Despite its cheaper price tag, the HT-E6500W shares most of the 6750W’s features. Chief among these is the wonderful Smart Hub with its wealth of web content and themed ‘signature services’, such as Fitness, Family Story and Kids. These give the system a distinctly lifestyle-oriented flavour with their cute, friendly graphics. Fitness provides workout videos and tools to monitor your progress; Family Story is an easy-to-use photo and message sharing service; while Kids groups together videos, games and puzzles aimed at children.
But the main Smart Hub section is where the good stuff lives. There’s BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Dailymotion, Picasa, Facebook, Twitter and much more. What separates Samsung’s selection from rivals (apart from LG) is the inclusion of more unusual family oriented apps, like games, puzzles and stories. New services can be added from the Samsung Apps store, and also within Smart Hub are Your Video (a movie database), a search tool and a web browser. For the latter you can connect a wireless keyboard and mouse, but even so it’s painfully slow to use.
The HT-E6500W also boasts full DLNA media streaming capabilities, allowing you to play music, video and photos stored remotely on networked PCs and NAS drives. Alternatively you can play files from devices hooked up to the front USB port, and the comprehensive file support includes FLAC, AVCHD and MKV. Content from any connected source is organised in the Allshare Play menu (a new feature for 2012) making it easy to find the files you want. It also supports Wi-Fi Direct for wireless connection to devices without a router, as well as Bluetooth music playback. There’s 5GB of web storage available if you want it, allowing you to access content when you’re out and about.
The system also plays 3D Blu-ray discs and converts 2D material to 3D, plus there’s a wealth of sound modes including 3D Sound Plus, MP3 Enhancer, Power Bass and Smart Volume, which keeps everything at a consistent level.
But the key audio feature is the combination of digital and valve amplification, which aims to lend extra depth while mustering the required power for 5.1-channel movie playback.
The HT-E6500W’s slick and attractive onscreen displays keep frustration at bay. The Home menu is certainly elaborate with its large animated icons and crisp HD graphics, but it really works. Smart Hub and the rest of the menus are similarly jazzy but never at the expense of useability. The only thing that hinders operation is the use of a single-core processor, which makes web browsing feel a lot slower than the BD-E8500 PVR.
Setup is simple too thanks to the colour-coded speaker plugs and helpful onscreen wizards, while automatic calibration avoids all that tiresome level-setting in the setup menu – although weirdly it turned the subwoofer level to its lowest setting, which needed correcting.
Samsung also gets it right with the remote, a thoughtfully laid out zapper very much in the Panasonic mould with its chunky buttons and clear labelling. It sits in the palm nicely and puts menu and playback controls within easy reach of the thumb. Some of the buttons towards the bottom are a bit small but on the whole it’s easy to use.