They may not be popular with purists, but there's no doubt that you get plenty of bang for your buck when you opt for a home-cinema kit. The HT-BD1252 from Samsung is a good example. Not only do you get a 5.1-channel speaker set-up and surround-sound decoder, but you also get a BD-Live compatible Blu-ray player, iPod dock and media-streaming features. The HT-BD1252 will set you back around £450.
Samsung has a knack of coming up with attractive designs for its AV kit -- one of the reasons why its TVs have proved so popular over the last few years -- and certainly this talent for sexy styling is much in evidence on the HT-BD1252. The main unit looks quite snazzy, thanks to its petite dimensions, pleasant curves and piano black exterior.
But, while it wins marks for style, the system is rather lacking when it comes to build quality. When you hold the speakers in your hands, it quickly becomes obvious that they're made from relatively thin and light plastic. This is especially true of the tall speakers used for the front right and left channels.
Nevertheless, setting up the HT-BD1252 is pretty straightforward, as all the wires are colour-coded. Along with the two tall speakers, there's a very narrow centre speaker and two bookshelf-style rear speakers. The system also includes a fairly small, passive subwoofer that doesn't require its own power source.
As Samsung has kitted the HT-BD1252 out with a component video, as well as HDMI, connection on the rear, it can be used with older HD Ready tellies that lack HDMI sockets. Unlike many rival systems, however, there are unfortunately no HDMI inputs. Instead, you can only route audio from external devices, like games consoles, through the HT-BD1252 via the two digital audio connectors on the rear. You can also hook up the supplied iPod and iPhone dock via a port on the rear. This then lets you display pictures and videos from those devices on your TV, or play back your tunes through the system's speakers.
Looks better than it sounds
When it comes to playing Blu-ray discs, the system performs better than you might expect at this price point. Motion is silky smooth, and colours manage to look both exceptionally vivid and beautifully natural at the same time. Detail is also handled impressively well for a deck in this price range.
The system's audio performance, although good, isn't quite as refined as its picture quality. It produces a wide sound stage that does a good job of recreating surround-sound effects in movies, but the sub is rather unruly and can sound overly booming at times. Also, the centre channel doesn't produce dialogue as cleanly as some of the more expensive systems that we've tested recently.
As the HT-BD1252 has an Ethernet socket on the rear, when you connect it up to your broadband router, you'll be able to view the BD-Live content on compatible Blu-ray discs. The Ethernet connection can also be used to stream MP3 music, DivX movie and JPEG photo files from your PC to your TV. If you'd prefer not to use a wired connection, an optional Wi-Fi adaptor is available for around £50.
Although its tall speakers are rather plasticky, and its sonic performance isn't as refined as we'd have liked, the Samsung HT-BD1252 still impresses with its crisp Blu-ray playback, impressive range of features and low price tag. Overall, we think it offers very good value for money.
Edited by Charles Kloet