As we discovered with the HT-D6750W, Samsung’s disc loading speeds are among the best on the market, and that continues with the HT-D5500, which fires up the stubborn Terminator Salvation Blu-ray disc in 39 seconds. Just as well, as you’ll want to get start watching its high-definition pictures as quickly as possible. 2D pictures are sharp as a tack and reproduced with deep, radiant colours. And with the HDMI output set to 24Hz, motion tracking is smooth and judder free.
After loading up our trusty promotional 3D copy of Avatar, we’re rewarded with richly immersive pictures. The HT-D5500 supplies our Panasonic test TV with immaculately-rendered pictures, with no artefacts or errors to speak of. The depth and separation of elements within the 3D image makes it utterly entrancing – our absolute favourite scene is the ‘First Sortie’ chapter, which shows a helicopter zooming alongside a flock of flying creatures, dipping over a waterfall and touching down deep in the forest. It’s pure, jaw-dropping spectacle, with the crisp and composed layers of scenery giving a convincing sense of depth while keeping foreground objects looking sharp and blur-free.
However, after comparing it with the latest Panasonic systems, its Japanese rival adds an even greater sense of texture and sharpness, with shading and colour blends looking fractionally more convincing. It’s minor, but might make all the difference if you’re particular about your pictures. What’s more, we’re not overly keen on the Samsung’s 3D conversion, which has its moments but its lacklustre layering falls some way short of genuine 3D.
On the audio side, the HT-D5500 is an impressive performer for a budget all-in-one system. Skipping to Avatar’s ‘Assault On Home Tree’ chapter, the opening helicopter effects are smoothly steered around the soundstage and when Quaritch launches the attack the action gets suitably boisterous. It drives home explosions with a punch, and the tapestry of other effects, such as whizzing arrows and scattering debris, are crisp and appropriately sharp. There’s also plenty of detail seeping through the speakers, from the delicate crackle of fires to the distant tweeting of forest animals during the movie’s quiet moments.
This lively, powerful performance is likely to push most listeners’ buttons, but compared with a more proficient receiver/speaker combo you can hear where the Samsung falls short. For example, better quality speakers will deliver a more open sound with greater clarity in the high frequencies, and while the passive subwoofer makes the room rumble it doesn’t handle bass tones with the same tautness and control as a decent active model. But those are the sort of sacrifices you make when buying a one-box system, and as long as you’re OK with that then this system is not likely to disappoint.
Despite lacking some of the luxuries that made the HT-D6750W such a compelling proposition (such as built-in Wi-Fi and wireless rears), the HT-D5500 still manages to impress. Features-wise, Smart Hub is the highlight, but it’s great to find DLNA media streaming, a supplied iPod cradle and HDMI inputs on-board at this price, all of which makes it terrific value for money.
What’s more, it’s attractive, easy to use (thanks to the gorgeous onscreen menus and automatic calibration) and offers extensive format support. Sound and picture quality are solid, although some buyers might be after a slightly more mature sound, in which case they’d better start saving up for separates – everyone else will be happy with what this system has to offer.