Samsung's designers have modified the disc tray slightly from last year — apparently, wall mounting was a problem with the old model because the disc would eject vertically and hit the bottom of the TV if mounted too closely. This time, the tray drops out elegantly and the disc comes out at an angle. The soundbar comes with a clear plastic stand, and despite the four rubber stoppers on the bottom it isn't particularly stable. Though it won't fall over with use, you can easily knock it accidentally while changing a disc or plugging in cables — we would have liked a sturdier stand. Of course, this isn't a problem if you do plan to wall-mount it.
The sub itself is fairly unspectacular looking, though prettied up in a piano-black suit. It's self-sufficient, and so can be placed anywhere in the room you like.
The remote control is one of the better Samsung home theatre models, and is powerful yet easy to use.
The HT-BD8200 is a 2.1 "soundbar" system which includes a wireless subwoofer. The main unit and sub are paired in the factory, so there's nothing you need to do apart from plug them into the power. Unlike some competing units it's not designed to physically simulate surround sound, though it does include a software "Virtual Surround" mode.
The HT-BD8200 is a BD-Live compliant player which means you'll have access to all of the latest interactive features. The player will also upscale DVDs and due to the latest firmware update you can browse YouTube. Streaming media from your network and iPod playback are also included. Meanwhile, Bluetooth compatibility is not available.
At the rear of the unit you'll find a USB port for the optional wireless LAN module, an FM antenna, optical input and an Ethernet port. To handle video duties is an HDMI port and a composite connector. On the side of the unit you'll find a further USB input, an aux in, iPod connector (for the bundled dock) and a headphone jack.
Samsung seems to have taken all of the successful elements of last year's HT-X810 — easy set-up, great vision and wireless integration — and improved on it. For the price, a Blu-ray player is a great addition and we were glad to see that it actually performed well.
The player put in a sterling effort with both DVDs and Blu-rays, and while the DVD upscaler wasn't as good as something like the Oppo BDP-83, this was to be expected for the money and DVDs still looked good. Black levels on standard-definition content were deep, and while detail was hampered by a little bit of noise the picture was still clear.
As we'd expected from the maker of several excellent Blu-ray players, HD playback was very fine. The unit passed all of the synthetic HD tests — an excellent result — and a disc like Mission Impossible III was detailed and not overly noisy. Jarring "judder" effects were also kept to a minimum.
Like last year's model, the subwoofer can only be altered by +/- 6dB which is way too little. As a result, the subwoofer was still too loud for music listening, and a little overpowering for home theatre as well. However, when combined, the main unit sound was incredibly well integrated, with none of the directional problems of a system like the Sony DAV-IS10 — everything sounds like it is coming from your television. There may be a lack of low-end warmth when listening to music, but in the majority sound was detailed and well-balanced.
Like most modern cinema systems the Samsung includes a set-up system, though it's manual and not automated. Just a place to input the seating positions distance from the TV and a test tone generator. One thing we noticed when using this was the subwoofer sounded like it was shaking itself apart during the test tone — not good.
We tried the Virtual Sound mode and found that the effect gave more width to the soundstage, and sounds did seem like they were coming from the sides of the room, but there was no real "surround" effect. The company seems to have learned its lesson from last year and limited the volume on the unit to prevent it shaking itself apart at really high volumes. As a result you won't get ear-splitting volumes from the HT-BD8200, but you're also less likely to damage it.
However, we did find that the top end did get a little too nasty on Battles' Atlas at high volume, and the subwoofer seemed to find it hard to keep up. At a more reasonable volume the parts fell back into line.
Samsung home theatre products of late have been all about packing in plenty of features for the money, and in this case some of them don't work as successfully. The iPod integration worked and playback was decent, but any semblance of folder structure was lost. The unit chose to bundle all of the songs by one artist into a single folder in alphabetical order. Units that order songs by alphabetical rather than track order are one of our pet hates.
Samsung updated the unit's firmware during our testing period adding something that's been very popular on other units: YouTube access. Unfortunately, as the update occurred at the the eleventh hour we were unable to get the feature to work, but trust that further updates should fix the problem.