Not content with bringing out the world's first wall-mountable Blu-ray player and the first decks with Wi-Fi and PC streaming, Samsung has beaten its rivals to the punch yet again with the first Blu-ray soundbar system.
This 2.1 channel system integrates everything you need for Blu-ray playback (player, speakers, decoding, and amplification) into a single wall-mountable unit and throws in a wireless subwoofer for good measure - ideal if space is tight and you don't want cables all over the place.
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Samsung apparently doesn't know how to make an ugly product. The HT-BD8200's soundbar is yet another stunner, with its gloss black finish and translucent edges giving it a very commercial but extremely desirable look.
Along the top is a row of illuminated touch-sensitive buttons, but the thing that really made me swoon is the disc loading mechanism - the entire centre panel slides forward to reveal the upward-facing slot, and if there's a disc inside it rises like a phoenix from the flames and stays there until someone grabs it - lovely stuff.
Also impressive is the large display panel, making information easy to read from a distance, while the unit's slim profile stops it from jutting out too far from the wall. In the box is a wall mounting bracket and a plastic cradle stand that slots neatly onto the bottom. As for the subwoofer, it's the same model that accompanies the HT-WS1G DVD soundbar we reviewed recently and shrugs off the stereotypical black box image with curved corners and a lustrous gloss-black top panel. There are no dials or sockets to play with, just a blue light on top and a tiny button on the back to reset the wireless connection with the main unit.
Given the limited space on the back and the focus on simplicity, the main unit's generous array of connections comes as a pleasant surprise. The recessed panel houses HDMI and composite video outputs, an Ethernet port, an antenna input for the FM radio tuner and an optical digital audio input, which is good news for anyone with a Sky box. We might have criticised Samsung for not including more inputs, but it's not such a big deal on a soundbar aimed at buyers who want to keep things simple.
Next to these is a USB port that can be used in a couple of ways. Plug in Samsung's optional wireless LAN dongle (WIS09ABGN) and you can connect to the internet or stream content over your home network without a cable in sight; or connect a USB flash drive to store BD Live downloads and provide firmware updates - an essential feature, as BD Live's required 1GB of memory isn't built in.
With that USB port handling wireless or BD Live storage duties, Samsung has sensibly provided another USB port on the right-hand side for media playback. This supports USB sticks, MP3 players and even external FAT 16/32 HDDs, and it'll play DivX HD, MP3 and JPEG files. This USB port is joined by a connector for the supplied iPod dock (which works with any model, as well as the iPhone), analogue stereo input for other MP3 players and a headphones port.