Does this budget all-in-one package have anything to offer home cinema enthusiasts?
Samsung’s entry-level 5.1 system throws in a set of super-compact speakers, a Blu-ray receiver and a subwoofer. It’ll set you back around £250, which is barely more than a standalone soundbar.
Looking at the snug packaging, it’s hard to believe everything’s in there. I pulled out the diddy little speakers and installed them around my room on the TV stand and shelves. Their gloss-black finish and small form are the epitome of ‘living room-friendly.’
There’s a plasticky feel to the black finish, but the hexagonal shape and metal mesh on the front make them surprisingly solid. The sats are joined by a compact sub, which does itself no favours with the exposed chipboard on the back and lightweight cabinet, but the front looks attractive enough. The black Blu-ray receiver appears practically identical to Samsung’s standalone BD-H6500, right down to the curved corner.
Touch-sensitive controls and a USB port adorn the front of the Blu-ray unit, while an NFC panel on top allows pairing of Android devices to stream music via Bluetooth. Connections also include an HDMI (ARC) output, optical and analogue stereo inputs and Ethernet. Most people will plump for the built-in Wi-Fi. The wireless fun continues with Wi-Fi Direct and screen mirroring.
File format support via DLNA or USB is decent, including AVCHD, DivX HD, MKV, FLAC and ALAC – the last two not in hi-res, sadly. Network streaming and online video playback is simple and problem-free.
There’s no DTS Neo:Fusion processing as found on Samsung's higher-end systems but there’s a bunch of sound and picture presets to check out, plus the usual stuff like HD audio decoding and 3D BD playback.
Bold, engaging onscreen menus and an intuitive remote make operation easy - this is the perfect system for beginners. It’s only when you fire up a film that you realise why the HT-H5500 costs just £250. The smallscale drivers and shallow cabinets have a hard time coping with the rigours of dynamic, layered material, resulting in a honky, hard-edged sound that never fully satisfies.
The freeway fight scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is played with plenty of aggression – every car crash and gunshot blast has a forceful, attacking edge and decent heft from the sub – but it tests the tolerance of your eardrums with the volume pushed anywhere over halfway.
Fine sonic detail also gets glossed over. High frequencies are spat out rather than caressed, leaving the balance midrange-heavy. Dialogue is clearly articulated and the subwoofer adds a degree of scale to proceedings, although there’s very little finesse or agility when it starts rumbling.
Let’s not be too hard on the HT-H5500, though. The rear speakers offer the sort of immersive surround staging you won’t get from a soundbar, and its sound is still enjoyable. Not Samsung’s finest moment, but not paying through the nose makes its flaws tolerable, and the feature list and styling are plus points.
Price: £250 Approx
Highs: Lively sound; compact design; generous features for the money; hassle-free operation
Lows: No ITV Player, 4OD or Demand 5; hard tone; lacks composure at high volumes; subwoofer needs more agility
Upscaling: Yes. To 1080p
Connections: HDMI v1.4 output (ARC); optical digital audio input; analogue stereo input; Ethernet port; built-in Wi-Fi; USB port; FM aerial input
SACD/DVD-A playback: No/No
DTS-HD/Dolby TrueHD decoding: Yes/Yes
Claimed power output: 1,000W
Dimensions (main unit):
430(w) x 55(h) x 224(d)mm
Weight (package): 10kg
Features: DLNA media streaming; internet apps; screen mirroring; Bluetooth; NFC; Wi-Fi Direct; media playback via USB; eight sound modes; picture presets; FM radio
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