Some soundbars are just stereo speakers with a built-in amp, providing a basic way of upgrading a TV’s sound quality. But others are all-singing, all-dancing home cinema systems, offering a built-in disc player and audio decoding.
The HT-E8200 is one such soundbar. It features a built-in 3D-capable Blu-ray player, HD audio decoding and – most excitingly – built-in Wi-Fi with access to Samsung’s Smart Hub and DLNA media streaming. There’s even a wireless subwoofer that you can place anywhere in the room.
Design and features
The design is dominated by a large black mesh hiding the speaker drivers, but what catches the eye is the silver circle in the middle. This, believe it or not, is the Blu-ray player – you feed the disc into a slot at the top.
The look is accentuated by gloss black panels at each end, plus there’s an LED display that spells out words through the mesh in large digits. You’ll also find some touch-sensitive controls along the top.
The subwoofer is fairly large but its gloss black finish makes it look elegant. It needs to be installed near a plug, but that’s the only limitation as there are no cables to worry about.
The soundbar also sports a generous range of connections. There are two HDMI inputs and one output, which allow you to pass Full HD 3D signals through to your TV. They are however, housed in a tight space on the back that makes it quite awkward to feed the cables into the sockets.
You’ll also find an optical digital audio input, composite out, FM antenna port and an Ethernet port. At one end you’ll also find a USB port for media playback from storage devices and a 3.5mm input for portable audio devices.
Built-in Wi-Fi makes connecting to the Internet a cinch, and allows you to access Samsung’s Internet portal, Smart Hub. This brings Internet apps like BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm, Netflix and YouTube to your TV screen, alongside games and puzzles. There are even special zones devoted to fitness and kids. The range of content is wide and varied, with new services constantly being added in the Samsung Apps menu.
Family Story is a simple social networking service that enables owners of connected Samsung products to share photos. A web browser lets you surf the web at large but it’s only worth using if you invest in a USB mouse and keyboard.
You can also stream your own content from DLNA media servers over a network, or go peer-to-peer using Wi-Fi Direct. The range of supported formats is excellent, with DivX, MKV, WMV, AVI, MP3, WMA and JPEG just some of the files you can stream. AVCHD can only be played from USB devices, not over a network.
The HT-E8200 decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio movie soundtracks. Other nifty features include built-in Bluetooth music streaming and a variety of sound modes, including 3D Sound, MP3 Enhancer, Power Bass and Smart Volume.
Samsung’s onscreen menus are great fun, using bold colour schemes and jaunty animated graphics. The large icons on the main menu make it easy to find what you’re looking for, while the various Smart Hub menus are sophisticated and engaging.
Content stored on USB and network servers are accessed from the Allshare Play menu, which separates it into video, music and photos. When playing back music, the E8200 displays cover art and metadata.
In keeping with the user-friendly menus, the remote makes navigation easy with large, easily identifiable buttons, descriptive labelling and a sensible layout. It’s covered in buttons from top to bottom (all of which glow in the dark) but somehow it doesn’t feel cluttered.
The HT-E8200 delivers an explosive performance with Blu-ray movies. Most impressive is the power it musters despite the limitations of its slender frame – the sound is dynamic and large in scale, which allows it to fill the room without the aid of rear speakers.
This is helped considerably by terrific bass reproduction from the subwoofer. It’s not bloated or overpowering, just tight and punchy. During action scenes, its muscular presence makes explosions and gunshots sound deep and forceful. It also bolsters soundtracks and ambience and during quieter scenes.
The soundbar fires effects into the soundstage with gusto, side-stepping any signs of harshness or distortion if you keep the volume at a sensible level. It starts to strain slightly when pushed, but that’s to be expected.
Dialogue emerges clearly too, despite the lack of a dedicated centre channel. I had no trouble making out voices during even the busiest action scene. Also impressive is the clarity of fine high-frequency detail, which lends an open, airy feel to the sound.
The HT-E8200 creates an expansive stereo soundfield but there’s no surround presence whatsoever. That’s the sacrifice you make when opting for a 2.1 system – unless you go for a more sophisticated sound projector from Yamaha, for example.
Blu-ray pictures are excellent, packed with detail and bursting with colour whether you’re watching in 2D or 3D.
The HT-E8200 is a superb soundbar, offering a wealth of compelling features and thrilling performance. Its sound is dynamic, detailed and bolstered by punchy bass from the wireless sub. What’s more, it’s easy to use and makes a stylish addition to your living room. As soundbars go it’s fairly expensive, but when you consider how much you get for your money the HT-E8200 is actually good value.
Manufacturer and model
HDMI output / HDMI inputs
1 / 2
Component video output
Composite video output
Digital audio inputs
3.5mm minijack input
Analogue stereo input
Dolby TrueHD decoding
DTS HD Master Audio decoding
Dolby Digital decoding
DLNA media streaming
Dimensions (soundbar) W x H x D
1041 x 96 x 131mm
Dimensions (subwoofer) W x H x D
290 x 370 x 290mm
Audio Return Channel support