The latest Samsung all-in-one system looks like fantastic value, is there a catch?
What is the Samsung HT-H5500?
Despite the profusion of soundbars on the market these days, there's still life in the old 5.1 system yet.The reality is that the best soundbar in the world will never be able to deliver the kind of genuinely immersive surround experience of which even a cheap 5.1 system is capable. So if you're thinking of dipping your toes into some surround sound waters, there's never been a better time, with some real bargains on offer. The prices of some of these systems are now so low that you wonder how the manufacturers are even turning a profit, especially when you consider all the features that are packed inside.Samsung's new HT-H5500 home theatre package is a good example of the kind of great value 5.1 all-in-one systems that can be picked up these days. For around £270 you get a fully loaded 3D Blu-ray player, smart features, six channels of built-in amplification, five satellite speakers and a passive subwoofer. That's a fairly impressive set of specifications for the money and it's all wrapped up in Samsung's usual gorgeous styling. So just how much value does the H5500 offer and is there a catch?
Samsung HT-H5500 Design and ConnectionsThe HT-H5500 home theatre system comprises of a main unit, into which Samsung have packed a 3D Blu-ray player and six channels of amplification, five satellite speakers, a passive subwoofer and a remote control. The styling is very contemporary, with clean lines and a gloss black finish that looks great but does tend to attract fingerprints and dust. There are two front left and right speakers, a dedicated centre speaker and two surround speakers, with each speaker clearly identified for its purpose.
The speakers all have a plastic grille at the front that can't be removed and spring clips at the rear for connecting the speaker cable. The subwoofer also has spring clips at the rear, a sideways firing driver and a matte and gloss black finish. The provided speaker cable is also identified and colour coded to make setup easier and there are proprietary connectors for attaching them to the main unit. The cables are reasonably long and should be sufficient in the smaller living rooms for which the HT-H5500 is intended.
There is a standard black Samsung remote control included, which is sensibly laid out, comfortable to hold and easy to use. All the important keys are present and correct, making setup very straightforward. The main unit has the same gloss black finish as the rest of the system, although the top also has a brushed metal effect. On the right hand side there is a rounded corner and some basic controls, on the left hand side is the disc tray and in the middle is an easy to read display and a USB port behind a pull out cover. At the rear are all the other connections including the colour coded connectors for the five satellite speakers and the subwoofer.
There's also an optical digital input, an FM aerial socket for the built-in tuner and stereo analogue inputs that use RCA connectors. The HT-H5500 includes built-in WiFi but there's also an Ethernet port if you prefer a wired connection to your router. There's support for Bluetooth and a Near Field Communication (NFC) tag on the top of the main unit for quick and easy connection to supporting smart devices. Finally, there is a single HDMI output that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) but, unlike previous years, no HDMI inputs. This is a big disappointment and severely limits the number of devices that can be connected to the HT-H5500.
The lack of any HDMI inputs seems a major oversight on the part of Samsung.
Samsung HT-H5500 MenusThe HT-H5500 uses a variation of Samsung's standard menu system, which is attractively designed, intuitively laid out and responsive. The menu options reflect the systems all-in-one nature, with a submenu related to the built-in Blu-ray player and one for setting up the amplifier. There are also submenus for setting up the network and internet features, along with more general functions covering the system, security and language. Establishing a WiFi connection is very straightforward, as is creating a Bluetooth connection and the Blu-ray player is fairly self-explanatory too.
Setting up the audio side of the HT-H5500 is very simple, thanks in part to all the speakers being clearly identified and the speaker cable being colour-coded. All you need to do is connect the front speakers and position them either side of your TV, then connect the centre speaker and place it in the middle beneath the screen. The surround speakers will go at the rear, ideally either side of and just to the rear of the main seating position, whilst the subwoofer can be placed in a convenient position at the front. Then all you need to do is measure the distances to each speaker and set the levels so that they are all at the same volume.
The menus are well designed, setup was easy and the selection of features are reasonable.
Samsung HT-H5500 FeaturesThe HT-H5500 includes a number of features, the first of which is support for ARC (Audio Return Channel) over HDMI. This is important because if your TV also supports ARC then you can pass audio via the same HDMI cable that connects the output on the HT-H5500 to the input on the TV. Without ARC support you would need to connect the optical digital output on your TV to the optical digital input on the Samsung, thus limiting the number of devices you could connect still further. The HT-H5500 also includes an FM tuner, so those of you that enjoy the superior sound to heavily compressed digital channels will be happy.
Another very useful feature is Bluetooth compatibility, which means you can wirelessly connect with the HT-H5500 from your smart device. Once you've paired the system and your smart device, you can steam audio and quickly and easily power on your speakers by selecting them on your smartphone, so long as the HT-H5500 is plugged into a power source. The Samsung also has a Near Field Communication (NFC) which allows you to quickly and easily make a connection with the HT-H5500 by simply holding your NFC compliant smart device against the tag on the top of the main unit.
Samsung have streamlined their homepage this year, making the platform tidier and easier to navigate. The HT-H5500 had a somewhat simplified version compared to other Samsung devices that we've seen this year, with portals for playing back a disc, along with photos, videos and music. There are pre-loaded apps at the bottom and more can be added including all the usual suspects such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix or YouTube, making the HT-H5500 a handy way of accessing a wealth of internet and streaming content.
