Samsung HW-F850 Soundbar Review
Classy looks, handy features and silky smooth sound results in a star performer
Well there’s the looks of course - what else would you expect from Samsung - but the HW-F850 also has a wider chassis, specifically designed to match larger screen sizes. There’s a wireless and fairly hefty active subwoofer, along with the option to mount the soundbar itself either on a flat surface or on the wall. The HW-F850 also has a sensor to determine the orientation of its mounting, thus allowing it to adjust its performance accordingly. To improve the overall sound quality, Samsung have included their vacuum tube pre-amp, with improved tweeter design and better integration of the subwoofer. There is also an auto-setup feature, near field communication (NFC) for simple connection to a smartphone or tablet, a 3D Sound Plus feature and wireless connectivity with Samsung TVs. At a cost of £829 the HW-F850 is at the higher end of the price scale but if it can deliver an appropriate level of performance it might be money well spent - let’s find out.
Design and Connections
The soundbar has a black metal grille that covers its entire length with brushed metal plates at both ends. The build quality is excellent and both the sound bar and the subwoofer have a solid and well engineered feel. In the middle is the valve amplifier itself, which has a pleasant retro look but does glow when in use, which can be annoying in a darkened room. Just beneath the valve amplifier there is a touch panel with some basic controls. There is an OLED display on the front leading edge when the HW-F850 is laid on a flat surface and a separate display that appears to the left of the control panel when the main unit is wall mounted upright. It's a nice touch that makes the HW-F850 more flexible in terms of installation. At the far right hand side there is the Near Field Communication (NFC) panel where you just hold your NFC capable device to make an instant connection.
Previous Samsung soundbars have had their connections on the subwoofer but this limited effective subwoofer placement, so the manufacturer has moved the inputs to the sound bar itself. Under the chassis there is a recessed area where you will find all the physical connections. This recess and a helpful gap allowed you to run cables into the HW-F850 whilst still keeping it flush to either a flat surface or the wall. In terms of the connections there is an HDMI input and an HDMI output with ARC. This allows you to run audio from the TV back to the HW-F850 via the HDMI output, leaving the HDMI input free for another source like a Blu-ray player. There is also an optical digital input, an analogue 3.5mm input, a jack for the setup mic and a connector for the AC power adaptor. At the rear you will find a USB port and the HW-F850 also includes a well designed and backlit remote that can be used to control both the sound bar and a connected Samsung TV.
So what’s missing? Well the lack of AirPlay is a shame, although hardly a surprise, and you can still connect your iDevice using Bluetooth. There’s also no DLNA capability but frankly that’s a rarity on a soundbar and is diminishing in importance as other forms of wireless communication become more popular. You can connect two HDMI sources to the HW-F850, one via the HDMI input and the other using ARC via the HDMI output. However, given its flagship status, one or even two more HDMI inputs would have been useful as many people in the UK use a separate satellite or Freeview box, along with a Blu-ray player and possibly a games console.
Samsung’s efforts at improving the subwoofer performance in their sound bar systems has clearly paid dividends with a powerful and highly effective low end performance. However, the bass never swamped the overall sound and was very well integrated, resulting in a smooth low frequency response that enhanced the overall performance. The HW-F850 obviously doesn't have any surround capability but its front soundstage is so open that it made the audio more immersive, without resorting to unnecessary trickery. There are a number of sound effect modes (Music, News, drama, Cinema, Sports and Game) that process the audio but we would strongly recommend avoiding them. The standard performance of the HW-F850 was superb, replicating the original sound so well that there was no need for any unwanted processing. The same goes for the 3D Sound Plus feature, which just added a ridiculous amount of echo to everything. The Bluetooth connection supports Middle Quality SBC data (up to 237kbps@48kHz) and is compatible with MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, OGG and FLAC (1.1.0, 1.2.1) over USB.
- Great sound
- Well integrated bass
- Attractive design
- Excellent build quality
- Impressive features
- Flexible installation
- Bit pricey
- Limited HDMI inputs
- No AirPlay
Samsung HW-F850 Soundbar Review
In terms of connections we would have liked to see more HDMI inputs on a flagship model but otherwise there are sufficient to meet most people’s needs. There is Bluetooth included as well as Near Field Communication for a quick and easy connection to a NFC capable device. Unsurprisingly there’s no AirPlay or DLNA but with Bluetooth becoming more popular that is no great loss. Besides what is important is the sound quality and here the HW-F850 really took us by surprise. We have reviewed a number of sound bars in the last few years but the sound quality on the Samsung immediately caught our attention. It had a wide open soundstage that really filled the room and the bass was well integrated to create a hugely enjoyable audio experience. The HW-F850 sounded fantastic with TV, movies and music, making it a great all-rounder for anyone looking for a simple and attractive solution to the poor sound on most modern TVs.
Ease of Use9
Value for Money8
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