Blu-ray certainly seems to have come of age. Related equipment is getting smaller, lighter, more responsive and cheaper. Samsung's HT-BD8200 is one of the most compact Blu-ray player and speaker systems we've ever seen. The Blu-ray player is located in the centre of a wide, but thin and shallow, speaker bar. On either side of it are the speakers. A separate wireless subwoofer provides the bass from a discrete distance.
The HT-BD8200 is aimed at people who want better sound from their TVs, but don't want the hassle of buying a surround-sound amplifier and full-on 5.1-channel speaker system. At around £550, the HT-BD8200 is slightly cheaper than that option, making it ideal for people just dipping their toe into the waters of home-cinema audio.
There's one group of people for whom the HT-BD8200 is going to be the logical choice: those who already have a wall-mounted Samsung TV. The HT-BD8200 can also be attached to your wall, ideally beneath your TV. If you've got a recent Samsung TV, the styling of the devices will match really well. Owners of a 'rose black' Samsung TV might not find it quite as satisfactory a pairing as those with one of Samsung's more recent models, however.
If wall-mounting isn't for you, the HT-BD8200 comes with a foot stand which enables it to be placed on any flat surface. Its size means that it doesn't suit every TV stand on the market, so make sure you measure your stand before you rush out and buy Samsung's offering.
If you're looking for a piece of kit that's going to act as a switch for all of your media devices and decode their sound while feeding a picture to your TV, you're bang out of luck. The HT-BD8200's weakest point is that it's only got a couple of quite basic inputs. You get a USB socket for playing back MP3s and photos, and a digital audio input for hooking up a games console, satellite receiver or media streamer. The provision of only one digital audio input is rather stingy but saving space is a key aim of the HT-BD8200, and it's quite likely that potential buyers won't have a great deal of other equipment to connect.
You do, however, get an iPod dock included. That means you can easily access your digital music. If you're not an iPod owner, there's a 3.5mm jack that allows you to connect a stereo, analogue music player. That's handy for those who refuse to buy into Apple's iPod machine.
Samsung Blu-ray players generally deliver solid picture performance. The first-generation machines weren't perfect, but subsequent models have done an excellent job of producing a very good-looking HD picture. The HT-BD8200 is no exception, and we were very pleased with its image quality. One of our two initial test discs was a Blu-ray demo of the Live From Abbey Road series, which features Mary J Blige and others belting out some of their biggest hits. Because of the way it's shot, it's a great indicator of quality. The HT-BD8200 did a terrific job with the picture via a Samsung plasma TV.