The amount of sound bar home theater systems in the $300 price range has exploded this year, but nearly all of them lack HDMI switching despite it being the near-universal home theater connection. (Now you can even connect the Nintendo Wii via HDMI.) Sony's been way ahead of the game with its HDMI port count, which is why its HT-CT100 sound bar home theater system has been one of the most popular products we reviewed: it has three HDMI inputs, excellent sound quality, and an affordable price tag.
For 2010, Sony released an updated version, the HT-CT150, and little has changed on the features front. Sure, its HDMI inputs are now 3D compatible, but otherwise the feature selection is nearly identical, which is fine since the competition still lags. Other sound bars have caught up in terms of sound quality; we found that the HT-CT150 still sounds very good, but it's not a standout performer as the HT-CT100 was. The system's biggest let down is that Sony made a couple of design tweaks that make it less flexibility in terms of subwoofer placement. However, as long as the HT-CT150 fits your home theater environment, it's still the best value in terms of sound quality and features.
The typical design for a sound bar home theater system consists of a long cylindrical sound bar that you connect all your components to, plus a wireless subwoofer. The HT-CT150 breaks many of these conventions. The subwoofer isn't wireless--it has an AC power cable and an umbilical link to the sound bar--and it acts as the main hub of the system, housing all of the inputs and the amplifier.
The HT-CT150's connectivity options are outstanding across the board. The only competing system with any HDMI connectivity is the Panasonic SC-HTB10, and it has only one port. There are quite a few sound bar home theater systems at this price, and the HT-CT150's HDMI connectivity puts it in a class of its own.
Even beyond its HDMI ports, the rest of the HT-CT150's connectivity is better than average. Its three digital inputs and two stereo analog inputs are more than enough to cover any non-HDMI gadgets you have. The HT-CT150 has six total input labels (such as "BD," "SAT/CATV," and so on), which means that's the maximum amount of external devices you can easily switch between at a time, even though there are more total inputs.
Sony made the remote more complex than it needs to be. It makes the mistake of trying to be everything for everyone by providing buttons for controlling both a TV and a Blu-ray player, although it can only control Sony-branded products. The result is an ugly remote with many buttons that have two or three functions--labeled with tiny yellow dots or pink lettering--that require you to hit a "shift" or "TV" button first to enable the function. It's not a pretty picture, especially when you compare the HT-CT150's remote to the clicker included with Vizio's competing VHT210. Yes, the HT-CT150's remote has more functionality, but it certainly is not enough to justify all the clutter. As always, the best bet is to spring for a quality universal remote.