As a media player the HT-H5500 performed admirably and obviously has no problems connecting with Samsung’s own AllShare PC software but had no issues with other media servers. In terms of file support, the Samsung can handle MPEG2/4, DivX/DivX HD, AVCHD, MKV and WMV (1/2/3/7/9) video files and there is compatibility with JPEG and HD JPEG for your photos. In terms of audio support the HT-H5500 can handle AAC, MP3, WMA and FLAC files and the Blu-ray player can decode all the main Dolby and DTs formats.
Samsung HT-H5500 Video PlaybackThe built-in Blu-ray player proved to be a flawless performer, comfortably handling everything we tried in terms of high definition content. We watched both the 2D and 3D versions of 47 Ronin and the images were superb, with plenty of detail and no compatibility or crosstalk issues. The same was true with any of the other discs we watched, including a triple bill of Frozen, Walking with Dinosaurs and the slightly more adult Nurse, with no problems regardless of whether we watched the 2D or 3D versions. In wasn't just with 24p content that we were impressed and the video processing was just as good, with the HT-H5500 handling the deinterlacing on the few 1080i discs we own with ease.
This excellent video processing also extended to standard definition content and the Blu-ray player had no problems with 2:2 cadence detection and its scaling was equally as impressive, as we have come to expect from Samsung. What this basically means is that if you have a large DVD collection, it will still look good even as you transition to the higher resolution Blu-ray format. The built-in Blu-ray player also made the whole experience better by loading quickly, navigating effectively and being responsive to commands. In addition the added weight of the main unit meant that the disc mechanism was reasonably quiet in operation, making the HT-H5500 a great Blu-ray player before you even consider the audio aspects.
The built-in Blu-ray player was excellent with some very impressive video processing.
Samsung HT-H5500 Sound QualityThe HT-H5500 was capable of a clean and surprisingly active surround experience and Samsung's efforts to tonally match the five satellite speakers has paid dividends. As a result, pans around the room and other effects transition smoothly, creating a cohesive sound field. The speakers show a decent level of clarity at higher frequencies and the overall sound had plenty of detail. The bass was well integrated but being passive the subwoofer lacked any real power, so as a result it tended to support the overall sound rather than adding real impact. The HT-H5500 also struggled if pushed too hard, so it can't play too loud but it certainly has enough power for the smaller rooms that it's aimed at. There's no doubt that the simple setup means the Samsung isn't intimidating, making it ideal for a first foray into 5.1-channel surround sound. There's also a refreshing lack of audio features, meaning that new owners can't mess up the sound by picking some unnecessary effect.
There are some DSP modes that are best avoided but the bass boost can be handy for giving more power to the low end. We started off by watching our current surround favourite, Gravity, and the HT-H5500 did a good job of replicating the dynamic and very directional sound design. The Samsung could handle the surround action in Pacific Rim but struggled to deliver the room-shaking bass that accompanies the giant robots and monsters. The system handled dialogue well, keeping it anchored to the centre speaker, which in turn the reproduced dialogue with clarity and detail. When it came to music the HT-H5500 wasn't quite as impressive but that's to be expected given the small nature of the speakers and the limited power of the subwoofer. However it was still able to give a good account of itself, although listening to music isn't its primary purpose. What the HT-H5500 does represent is a good all-round performer at a very reasonable price.
The 5.1 setup delivered an enjoyable surround experience but was lacking a bit at the low end.
- Great price
- Enjoyable surround
- Excellent video performance
- Attractive design
- Decent set of features
- Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth
- No HDMI inputs
- No headphone socket
- Bass is limited
Samsung HT-H5500 All-in-One System ReviewThe Samsung HT-H5500 is a great budget all-in-one system, offering a decent set of features and an excellent audio and video performance. Despite its competitive price, the build quality is reasonable and the design is attractive, although the gloss black finish can be a magnet of dust and fingerprints. The menu system is well design and intuitive to navigate, whilst the provided remote control is comfortable to hold and easy to use. The big disappointment with the HT-H5500 is that it has no HDMI inputs and whilst the HDMI output supports ARC, it's very limited in terms of connecting other devices. However, on the plus side, it does include built-in WiFi, Bluetooth and an FM tuner. There is also an NFC tag for fast connection to supporting devices and an excellent smart platform, along with great media support.
Setting the HT-H5500 couldn't be easier thanks to clearly marked speakers and cables and the same is true for WiFi and Bluetooth, making the system ideal for someone taking their first steps into the world of surround. The built-in Blu-ray is pleasingly quiet in operation and delivered a flawless performance with 3D and 2D Blu-rays, as well as any DVDs that you may still watch. When it came to the audio side of things, the HT-H550 was capable of an enjoyable and nicely immersive surround experience, as long as you don't drive it too hard. The bass was well integrated but lacked impact on occasion and the system is definitely better suited to smaller rooms but, in fairness, that's exactly what it's aimed at. Ultimately the Samsung HT-H5500 is a solid performer that offers great value and as such it deserves a recommendation but the lack of HDMI inputs is a disappointment.
Ease of Use8
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
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