The 5.1-channel HT-BD1250R is an excellent option for those seeking a low-cost home-cinema system with a built-in Blu-ray player. Its audio performance is admirable for the price, and its picture quality is even better, while a number of appealing extras, such as an iPod dock, only sweeten the deal
Building a home-cinema set-up from scratch using separate components can be a difficult and expensive undertaking, especially when you're looking to put together a Blu-ray system. This is where kits like the Samsung HT-BD1250R come in. It's a one-box, 5.1-channel surround-sound kit with a built-in Blu-ray player, iPod dock and FM radio tuner, providing everything you need for the bargain price of just £450 or thereabouts.
Quantum of pizzazz
The HT-BD1250R doesn't really stand out from the crowd in terms of looks. Its glossy black finish is seemingly standard on pretty much every piece of AV gear these days. But Samsung has tried to add some pizzazz by giving it pleasantly curved edges -- to match its TVs, no doubt -- and has shifted the flat volume dial to the top of the main unit. Unfortunately, this makes it awkward to place another piece of equipment, such as a games console, on top of it.
As this is a 5.1-channel surround-sound system, you'll find four identical satellite speakers in the box, plus a very small and squat centre speaker. There's a larger, passive subwoofer too. All of these connect to the main unit via colour-coded wires, so setting them up is a doddle. As you'd expect at this price point, there's no auto set-up feature, so you have to tweak speaker distances, delays and volumes manually, but this only has to be done once and it isn't a big chore.
You'll also find an iPod dock in the box, which connects to a port on the rear of the main unit. It works with pretty much all iPod and iPhone models, right up to the iPhone 3GS, allowing you to pump music through the system or view videos and photos on your telly via the HDMI lead.
The rear of the main unit is also home to both component and HDMI sockets for hooking it up to a 1080p TV, but, unfortunately, there are no HDMI inputs, so you can't route other devices, like a PlayStation 3 or Sky+HD box, through it. Nevertheless, there are two digital audio inputs, so you can run the audio from these devices to the HT-BD1250R for output via the 5.1-channel speakers.
The HT-BD1250R's Blu-ray playback quality surpassed our expectations at this price point. Feed it a good-quality disc and you'll be rewarded with glorious picture quality. Colours are so bold they almost leap from the screen, and motion is impressively smooth and judder-free. While it's not perfect when it comes to really precise detail, it's better than you have any right to expect at this price point.
But what about the audio performance? Interestingly, the speaker cones on this system are made from seaweed -- kelp to be exact. Samsung claims they perform better than traditional paper cones. Certainly, the use of kelp seems to help the system produce a really expansive sound stage, while still offering the sonic smarts to make the most of surround-sound effects. The subwoofer can be rather over-enthusiastic and booming when the action really heats up, though, and dialogue isn't quite as detailed as it could be. Nevertheless, the HT-BD1250R's overall sonic performance is admirable given the price point.
The main unit also has a network port on the rear so, if you connect it up to your Internet router via an Ethernet cable, you can access BD-Live content on compatible discs. This port also allows the system to act as a media streamer, playing back DivX, MP3 and JPEG files streamed from a PC across your network.
Together with some neat features, like the iPod dock and media-streaming functionality, the Samsung HT-BD1250R delivers great picture quality. While it won't knock your socks off in the sonic department, its performance is still admirable, given its low price tag. All in all, it's a good option for those seeking a Blu-ray home-cinema kit that won't break the bank.
Edited by Charles Kloet