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Samsung HT-X810R Home Cinema System - Samsung HT-X810R
The HT-X810R's perceived simplicity is deceptive because it's actually a cutting-edge piece of kit, boasting a number of unusual features that boost its value factor. We've mentioned the wireless sub but equally impressive is its Bluetooth compatibility, which enables you to stream audio wirelessly to the system from a compatible device or listen to audio through a wireless headset. It's a really nifty function that works flawlessly - we streamed some MP3s from a Sony Ericsson mobile phone and the results were glitch-free and surprisingly pleasant to listen to.
The next surprise is that the system plays DVD-Audio discs, which admittedly still only has niche appeal even after all these years, but for a system at this price the more features the merrier. In fact the system's format compatibility is excellent all round, as it supports the usual recordable DVD formats (DVD-RW/-R, DVD+RW/+R) and CD-R/-RW, as well as MP3, WMA, DivX, XviD, JPEG and surprisingly WMV, but only up to version 7.
The unit decodes Dolby Digital and DTS, dishes out 300W of power and as ever there's a range of sound modes on board that supposedly improve the sound for different types of material. V-Sound is the mode charged with filling the void left by the lack of rear speakers, but as opposed to other two-channel soundbars and systems that dazzle us with the science of sound beams and wall reflections, this is more like the basic virtual surround modes you get on a TV.
It's joined by Smart Volume, which regulates the sound to stop sudden bursts of loud volume giving you a heart attack, while the P.Bass mode boosts low frequency effects on two-channel LPCM sources. Audio Upscaling aims to enhance the sound quality of compressed audio, apparently making MP3 sound like CD.
Operating the HT-X810R is a hassle-free experience. You get one of Samsung's long, thin remotes, which commits the usual crime of under-sized buttons and cluttering towards the bottom, but otherwise it handles very nicely. The different inputs are clearly marked at the top and the menu controls are ideally placed in the centre. The only thing that isn't obvious is how to change the output resolution - for that you have to hold down the SD/HD key.
The setup menu and other onscreen displays are cute and colourful, plus it's much quicker to respond than certain Samsung DVD decks. You can adjust the left/right balance and subwoofer level using dedicated buttons on the remote, and any adjustments you make are displayed on screen as well as on the small readout on the front panel.