- Review Price: £638.65
Having already unleashed the UK’s first 3D-ready TV and Blu-ray player (the UE55C8000 and BD-C6900 respectively), Samsung has established itself as one of the main driving forces behind the 3D revolution. And now it’s looking to cement its status with the HT-C6930W, the world’s first 3D-capable Blu-ray home cinema system, which we’re reviewing here exclusively.
It offers an ideal way of getting a 3D-capable Blu-ray player and complete sound system in one fell swoop, packing a combined Blu-ray receiver unit and a set of 7.1-channel speakers into a single box. What’s more the surround left and right speakers are wireless, cutting out some of the dreaded clutter that home cinema systems normally usher into your living room.
3D is the obvious highlight, but the HT-C6930W is no one-trick pony. Like most Samsung systems, it’s absolutely bursting with other features, acting like a showcase for everything that’s cool in the world of home cinema.
First though, let’s talk design, and much like the HT-C6200 the C6930W is an absolute stunner. The Blu-ray receiver isn’t as showy as other Samsung systems, boasting a relatively plain, angular shape, but its slim height (60mm) and gloss-black finish make it suitably sleek. That said, the black finish is incongruous with the stunning silver styling of Samsung’s 3D-ready 8000 series TVs, which might be an issue if you want everything to match.
Under the flap on the fascia you’ll find a USB port and an input for the automatic setup microphone, plus there’s a display in the centre that’s a little too small for our liking. On top of the unit is a row of illuminated touch sensitive buttons, a see through window above the disc tray and most excitingly, a glowing Blu-ray 3D logo.
There’s a comprehensive selection of sockets on the rear panel, including the all-important HDMI v1.4 output capable of handling Full HD 3D signals. You also get two HDMI inputs for hooking up other hi-def components (Sky HD, PS3 etc) and channelling them into a single input on your TV.
Among the other interesting sockets is a slot for a wireless TX card, which beams surround sound to the SWA-5000 wireless receiver at the back of the room. The pair of surround speakers connect to colour-coded terminals on the back of the receiver. Both the card and receiver are supplied in the box.
Although the inclusion of 7.1 speakers and wireless rears is undoubtedly generous, there is a slight problem with the setup. The SWA-5000 only provides amplification for the surround speakers but not the surround back pair, so in a 7.1-channel configuration you’ll still have wires trailing across the room, which defeats the object somewhat.
Completing the line-up are component and composite video outputs, analogue stereo and optical digital inputs, a terminal for the supplied iPod/iPhone dock and an Ethernet LAN port.
This leads us into one of the HT-C6930W’s other key features – network media streaming. Dubbed Allshare, this DLNA-enabled feature lets you play videos, music and photos stored on networked PCs or NAS drives via Ethernet or the built-in Wi-Fi connection. The list of supported codecs and containers is comprehensive, and includes DivX (SD and HD), AVI, MKV, WMV HD, MPEG-4, MP3, WMA and JPEG. The system supports 802.11b, g and n, the latter offering a fast, stable connection that’s better for streaming hi-def video.
We tried out Allshare and it works like a dream. Unlike Samsung’s last generation of Blu-ray systems, setup is child’s play and the on-screen menu system looks utterly classy – folders are laid out in a logical structure and use polished, colourful graphics. File browsing is also slick and responsive, and most of our test files played without any problems.
As well as media streaming and BD Live, the internet connection also grants access to Samsung’s Internet@TV service, which brings a variety of applications to your TV through a smart, approachable interface.
The most useful of these is YouTube, but other apps like Twitter and Picasa are great for keen social networkers, plus the forthcoming Facebook and LoveFilm services will make this feature even more worthwhile.
The extensive multimedia support continues with the front-mounted USB port, which will play the formats listed above from USB flash drives, MP3 players, digital cameras and USB card readers. It won’t play back from external HDDs or NTFS-formatted devices though, and our WMV HD files played back with no sound.
Amazingly, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Buried among the usual array of DSP modes (Smart Sound, Power Bass, MP3 Enhancer) and sound effect settings (which have overly descriptive titles like ‘Philharmonic Hall in Bratislava’), you’ll find Dolby Pro Logic IIz. By moving the surround back speakers to the front of the room above the TV, this processing mode adds a height element to the soundstage, which can be particularly atmospheric during scenes with non-directional ambience.
Samsung claims that the on-board Crystal Amplifier Pro delivers a total power output of 1330W, which sound pretty impressive on paper, plus it boasts Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio decoders. Elsewhere there’s 1GB of built-in memory for BD Live downloads and it supports 1080/24p Blu-ray output from the HDMI port.
The vast amount of components and gizmos in the box makes installation more complex than your average all-in-one system – we’d set aside a good hour just to put it all together. You have to connect the speakers to colour coded terminals on the back of the main unit using the supplied cables, as well as rig up the wireless receiver at the back of the room and assemble the two-part tallboy front speakers, which slot together and screw into sturdy square bases.
The four matching surround satellites are robustly built, and their compact cuboid cabinets should be easy to accommodate. The centre speaker is similarly styled but elongated to fit under the TV, while the passive subwoofer is surprisingly stylish and compact. In situ, the HT-C6930 will bring a bit of glamour to any living room.
