Design, Installation and Setup
Connections are housed in a recess to the rear of the soundbar, above which are touch-sensitive buttons for Stop, Play, Eject, Standby, Function, Input and Volume. Making use of all the available connections simultaneously will take quite a feat of cable management as there are two HDMI inputs, one HDMI out as well as a Composite Video out, S/PDIF digital audio in and a terminal for an FM radio antennae, all cramped in to quite a small space. It’s doable but you’ll need good cables to ensure they don’t break under bending. The supplied remote control is quintessentially Samsung, well designed, slimline and packing in plenty of function keys. Owners of Samsung TVs – of which we understand there are quite a few – will be pleased with the ability to switch the remote between operating their TV and ‘mega-box’ by using the BD/TV buttons top left.
Setting up the HT-E8200 for the first time really couldn’t be any simpler. Plug it in to the mains and hook up the HDMI connection; make a language selection; initialise your Network connection (optional); check for software updates; choose your TV Aspect Ratio and you’re done. We were a little surprised that the setting of speaker distances wasn’t part of the process but you can quickly do that by diving in to the Audio area of the Settings Menu.
In the Network sub-menu there are options for setting up the network connection (wired or wireless), the the WiFi Direct if you have a compatible device, the AllShare Settings, the BD-Live Settings and the Bluetooth device name. Within the System sub-menu there are options for the Initial Settings, the Device Manager, Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC), Language, Security, General and DivX Video on Demand. The final sub-menu is for support and includes Software Updates, Contact Samsung, Remote Management and a system Reset.
The Audio menu includes settings for the Equaliser, Smart Volume, Audio Return Channel (ARC), Digital Output, Dynamic Range Control and Audio Sync. To set up the audio system itself, there are options for Speaker Settings and Speaker Selection. The Speaker Selection lets you choose which speakers you want active, the TV's speakers or the home theatre's speakers. The Speaker Settings allow for the allocation of both Distance and Level. Distance is pretty self-explanatory but may require a tape measure. To set the Level will either need you to be very good at estimating relative speaker volumes – you want them all to match – or be in possession of a sound pressure level (SPL) meter to do it more accurately.
The HT-E8200 works very well as media player, and we encountered no problems with a variety of media servers and files we tried – PS3 Media Centre/Servio/WMP and Samsung’s own, Smartshare software. The built-in WiFi is a real boon but the Web Browser is a chore to use with the standard remote control, even if the Enter key acts as a substitute scroll pad (sort of). Using the available remote control app for iOS or Android devices might alleviate the pain, somewhat, but we can’t say we found ourselves rushing back to use it.
It’s very rare we see a Blu-ray player that doesn’t deliver as it should with 1080p content, in fact only one player springs to mind, and the HT-E8200 doesn’t disappoint. Flavour of the month here currently, Arthur Christmas – you’ve probably guessed by now that there are kids in the house – looks absolutely sensational played through the Samsung with its rich colours and superb lighting effects carefully preserved. Running through some of our more usual test material - The Dark Knight, Boardwalk Empire and The Bourne Trilogy and we were suitably impressed by the HT-E8200’s faithful presentation of the discs’ reference encodes. For 3D testing, we went back to the excellent Titanic conversion and the now almost worn out Avatar and, again, we sensed no added crosstalk or unexpected surprises; played through both an active and passive display.
We were worried about the proximity of the disc mechanism to the speaker electronics but there was very little noise from the drive itself, in operation, although there is a definite mechanical hum emitting from the unit at all times. It’s only really perceivable when listening/watching at particularly low volumes – at least to our ears – but something to be aware of for sensitive types. Our only other real operational gripe stems from the lack of HDMI pass-through when the unit is in standby. Not a problem for this reviewer but the added complexity may vex other members of the house, i.e. your other half may repeatedly say, ‘but I just want to watch the telly’, which is something that could have been avoided. On a more positive note, disc load times are exceptionally speedy with our Blu-rays ready to play in typically under 20 seconds. DVD’s were a fraction slower but certainly nothing to get worked up over. All in all, the Samsung HT-E8200 fulfils the video side of the bargain with great competence and little fuss. Just as it should be.
