Sound bars aren't as thin as the slimmest HDTVs yet, but the Samsung HW-C450 ($300 street price) is getting close. It is less than 2 inches thick, which seems almost impossibly thin, considering the fact that it houses six drivers and built-in amplification. Even more impressive is that Samsung manages to get some impressive sound quality out of those cramped quarters (plus a wireless subwoofer), with better-than-average detail on movies.
Music, on the other hand, sounds a little disappointing, and JVC's somewhat heftier TH-BA1 is a better pick if you plan on listening to more than TV and movies. Our other main knock against the HW-C450 is the lack of HDMI connectivity, especially when the competing Sony HT-CT150 ($300 street price) has three HDMI inputs, all capable of 3D video pass-through.
If the lack of HDMI connectivity doesn't bother you, the Samsung HW-C450 is one of the sleekest sound bar home theater systems we've tested, making it a good pick for style-minded buyers who mostly watch movies.
The HW-C450 is one of the most decor-friendly sound bars we've tested. At only 1.77 inches deep, its slim profile makes it easy to fit on even the most crowded TV stands. It's 3.62 inches high, so it should fit easily under an HDTV without obscuring the screen. From the front, you'll notice six total drivers, separated by a glossy black finish, as per Samsung's usual style.
There's also a small LCD display along the top, which we appreciate, although its size makes it hard to see from far back. Next to the display are several touch-sensitive buttons, which are handy in case the remote goes missing. The lack of need for a wire to connect the included sub just adds to the minimalist charm.
The HW-C450 can be wall-mounted with the supplied bracket or placed on a shelf; we went with the second option. Unfortunately, the HW-C450's 1.77-inch depth doesn't make for a stable design. Samsung should include pads or footers to prevent the speaker from tipping over.
Our sample HW-C450's wireless subwoofer automatically linked with the speaker; if it didn't work, we would have initiated the simple "ID Set" procedure. The wireless sub worked perfectly throughout the testing period, and we didn't experience dropouts, noise, or other malfunctions. As with all small speaker-subwoofer systems, we recommend placing the sub within a few feet of the speaker--much further away and you start to hear the sub as a separate sound source.
The HW-C450's connectivity package is less extensive than we would have liked. Most glaring is the omission of any HDMI connectivity, which is available on the similarly priced Sony HT-CT150 and Panasonic SC-HTB10. Two optical inputs are the main digital audio connections and the HW-C450 also includes a minijack input designed to handle a device with a stereo analog audio output. Samsung includes a minijack-to-stereo RCA adapter cable with the HW-C450. If you have a simple home theater--three devices or fewer--the HW-C450 may fit your needs, but it's smart to check whether it has enough inputs to handle all your gear. There's also a USB port on the back, but it's used only for firmware updates.
The remote mostly matches the simplicity of the bar's physical design. Samsung doesn't clutter up the clicker with too many unnecessary buttons, and important functions like volume, at least, get different colors to make them easier to spot. We appreciated the ability to adjust subwoofer volume directly with the remote, which isn't always available.