Samsung HT-E6500 review

The HT-E6500's home screen is divided into four icons – Smart Hub, AllShare Play, Function and Settings – though it's not immediately obvious which services are accessed from where.

Samsung HT-E6500 review

For example, Function is merely a list of inputs, with the two HDMI inputs joined by options to activate the optical digital or AUX inputs for audio sources, fire up the FM tuner, engage Bluetooth or awaken the Remote iPod dock. Where's the USB slot?

Samsung HT-E6500 review

It's actually accessed via AllShare Play, which presents a screen showing live sources, be they a USB device or computers on the same Wi-Fi network.

In our test the HT-E6500 found a USB thumbdrive, a Samsung netbook (preloaded loaded with AllShare software) and a Mac running Twonkymedia.

From those two networked devices we managed to play AVC HD, AVI, MOV and MP4 video files. All took a few seconds to load, but were immaculately treated.

From a USB stick we managed to play MP3, MP2, AAC, WMA and even a 24-bit FLAC file (though not Apple Lossless or WAV, and only MP3 came with metadata intact), as well as Motion JPEG, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, H264 encoded video (as AVC HD, AVI, MKV, MOV, MP4, WMV and WMV HD files).

Note that MKV HD files only play from a USB – not over a network.

Best of all, upfront 'Recently Played' and 'What's New' shortlists make things easier by frequently swerving the need to first select either video, music or photo before then determining the source.

Playlists can also be set up relatively easily in what is a user-friendly – and great-looking – interface that keeps everything simple.

Samsung HT-E6500 review

Meanwhile, Smart Hub contains the likes of LoveFilm, BBC iPlayer, AceTrax, Box Office 365, and Samsung's own 3D streaming service, alongside some new additions like 'Family Story' and 'Fitness'.

Techradar's review of the Samsung UE55ES8000 will tell you more about this, but needless to say this is a highly family-friendly approach that will instantly put off as many as it will please.

Sound quality

Let's start with music.

Identifying itself as the Samsung HTS-C64BF4 to an iPhone spouting Bluetooth, we paired the two devices and sent Elbow's Lippy Kids to the HT-E6500.

It produced a warm stereo image, with a natural sound interrupted only by slightly harsh treble highs. From a 128kpbs MP3, that's not bad at all. Who needs Apple AirPlay?

With all that going on we can only presume that the separate wired iPod dock is for sticklers for hi-res sound (so why are you using MP3s?) or owners of older Bluetooth-less Apple products.

Samsung HT-E6500 review

With a USB stick docked in the front of the HT-E6500, we tried out a number of higher quality rips; a low-res MP3 proved sharp enough with good imaging, but lacked depth.

Noticeable particularly in acoustic music is a subwoofer that's slow to react; the occasional low-frequency twang isn't enough to wake it, so bass is often missing in action.

That's passive subwoofers for you, though – convenience comes at a cost. That aside, as far as compressed digital MP3s go, the HT-E6500 gets a lot from them.

Over to 3D movies, and it's the 3D Sound mode that appears to offer the best performance (it widens the soundstage somewhat), though across the board we were impressed by the treble detailing and the accuracy and finesse of the rear sound effects.

Dialogue is always crisp and full, and during high octane sequences there's plenty of steady rumble, too, though sudden explosions after a quiet moment can be left wanting – the subwoofer takes a few milliseconds too long to react.

Overall, though, it's an impressive, punchy sound, but don't be fooled by the valve amplification – this is a highly digital performance.

Digital video files are handled really smoothly once playing, but we did experience the occasional freeze-up while navigating files via the AllShare streaming feature.

Spin a 3D Blu-ray disc – this deck's real trick – and the results are excellent; stable, rich in detail and with that third dimension looking awesome when viewed on an active shutter 3D TV. 2D-3D conversion, however, didn't impress – as it rarely does.