- Packed with features
- Superb sound quality
- Convenient, space-saving design
- Attractive operating system
- No surround sound presence
- Tight recess for sockets
- Fairly expensive
- Review Price: £449.99
- Built-in 3D Blu-ray player
- Integrated Wi-Fi
- 400W claimed power output
- Smart Hub
- AllShare Play DLNA media streaming
- Wireless subwoofer
The Samsung HT-E8200 is a 2.1-channel soundbar system designed to bring thrilling cinema sound into your home without the hassle that goes with a regular 5.1 speaker system. It keeps mess to a minimum in several ways – firstly, the Blu-ray player, amplifier and decoder are integrated into the unit, eliminating the need for loads of boxes under your TV, plus the wireless subwoofer can be placed anywhere in the room without cables snaking their way along the floor.
Samsung is big on innovative and living room-friendly design, so it comes as no surprise that the Samsung HT-E8200 looks great – but a glance at the spec sheet reveals it’s packed with features too. All we need now is knockout AV performance and we could be looking at a must-buy…
Samsung HT-E8200 Design
The soundbar measures 1041mm wide by 96mm high, making it suitable for TVs between 40 and 46-inches, while its 131mm depth means it won’t stick out too far when wall mounted. You can also place it on top of your TV stand by connecting the supplied cradle, which attaches using a single screw.
The main unit is basically one long black bar, but it’s lifted from aesthetic mediocrity by the circular middle section where the disc is housed. This circle pokes out above and below the bar, with each part decorated by a glinting silver strip. The cool part is that you feed the disc into a slot at the top, and it slides smoothly inside.
The top edge and back section is covered in a glossy black finish, while a black mesh runs across the front. Right in the centre is an LED display that shines through the mesh, spelling out playback commands and elapsed time in large digits. Along the top is a row of touch-sensitive controls for all the key functions. It’s a sleek and stylish soundbar that oozes glamour without going over the top, plus it’s solidly built to boot.
The subwoofer is equally easy on the eye. Its gloss-black finish and curved corners make it look sleek and elegant, although at 290mm wide by 370mm high it’s fairly big. A single blue light tells you it has paired with the soundbar, which it does automatically when both are activated.
Samsung HT-E8200 Connectivity
The soundbar’s rear connectivity is excellent. As well as an HDMI output, which is v1.4 and therefore supports 3D, you get two HDMI inputs that allow you to channel other sources through the soundbar. That’s great news if you only have one HDMI input on your TV, as you can use the Samsung as a switcher, or you can simply boost sound quality from games consoles, TV receivers and the like.
The HDMIs are joined by an optical digital audio input, composite video output, FM antenna socket and an Ethernet port. It’s a decent selection, but the recess in which they’re housed makes things a little tight, particularly for the HDMI cable. The recess isn’t quite wide enough so the wire has to be bent downwards, plus the HDMI plug blocks the Ethernet port when connected. You’ll get there, but it’s fiddlier than it should be. On the far edge are a USB port for flash drives and external HDDs and a 3.5mm minijack input to hook up MP3 players and other portable audio devices.
Some manufacturers might be tempted to strip down the feature list for their soundbars, but not Samsung. The HT-E8200 is crammed with all the tricks you’d find on its larger systems and Blu-ray players, including built-in Wi-Fi, Smart Hub, DLNA media streaming, 3D Blu-ray playback and much, much more.
Smart Hub is the jewel in Samsung’s connected crown, offering you a wealth of content streamed from the internet. The selection is superb, with BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm, Netflix, YouTube, Acetrax Movies, Box Office 365, Vimeo, Dailymotion and BBC News as the video streaming highlights, plus shedloads of games, puzzles, sports and educational apps – all downloaded from the Samsung Apps menu. With so much to choose from, inevitably it’s a mixed bag, but what is good about Samsung’s selection is that there’s something for all the family.
Within Smart Hub, you can also visit two specialised areas, Fitness and Kids. The former houses a range of exercise videos and online progress monitoring tools, where you can track your average calories burned, set targets, view your BMI, check the Wi-Fi Body Scale or log into the Noom weight loss coach. It’s a terrific way of keeping active without the ignominy of visiting an actual gym.
Kids, as the name suggests, is a zone that houses videos and educational tools for the little ones. There are bright colours and cartoony graphics everywhere. They’ll love it. You can even reward their behaviour with a virtual sticker book.
That’s not all. Smart Hub is also home to Family Story, where you can share photos, events and messages with other Smart Hub users who might not be au fait with proper social networking sites like Facebook. It’s all very cute and easy to use, which makes it perfect for elderly relatives to see keep in touch.
Completing the Smart Hub line up is a search tool that locates any content from Smart Hub’s apps related to your chosen keyword, and Your Video, a source of information and recommendations that links to Smart Hub’s on-demand movie sites. There’s even a web browser that lets you peruse the net at large but it’s not worth bothering with unless you invest in a wireless mouse and/or keyboard, which the Samsung HT-E8200 supports via USB.
The Samsung HT-E8200’s array of network-enabled features is superb. You can stream media directly from mobile devices using Wi-Fi Direct, use the unit as an access point (Soft AP) and stream music, video and photos from DLNA servers on your home network. The system also features built-in Bluetooth, yet another way of playing music on the system.
When playing content over a network, the Samsung HT-E8200 is very obliging. We had no trouble streaming DivX, WMV and MKV all in glorious hi-def, as well as XviD, AVI, MP4, 3GP, VRO, VOB, MPEG-1 – although it wouldn’t play AVCHD over a network, only from USB or disc. On the music side it streams MP3 and WMA, plus JPEG photos are also supported.
The Samsung HT-E8200 also boasts several sound modes designed to spruce up the 2.1 sound. There’s a bunch of presets in the Sound Effects menu tailored to different types of material, including Music, News, Drama, Cinema, Sports and Game, plus a Virtual Sound mode to expand the soundstage. Under the DSP menu you’ll find MP3 Enhancer and Power Bass, both fairly self explanatory in what they do, plus Smart Volume keeps everything at a consistent level. There’s also 3D Sound, which analyses the depth of the 3D picture and produces sound to match.
Inside the soundbar is a 400W Crystal Amplifier Plus, with decoding for Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio.
Samsung HT-E8200 Operation
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.
Samsung HT-E8200 Performance
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.
Samsung HT-E8200 Verdict
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.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8
|Number of Speakers||2.1|
|Audio Processing||DSP, Sound Effect, 3D Sound Plus|
|Dolby Pro Logic II||No|
|DTS Master Audio HD||Yes|
|Composite Video In||No|
|Component Video In||No|
|Component Video Out||No|
|S/PDIF Optical In||Yes|
|S/PDIF Coax In||No|
|Stereo Line In||Yes (3.5mm)|
|Stereo Line Out||No|