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.