The included DVD player is the Pioneer DV-490V-S, which can also be purchased separately for $100. The highlight of the player is its HDMI output, which can upconvert DVD movies to 720p and 1080i resolution for HDTVs. It also boasts decent disc compatibility: you can play your DVDs and CDs--including virtually all home-burned varieties--as well as discs with WMA/MP3 files, JPEG photos, and DivX videos. Unlike an integrated player, the advantage of a standalone model is that you can always swap in an upgrade, such as a multidisc changer or a DVD recorder.
The tower speakers feature two 3-inch woofers and a 1-inch dome tweeter, while the center makes do with a lone 3-inch woofer, and the subwoofer sports a 6.3-inch woofer on its rear panel.
If you like the idea of the small display unit and the subwoofer-based connectivity, Pioneer offers three other models with the same design: the HTS-260 (small speakers, no included DVD player), the HTS-GS1 (small speakers, designed to match the Xbox 360), and the HTS-950NXT (flagship system with slim "flat-panel" tower speakers).
Pioneer 2006 HTIBs compared:
|Model||Quick take||Included disk player?||Price|
|Pioneer HTP-2800||Pioneer's entry-level home-theater system bundles a basic A/V receiver with a 5.1 system comprised of miniature satellite speakers.||None|
|Pioneer HTP-3800||The step-up to the 2800 utilizes two wooden tallboy towers for the front speakers.||None|
|Pioneer HTS-260||By consolidating the amplifier and A/V jacks into the subwoofer, the HTS-260 offers a supertiny control unit--with automatic speaker calibration--to match its five small surround speakers.||None|
|Pioneer HTS-GS1||The HTS-GS1 is a retooled version of the HTS-260 that's designed to complement the Xbox 360.||None|
|Pioneer HTZ-360DV||Pioneer's smallest all-in-one home-theater offering delivers a receiver/DVD player with HDMI video output and a front-panel USB port.||Integrated single-disc CD/DVD player with HDMI output|
|Pioneer HTS-560DV||The HTS-560DV offers a small main control unit (similar to the HTS-260's), four tallboy tower speakers, and a full-size DVD player with HDMI output.||Stand-alone single-disc CD/DVD player with HDMI output|
Turning to movies, the system's rich balance fared somewhat better on the King Kong DVD. The big ape's antics weren't constrained by the system's trim dimensions, and the human actors dialog was clear. When we played the below-decks transport ship scene with Sean Penn from The Thin Red Line DVD, the deep bass hum of the ship's engines was bloated and lacking in definition, and though the battle scenes had reasonable impact, we too often felt the sub was struggling to deliver the goods. On CDs and DVDs, we could frequently localize the sound of the bass coming from the subwoofer and not the tower speakers, and that shattered the illusion of listening to a larger system. The towers sounded like small satellite speakers.
All in all, we'd rate the sonics of the Panasonic SC-HT940 ($500) package slightly ahead of the Pioneer's, but it's worth noting that the latter model also includes a receiver/amplifier with a built-in five-disc DVD changer. But if you place a higher priority on sound than trim size or a slick look, we'd recommend the Onkyo HT-S790 HTIB. The big and bulky $500 system lacks a DVD player, but its sound quality is among the best in its price class.