Though home theater enthusiasts may drool over a rack full of AV boxes, for most people less is more when it comes to living-room gadgets. Sound bars with wireless subwoofers are now widely available for around $300, but the Samsung HT-BD8200 ($700 street price) does them one better by integrating a Blu-ray player into the sound bar--the only product of its kind that we've seen in the U.S. The design is undeniably slick, and even though the HT-BD8200 first came out in 2009, it's Wi-Fi capable (with an included USB Wi-Fi dongle), supports streaming from Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, and Blockbuster, and offers Blu-ray performance comparable with 2010 standalone players.
But despite all it has going for it, we couldn't get too excited about the HT-BD8200 after it disappointed on arguably the two most important aspects: sound quality and reliable disc playback. We've been impressed by the sound quality of many sound bar home theater systems we've reviewed this year, but the HT-BD8200 was a step behind them, with an overly bassy sound that lacks detail and clarity. Operational quirks were even more frustrating, with the HT-BD8200 refusing to play discs in a somewhat haphazard fashion. We love the concept of the HT-BD8200, and much of its execution is spot on, but its limitations mean it's only a good pick for those really enthralled with the all-in-one design. Ultimately we think most people would prefer the slightly bulkier combination of the Samsung HW-C450 ($350 street) and Samsung BD-C6500 ($200), which offers better sound, more features, and reliable disc playback.