On-screen setup is easy. The gloss-black remote’s button layout is nigh-on perfect, while the menus’ crisp multicoloured graphics, smooth scrolling and logical menu structure makes them a breeze to explore. During playback, the Info and Tools menus provide key details and additional setup options, including picture presets and user adjustments.
The system also removes the stress of sound setup with the Musical Auto Calibration (MAC). Using the supplied microphone, it measures speaker distances, levels and frequencies and sets the parameters for you. A word of warning though – the test tone is a blast of orchestral music that will drive you insane if you stay in the room.
Onto 3D, and there’s very little to set up – the Auto mode detects whether a disc is 3D or 2D, or you can choose to output a disc in 3D or 2D at all times. You can also input the size of your TV screen to optimise the appearance of menus and subtitles.
Given the amount of other accessories bundled in the box, it’s surprising that Samsung doesn’t supply the most important one of all – Active 3D glasses. These are available separately for around £60, but for a limited time Samsung is currently offering a voucher with all of its 3D TVs that allows you to claim a free pair.
Thankfully Samsung sent us a pair, as well as a copy of Monsters Vs Aliens (currently the only Full HD 3D disc doing the rounds) and a UE46C8000 3D-ready LED TV. Settling down to watch the movie, there’s no denying that the 3D effect is initially captivating, drawing you into the picture with its increased depth and impressive layering, the key elements that set it apart from 2D.
Testament to this is the response of my five-year-old son, who after donning the glasses kept instinctively reaching his hand out to grab the objects and sat glued to the screen for the rest of the movie, transfixed.
The beauty is that the images are delivered in gorgeous, pristine Full HD, which allows the movie’s beautifully rendered CG detail to be revealed in all its glory, in turn heightening the impact of the 3D picture.
It does, however take a while for your eyes to grow accustomed to the picture. At first we weren’t sure which part of the picture to look at – certain moving objects drift in and out of focus, while camera moves can be disorientating. It took a while for our eyes to settle into the ‘rhythm’ of a 3D picture, and the constant adjustment made them feel tired fairly quickly.
And as John first pointed out in his review of the UE55C8000, there’s some significant ghosting along edges, particularly noticeable where dark objects are set against bright backgrounds. It also occurs with thin lines, such as the supports and cables on the Golden Gate Bridge in chapter 12 – a faint ghostly image can be seen alongside each one, clouding the clarity of the image.
And some 3D tricks simply don’t work at all, like the guy in the observation outpost at the start of the movie batting a ball towards the camera. As it juts forward, the ball gets so blurry that it never really feels as though it’s coming out of the screen. In fact, scenes with prominent foreground activity like this are the hardest for the brain to process, and the best 3D content keeps it to a minimum.
Despite our reservations, the overall sense of spectacle offered by this 3D system makes it worth the investment, especially if you’ve got young kids who’ll be too entranced to notice the flaws. And in any case, it’s still early days for 3D, and any problems are certain to be addressed as the technology matures.
As a 2D player, the HT-C6930W is magnificent, thanks to its faultless handling of the 1080p digital signal. Avatar on Blu-ray is simply breathtaking, positively exploding with rich, vivid colours and scintillating sharp detail. It also does well with the Silicon Optix HQV disc – test cards are clean and stable, while moving diagonals are smooth and free from stepping. What’s more, it loaded the stubborn Terminator Salvation Blu-ray in a comparatively fast 50 seconds.
Although the HT-C6930W’s sound performance lacks the subtlety and foundation-shaking power of decent amp/speaker separates, its crisp, dynamic rendition of Terminator Salvation’s DTS HD Master Audio track is as good as we’ve heard from a Samsung system.
The front speaker tweeters dig out plenty of delicate high frequency detail but deliver loud high-pitch sounds without excessive harshness, and it attacks snappy sounds like gunfire with satisfying zeal. The subwoofer does a reasonable job too, rumbling away heartily during zesty action scenes, but it lacks the tautness and control you’d get from good-quality powered sub. Speech from the centre is projected with purpose and clarity while the surround speakers flood the soundstage with immersive ambience and effects – although auto calibration left them a little low in the mix.
Next we moved the surround back speakers to the front of the room, activated Dolby Pro Logic IIz and selected chapter 3 of Terminator Salvation, in which a helicopter zooms though the driving rain. The height speakers definitely add an extra sense of envelopment to the soundstage, and gave us the sense that rain was coming from above, although the effect is a lot more subtle than we found on the Onkyo TX-SR607. Although you wouldn’t base your buying decision on this feature, it’s certainly a nice bonus if you can accommodate the speakers in this unorthodox position.
If you’re looking to join the 3D revolution and bag yourself a decent 7.1-channel sound system in the process, the HT-C6930W is the perfect place to start. 3D capability is the star attraction, but even if you don’t take advantage of it straight away (after all, those TVs don’t come cheap) then there’s plenty to keep you entertained in the meantime. As well as the phenomenal feature list, it’s stylish, easy to use and provides superb 2D hi-def pictures. And while some people may be reluctant to pay over £500 for an all-in-one system, that price tag is actually quite reasonable for such a feature-packed system, making it a very compelling home cinema proposition overall.
Score in detail
|Number of Speakers||7.1|
|Power (Watt)||1330 (RMS)W|
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