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Samsung HT-BD8200 Sound Bar - home theater system review: Samsung HT-BD8200 Sound Bar - home theater system

Samsung HT-BD8200 Sound Bar - home theater system

Matthew Moskovciak Steve Guttenberg
Matthew Moskovciak Senior Associate Editor / Reviews - Home theater
Covering home audio and video, Matthew Moskovciak helps CNET readers find the best sights and sounds for their home theaters. E-mail Matthew or follow him on Twitter @cnetmoskovciak.
Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
4 min read


Samsung HT-BD8200 Sound Bar - home theater system

The Good

One-of-a-kind sound bar with built-in Blu-ray player; sleek design; Wi-Fi capable with included USB dongle; Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, and Blockbuster streaming; wireless subwoofer; image quality and disc-loading speeds comparable with standalone Blu-ray players.

The Bad

Too many operational glitches; so-so sound quality; tall design may block TV when placed on a TV stand; limited connectivity; lacks expandable Samsung Apps platform on other newer Samsung home theater products.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung HT-BD8200 packs a Blu-ray player into a sound bar for unparalleled simplicity, but disappointing sound quality and operational glitches limit its appeal.

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 about $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, 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.

Most sound bars have a cylindrical design, but the HT-BD8200 is long, thin, and flat. The edges of the HT-BD8200 feature a translucent black plastic, whereas the majority of the front is dominated by matte-black speaker grilles. In the center is a large glossy black square, with an LCD display that features graphics that correspond to remote commands, like pause or eject. The whole unit can be perched on the included stand or wall-mounted.

For a sound bar, the HT-BD8200 is bigger than most, despite its razor thin (1.9 inches) design. Though its width (39.4 inches) is comparable with other sound bars we've tested, its 7.75-inch height is a little problematic, as it obscured part of the Samsung PN58B650 when the sound bar was placed on the TV stand in front of the HDTV. Make sure you think about the configuration of your home theater and whether the HT-BD8200 will fit. On the upside, the included subwoofer is wireless, so that's one less wire you'll have cluttering up your living room.

Wireless subwoofer
The included subwoofer is wireless, although it does need to be plugged into an outlet.

The real allure of the HT-BD8200 is its integrated Blu-ray drive. The disc player is completely hidden until you hit the eject button; then center portion tilts back to reveal a slot-loading drive. It feels a little futuristic. We thought the Philips HTS8100 felt slick when we reviewed it, but the HT-BD8200 is one step better.

The included remote gets almost everything right, with one big exception. The basics are good: there's a big directional pad, an eject button, button rockers for volume and tuning, and playback buttons of Braille-like nubs to make it easier to navigate by feel. The problem: the two most important Blu-ray navigation buttons--pop-up menu and disc menu--are relegated to tiny buttons at the bottom, making them difficult to find. It's a disappointing oversight on an otherwise well-designed remote.

User Interface
The user interface is bare bones, but the no-nonsense layout makes it easy to jump to the available streaming services. Turn the unit on and you get the Samsung logo, plus the ability to jump right to the streaming service of your choice: Blockbuster, Netflix, Pandora, or YouTube. The internal menu structure isn't quite as simple, with "setup" located in the disc menu and network search separate from the main menu system. It lacks some of the eye candy of Samsung's newer 2010 user interface, but we didn't find ourselves missing it that much.


"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key Blu-ray features
3D Blu-ray No Onboard memory No
Wi-Fi Included dongle Blu-ray profile 2.0

The HT-BD8200 lacks some of the latest cutting-edge features available on 2010 standalone Blu-ray features, but overall it's still well-featured. The lack of onboard memory isn't a huge surprise (even capable units like the LG BD570 skimp here) and the lack of 3D compatibility doesn't bother us, since the format is still in its infancy. We would have preferred built-in Wi-Fi to the included USB Wi-Fi dongle, but it's hidden behind the unit, so it doesn't make much of a difference.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Streaming-media features
Netflix Yes YouTube Yes
Amazon VOD No Pandora Yes
Vudu No Slacker No
CinemaNow No Picasa/Flickr No
DLNA compliant No Weather No

Though the HT-BD8200 lacks the expandable Samsung Apps platform available on newer Samsung home theater programs, it still includes most of the services we consider important. Netflix and Pandora are the main draws, and YouTube is a nice extra, although we don't find ourselves using it much in a living-room environment. Blockbuster opens up the ability to rent movies on-demand; we prefer the more popular Vudu or Amazon VOD services, but Blockbuster will suffice for your instant-gratification fix. Unfortunately, unlike most 2010 models, it's unlikely you'll see this unit upgraded to add Hulu Plus.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Audio-decoding capabilities
Dolby TrueHD Yes DTS-HD Master Audio Yes
Dolby Digital Plus Yes DTS-HD HR Yes
Bit stream output Yes SACD/DVD-Audio No

Like nearly every Blu-ray player available now, the HT-BD8200 offers onboard decoding for both high-resolution Dolby and DTS formats. If you want to play back SACDs and DVD-Audios, you'll need to look to standalone Blu-ray players from Oppo; Sony's players also offer SACD playback.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">AV connectivity
HDMI inputs 0 Analog audio inputs 0
Optical inputs 1 Coaxial inputs 0
Minijack input No Max. connected ext. devices 1

The HT-BD8200's connectivity is limited, even by the already skimpy standard of sound bar home theater systems. There's only a single optical input for external devices. That's somewhat understandable considering the HT-BD8200 has a built-in Blu-ray player, but even a simple home theater with a cable box and a Nintendo Wii will be out of luck. (Unless you use your TV as a switcher, but that involves all kinds of remote juggling.)

