Review Price £549.99
The HT-BD8200's strong feature set continues with YouTube access - a new addition to Samsung's Blu-ray roster - as well as Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio decoding, giving you sharp hi-res sound albeit only from 2.1 channels. The system attempts to fill in the sonic gaps with V-Sound, which adds virtual effects to emulate 5.1-channel sound.
You also get a bunch of DSP modes. Smart Sound stabilises the levels to guard against sudden changes in volume, Audio Upscaling claims to boost MP3 playback to CD quality and Power Bass adds more, um, power to, er, bass notes. Samsung's power rating is 300W in total, which on paper should be enough to make an impact, although the 260W HT-WS1G system suffered from a distinct lack of oomph when it came to movie playback, so it'll be interesting to see how this one compares.
Setting up the system is a cinch, which is exactly what you want from a soundbar. The excellent menu system uses a bright colour palette and a sensible submenu layout that progress across the screen from left to right. Contained within this are a few sound adjustments (L/R balance, sub level, distances), while all the other essentials like HDMI resolution and network settings are easy to locate and adjust. On the downside the setup menu can only be called up after you've stopped the movie.
The wired internet connection worked smoothly and delivered BD Live content and YouTube clips with minimal fuss, aside from the inevitable buffering breaks, but it does depend on your broadband connection. I wasn't given a dongle to test wireless functionality but the setup process is just as complicated as Samsung's Blu-ray players. The deck can search for PCs automatically, but if you have no joy there's a manual mode, which asks you to input the folder name.
You don't have to do anything to install the sub, it detects the signal and starts working straight away. iPod playback can be controlled using the system's remote and the menus appear on the TV screen.
The attractive remote is slim and ergonomic, with faultlessly placed and perfectly sized controls for the most part. Some of the lesser used buttons at the bottom are too small and cluttered, as if they were an afterthought, but otherwise this is superb zapper design.
Discs load in super-fast time. From disc slot to screen, it took the Samsung just 30 seconds to start playing Spider-Man 3, and that includes the time it takes to suck in the disc and shut the drawer. Amazing. And what's more, after sliding a DVD into the slot, the menu's on screen before you've even sat down.