it to the next level with a stunning new design and an even more eye-popping range of features – find out how it fares in our exclusive review.
We’ve grown accustomed to Samsung’s ability to push the aesthetic envelope, but this time it’s really gone to town with a distinctive design that makes it far and away the best-looking all-in-one system on the market, period. Most eye-catching of all is the Blu-ray ‘console’, which is mounted on a pole stand – a refreshing departure from the usual set-top box design – although there’s also a table-top stand in the box. Samsung has also abandoned its usual gloss-black styling for a gorgeous brushed aluminium finish across the system.
The player’s coup de grace is the round volume dial in the middle, which slides forward when powered up and features an animated dot matrix display and touch sensitive controls. There are other tasty little flourishes, such as a button on the side that makes the USB port pop out on the back, a second USB port concealed on the back designed to house Samsung’s Wi-Fi USB dongle and a hidden slot on the right hand side that smoothly pulls in the disc. These are the sort of cool, cutting-edge touches that will go down well if you want your system to be an aesthetic talking point as well as a way of watching movies.
The front and surround speakers are similarly gorgeous – their brushed silver styling matches the player beautifully while the inclusion of elegant pole stands for the fronts and surrounds ensures pleasing uniformity between the components. Even more impressive is the build quality of the speakers themselves. The enclosures are rigid and weighty, not hollow and lightweight like so many all-in-one system speakers. The absence of grilles leaves the cone and tweeter exposed, which is actually very fetching. The surround back speakers are compact and therefore easy to place at the back of the room.
The powered subwoofer is remarkably big, which might make it tricky for some users to install, but thankfully it’s attractively styled. Most of the system’s connections are found on the back of the subwoofer, which is a great way of keeping messy wires hidden away. A single lead connects the player and subwoofer, which can be tucked out of sight using a clever cable tidy system that feeds it through the pole stand. The same system is used on the speaker stands.
The sub sports a top-notch selection of sockets. Most impressive is the inclusion of two HDMI inputs, which allow you to enjoy other sources in surround sound and only take up only one HDMI input on your TV. These are joined by an HDMI v1.4 output, which not only ensures 3D compatibility but thanks to the Audio Return Channel the system can receive sound from a TV without having to rig up a separate digital audio cable.
There’s also an optical digital audio input, analogue stereo input, a USB port for software updates, ports for the wireless TX card (see below), auto calibration mic and radio antenna, plus an Ethernet LAN port. We’re also pleasantly surprised to find that the speaker terminals are banana-plug capable binding posts as opposed to the less robust springclip terminals found on most all-in-one systems.