Using the SamsungHT-E8200 is a piece of cake. It operates with a level of slickness we’ve some to expect from Samsung products, not only in terms of speed but also through its use of jazzy, vibrant onscreen graphics and a superbly designed remote.
The Home screen looks terrific, using large animated icons for each section (Smart Hub, AllShare Play, Function and Settings). This stripped back, uncluttered layout makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. The Settings menu layout flows logically, breaking options down into sensible groups and leaving no stone unturned.
A similarly engaging interface awaits when you fire up Smart Hub (either through the Home menu or using the dedicated button on the remote). The full colour backgrounds and crisp HD icons bring a sense of sophistication and, more importantly, fun. The Fitness zone is decked out in friendly Wii-like pastel shades, with a gym as a backdrop.
All of your content can be accessed from the AllShare Play menu screen. This excellent interface lists the content types on the left (music, video etc) and then shows which connected devices contain that content on the right (DLNA, USB or disc). The subsequent playback menus are outstanding, showing cover art on the right and all the details below (with more in the Information menu option). You can also tweak the equaliser settings when playing back music.
The remote has clearly been designed with maximum convenience in mind. Yes it’s packed with buttons but weirdly it doesn’t feel cluttered thanks to the convenient placement of the most-used buttons. The playback keys are clearly marked out in the centre, and glow in the dark. All of the buttons are large, spongy and clearly labelled. Great work.
Most people buy soundbars in protest at the sub-standard sound quality of their TV, and the good news is that the Samsung HT-E8200 will put any flatpanel set to shame. It’s loud and dynamic, keeps ear-curdling brightness at bay and tosses effects around its surprisingly spacious soundstage with glee.
You should abandon all hope of getting proper surround sound out of it, but the system’s natural width and effective Virtual Sound mode make for an open and involving listen.
Most pleasing is the amount of welly it puts into the sound, particularly for such an unassumingly slender unit. We fired up The Empire Strikes Back on Blu-ray, and it makes the Battle of Hoth sound thrilling, with fulsome explosions and pleasing drive behind the busy effects, from whizzing laser beams to falling debris.
We also had no trouble hearing the dialogue amid the chaos of the battle, and there’s a delightful crispness to the high-frequencies that’s best demonstrated during Luke’s visit to Dagobah – the little rustling noises, trickling water and faint creature calls echoing around the swamp sound sharp and precise, creating a terrific atmosphere even without the benefit of surround speakers. You can also hear the soundbar’s sweet top end in the piercing brass of John Williams’ iconic opening theme.
This is all underpinned by well integrated bass from the subwoofer. Unlike many one-box system subwoofers, it doesn’t overpower the soundbar or resonate wildly within the room (if it’s placed properly) – it simply strengthens and reinforces where needed. But during boisterous scenes it contributes tight, punchy tones that make the action sound big and bold.
Picture quality is excellent with both 2D and 3D discs. The Samsung system serves up an obscenely sharp and solid picture, blessed with dramatic contrast, a rich, natural colour palette and clean, emphatic edge definition. Action flows smoothly and with 3D discs its pictures have a deep and entrancing look about them.
The Samsung HT-E8200 is one of the best soundbar systems we’ve tested. It ticks all the boxes – excellent pictures, assured 2.1 sound quality, lashings of features and a chic, space-saving design.
Simplicity and convenience are its MO, thanks to the wireless sub, built-in Wi-Fi and slick, attractive operating system. As ever, Smart Hub and AllShare Play are the stand-out features, offering a wealth of content beyond the boundaries of Blu-ray.
The only downsides are the lack of convincing surround sound processing and fairly high price tag, but overall the Samsung HT-E8200 is a top-drawer sound solution.