Editors' note: The rating of the Samsung HT-X810T has been changed since publication to better reflect its value compared to competing home theater systems.
If the primary appeal of soundbar speakers is based on their significant reduction of wires and clutter--as compared with 5.1-channel home theater-in-a-box systems--then Samsung's new HT-X810T soundbar should be a winner. While it's not the first single-speaker system with a built-in DVD player or a wireless subwoofer--that'd be the Philips SoundBar HTS8100 and the Boston Acoustics TVee Model Two, respectively--it is the first such unit to combine both of those features in one product. That means--if you're not hooking up any other AV sources to the Samsung--you can get away with hooking it up with just three wires: an HDMI cable from the speaker bar to the TV, and two power cables (one each for the speaker and the subwoofer). Toss in the built-in FM radio and Bluetooth receiver capability (letting you stream A2DP Bluetooth sources, such as many music phones and some MP3 players), and you've got an all-in-one entertainment system that's about as compact and easy to set up as can be expected. The major spoilers are the system's sparse connectivity options (you can only connect three audio-only sources plus a USB drive--and doing so will ruin the system's sexy lines with more dreaded cables), so-so surround effects, and occasionally uneven HDMI video quality. None of them, however, is likely to dissuade those searching for a quick and easy all-in-one home theater solution, which the HT-X810T capably provides.
As mentioned, the HT-X810T is a two-part device: the main speakerbar and the subwoofer. The speaker bar's curvaceous black cabinet is significantly taller than most soundbar speakers; it's 7.1 inches tall, 5.6 inches deep, and 39.3 inches wide. You can mount the speaker on a wall with the included bracket, or place it on a shelf above or below your TV. It weighs 17.5 pounds.
The top edge of the speaker has a small readout display, a motorized, flip-down door that reveals the disc-loading slot, and touch controls for the player, power, and volume. Most of the speaker's front baffle is covered with a black perforated metal grille (nonremovable). It's attractive, but the HT-X810T's may be a bit bulbous for those who are into minimizing the footprint of their flat-panel TV.
The subwoofer's black gloss front and top panels are handsome, but the medium-density fiberboard cabinet feels a bit lightweight. The black box measures 10 inches wide, 16.2 high tall and 12.7 deep, and weighs 19.6 pounds. A nonremovable grille covers the woofer on the right side of the box. Of course, the main attraction here is the sub's wireless operation--the power cable is the only wire, and there are no inputs or connections whatsoever. The built-in 150 watt amplifier drives the sub's woofer (size isn't specified). In most circumstances, there won't be any need to adjust or tweak any sub controls. Setup was plug and play--just power up the speaker and the subwoofer--and the wireless connection was glitch free. That said, the user manual acknowledges the sub's 5.8GHz wireless transmission system might be susceptible to interference with Bluetooth, microwave, or Wi-Fi devices. In those cases, you can change the sub's ID settings via the remote.
The remote control looks much like Samsung's TV and Blu-ray player's remotes, so it was easy to use. You can adjust the center channel and subwoofer volumes directly from the remote. It controls Samsung TVs right out of the box and can be programmed easily to control sets from other manufacturers.
The HT-X810T is an all-in-one home theater system that can play DVDs, CDs, and a variety of digital media formats. The unit can also wirelessly stream Bluetooth audio from any A2DP-compatible source, as well as a built-in FM radio with 15 presets.
The built-in slot-loading disc player will play all manner of DVDs and audio CDs. DVDs can be upscaled to 720p, 1080i, or 1080p resolution via the HDMI output. While most varieties of home-burned discs will work just fine, don't look for compatibility with Blu-ray or SACD discs. The Samsung does work with DVD-Audio discs, however.
The HT-X810T supports a better-than-average selection of digital file formats: DivX, Xvid, and WMV video files; MP3 and WMA audio; and JPEG photos. These files can be played off recordable CDs, DVDs, or from flash drives plugged into the USB port found on the unit's right-hand side.
Connectivity is not the strong point of the Samsung HT-X810T. Because it's an integrated system, it has just the bare minimum of outputs for connecting to a TV: composite, component, and HDMI. Inputs are limited to just three audio-only connectors: two analog (one pair of analog stereo jacks on the rear panel, one minijack input on the right side) and a single optical digital in. That means you could have, say, a cable/satellite box connected to the optical in (for surround sound) and game console plugged into the analog jacks, with the side port open for temporary connections to an iPod. The dearth of video inputs means that video switching duties will fall on the TV. In other words, if you have more than two or three AV sources in your home entertainment system, the HT-X810T probably isn't your best bet.