The HT-X810's sound performance is a game of two halves, but we'll address the good half first. The main unit's front speakers handle The Phantom Menace's rambunctious soundtrack with a surprising amount of fluency and control, making for a generally enjoyable listen. Yes at loud volumes it shows signs of strain, tainting the crashes and screaming engines of the podrace sequence with a slightly abrasive edge that you don't get with more polished systems, but keep things at a sensible level and it can deliver some thrilling moments.
What's more, dialogue is conveyed with warmth and focus, delicate treble is crisp and perky and the V-Sound mode does a passable job of giving the front soundstage a sense of width and space.
But it's the other half of the system that causes all the problems. The sub falls into the common budget system trap of blasting out the bass with such wild, undisciplined gusto that it overpowers the other speakers, while the clumsy crossover makes it a rather uneven experience. The bangs and crashes of the podrace and spaceships passing overhead sound hollow and resonant when they should sound deep and punchy - and even with the sub turned down to its lowest setting, its detrimental effects can still be heard.
It's also the reason why music fails to impress. The double bass licks of Atagiin's What The World Needs Now Is Love on DVD-Audio sound coarse, while the kick drum of Coldplay's Viva La Vida on CD is too boomy for its own good. It's a shame, as the rest of the sound is open and detailed.
As for pictures, the system's 1080p upscaling isn't up to the same standards as a good standalone DVD player like the Onkyo DV-SP406 but it's respectable enough. Shots of the podrace crowd look slightly soft, jaggies compromise the integrity of some edges and detail during dark scenes could be better, but colours are rich and radiant and there's no block noise to contend with.
We've tested several home cinema systems recently but there's something about the HT-X810R that got us a lot more excited than usual. The no-nonsense installation and terrific looks are a major factor, but what impressed us the most is its unusual feature list - particularly the wireless sub, Bluetooth support, 1080p upscaling and DVD-Audio playback - which at this price makes it feel like extremely good value for money.
It's a shame that the system couldn't back it up with similarly impressive performance though, as the unrefined sub and flawed pictures let the side down and prevent it from earning top honours. But systems like this are more about style than substance and even taking its shortcomings into consideration, we reckon it's still worth checking out.