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Other connectivity
Ethernet Yes SD card slot No
USB ports 1 Headphone jack No

The rest of the HT-BD8200's connectivity is standard. We were pleasantly surprised that the system includes an FM tuner, which isn't included on many other sound bar home theater systems. Although the HT-BD8200 technically does have a USB port on the back, it's likely it will be occupied by the USB Wi-Fi dongle.

Audio setup
The HT-BD8200 is a 2.1-channel system, so the good news is there's not a lot of speaker calibration to do. We're not sure why the onscreen setup menu even has distance settings, but we dutifully entered the distances from the speaker and subwoofer to the CNET listening room's couch. We put test tones through the left and right channels and the subwoofer, and noted that the subwoofer was a lot louder than the speakers, even when both were at their "O" settings.

Once we played a few movies we thought that the sub was too loud, so we lowered it to -2, then -4, and finally to -6. That was better, but the HT-BD8200's sound was still very bassy. That's our taste--a lot of listeners prefer a bassy sound--so if that's what you want the HT-BD8200 may be just right for you.

The sub itself doesn't have a volume control, and you can't control its level from the remote. The only way to change its volume is to delve into the HT-BD8200's setup menu. The sub may be wireless, but that doesn't mean you can put it anywhere in the room; if it's too far away from the speaker you'll start to notice that all the bass is coming from the sub. Try to keep the sub within 5 or 6 feet of the speaker.

Audio performance
We guessed the HT-BD8200's sound bar speaker and subwoofer's larger-than-average sizes would produce a rich sound, and that's exactly what we got. The warm tonal balance is pleasant, but lacking in detail and clarity. Some of that could be attributed to the HT-BD8200's over-eager subwoofer, but we acknowledge some buyers prefer a bassy sound.

The HT-BD8200 is equipped with high-resolution, lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD processing, but you'd never guess that from listening to this sound bar. The sound is somewhat muffled at low to moderately loud levels; when played loud it can sound strained and harsh.

Checking out the "Star Trek" DVD, the HT-BD8200 communicated the deep throbbing power of the Enterprise's engines. The battle scenes' dynamic impact was acceptable, but not great. The sound improved when we engaged the HT-BD8200's "Smart Sound" DSP processing. Smart Sound added some detail, and though it compressed the DVD's dynamic range, the movie sounded a lot better with Smart Sound turned on.

Smart Sound was also useful in terms of getting more volume out of the "Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis Play the Music of Ray Charles" DVD. With Smart Sound turned off, the DVD wasn't loud enough, even with the volume set to Max. The live concert DVD sounded warm and natural, and since it has 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, we listened to both and much preferred the stereo for its improved clarity over the HT-BD8200.

That didn't surprise us--the HT-BD8200 is a 2.1-channel system after all. We did try using the system's "Virtual Sound" feature, but its effectiveness was minimal. That said, the stereo sound never felt confined to the dimensions of the HT-BD8200's cabinet, the soundstage was slightly wider than the speaker.

Next, we watched the "Batman Begins" Blu-ray disc, which gave the HT-BD8200's subwoofer ample opportunity to strut its stuff. The tank-like Batmobile's rumbling power was plenty visceral; and when the chasing police cars crash and burn, the subwoofer let us feel each impact. Dialogue sounded fine overall, but we noted that in action scenes, intelligibility suffered.

Finishing up with a few CDs didn't change our opinion of the HT-BD8200's sound. Bass was prominent, though definition was only fair. Rosanne Cash's "The List" CD sounded fine, though Cash's vocal and guitar were a little too recessed in the soundstage. Rocking out with John Hiatt was better, mostly because the gutsy sub added a kick to the sound that eludes a lot of sound bar speakers.

We liked the HT-BD8200 for its rich tonal balance, but it fell short in clarity and dynamic oomph. It's not an inexpensive system, and for this much money we expect better sound.

Blu-ray performance
The HT-BD8200 debuted in 2009, so we expected its Blu-ray performance to lag behind 2010 standalone Blu-ray players. We were pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn't the case, with the HT-BD8200 passing the most-important test patterns and program material tests we threw at it. Image quality purists can find minute benefits offered by our reference Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player, but the vast majority of movies look identical on the two players.

We were even more surprised to find that the HT-BD8200's operational speed was comparable with 2010 Samsung standalone Blu-ray players. That's somewhat because this year's Samsung Blu-ray players are on the slow side, but the HT-BD8200 offers perfectly acceptable disc-loading performance, especially for a built-in drive. The overall CNET speed rating was a 78, which is actually a tad faster than the Samsung BD-C6500. (A full spreadsheet of our testing of standalone Blu-ray players can be found here.)

Though we were impressed by the HT-BD8200's performance on traditional Blu-ray player tests, most of our enthusiasm was deflated by the player's operational quirks. For example, if the HT-BD8200 is turned on with a disc player already in the drive, it becomes impossible to play the disc, with the onscreen interface allowing you to browse the folders on the Blu-ray disc but not letting you play the movie. The only way to fix the problem is to eject the disc, turn off the player, and turn it back on. We ran into other issues where the unit would refuse to play and discs--showing a "Disc could not be played" error--only to play the same discs after the unit was restarted. We love the simplicity of a single unit that handles nearly all your home theater needs, but you'll need a lot of patience to put up with the HT-BD8200's quirks.


Samsung HT-BD8200 Sound Bar - home theater system

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 5
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