The E8200 provides a number of DSP (Digital Sound Processing) Modes – Virtual Sound, Music, News, Drama, Cinema, Sports and Game as well as the ability to bypass the processing. There is also a 3D Sound button on the remote control with options of High, Low and Medium which can only be engaged when DSP is disabled. We have to admit as to never really finding a setting that conveyed any great sense of surround for multi-channel audio enabled movies, unless we sat 4 feet, or less, away. Your room will perhaps be the biggest factor here; we tested in a living room with plenty of obstacles preventing the sound being bounced around convincingly – fireplace, bay window opposite and a couple of doorways – as well as in a more sympathetic, rectangular room but the HT-E8200 never really stepped up to the plate. Subwoofer performance was also less convincing when faced with a LFE channel, with it somewhat muddied and slow off the mark. Even an all-in-one 5.1 surround system costing typically half the price will provide a much more engaging movie experience and whilst we understand the resistance of ‘other alves’ to excessive wiring, we’d urge you to consider how you might accommodate more speakers without incurring spousal wrath. There’s absolutely no doubt the HT-E8200 embarrasses even the best of TV speakers for audio quality but it is certainly quite lacklustre in anything beyond 2 channels.
- Surprisingly accomplished with music
- Neat and well-engineered package
- Easy to set up
- Lots of smart features that work well
- It's too big for most TVs
- Movie perfomance is lacking
- Seems pricey compared to some 5.1 packages
- No HDMI passthrough in standby
Samsung HT-E8200 2.1 Channel Soundbar with Blu-ray and DVD Player Built-in Review
Design and concept wise, the Samsung HT-E8200 is quite unusual, encasing the Blu-ray drive in the speaker bar with low frequency effects and bass provided by a wireless, active subwoofer. Whilst there’s no doubt this offers a potentially very tidy, spouse friendly little package, the circular bulge of the optical drive does place some caveats about how and where you place it. Mounted on a typical rack or stand which places the centre of the TV at eye level, the maximum height of the main unit is likely to partially obscure the bottom of the screen of most flat-panel TVs built in the last 3 to 4 years which is, we’re sure you’ll understand, distracting. It’s possible to knock a few mm’s off the height by not attaching it to the small, supplied stand but it was not enough on the four TVs we tried it with. It’s a fundamental issue that needs to be considered before deciding on purchase and not something to be overlooked. The unit is, however, well-engineered and we have no complaints on those grounds.
The supplied remote control and menu system are far more standard affairs and setup is simple thanks to sensible deployment of options with each. The Samsung HT-E8200 packs many a feature in to its tubular body, with scores of Video on Demand services, lifestyle and social networking apps and a generous and robust media player amongst the highlights.
As we usually expect from Samsung products, video performance is very strong in all definitions available – be it SD, HD or 3D. Scaling of your standard definition DVD’s will be crisp and the EH8200 remains faithful to the demands of Blu-ray, preserving colours and representing motion without a whiff of artefacting or unwanted processing. 3D images are, likewise, free of nasties and disc loading times exceptionally quick. Whilst the close proximity of the disc drive to the speaker electronics didn’t present issues, we could detect a slight mechanical hum with volume levels turned down.
Unusually for all-in-one cinema package, the Samsung HT-E8200 acquits itself better with music than it does movies. Even in a room sympathetic to having sounds bounced around it, the Samsung was never really able to give any meaningful sense of surround, unless we drew up the armchair uncomfortably close. That’s not to say it won’t make your TV speakers sound pedestrian, it undoubtedly will, but for considerably less outlay one could pick up a budget 5.1 system and get more out of movies, sonically, than the E8200 is able to provide.
The Samsung HT-E8200 is by no means a bad product. Video performance, in particular, is impressive and there’s a lot to be said for its convenience that will make the partner approval factor high but nagging doubts over its suitability for mounting on conventional AV furniture – due to its height obscuring the screen – and a somewhat lacklustre attempt at pseudo-surround means we’d recommend investigating other alternatives.
Ease of Use
Value for Money
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