The HT-XQ100 IS an extraordinary looking system, challenging Philips for the honour of Most Audacious Design. The main unit is an oval shaped pod, mounted on a stand, embellished with some neat touches such as the disc slot at the top and a blue-lit display panel. The front speakers can be wall mounted or stood on circular feet, while the surround speakers are propped up on rather destabilising little legs.
Cable haters can even buy a wireless receiver for the rears. On board are Faroudja video upscaling (to 720p and 1080i), a USB port for playing music, video or photo files from external devices or flash drives plus DVD-Audio and DiVX playback. There's no Scart but sockets include HDMI, component video out and an optical digital audio input, which is great news if you have a Sky set-top box.
Happily, the speaker terminals are plugs rather than spring clips. Although the attractively shaped remote is overburdened with unnecessary buttons, the core controls are well positioned. The setup menu is also very basic and doesn't present many options, which means that control over the speakers is really quite limited.
Using Serenity as a test disc, the Samsung system produces some decent results. The scene where River fights the Reavers in the dark is well presented, with the rapid action remaining visible. But with long shots of other worlds or detailed spacecraft, there's a hint of softness to the picture that reduces the clarity. Vivid blue skies and neon lights show that colour is strong, but at times it's a little over-ripe, with a ruddy tinge appearing on skin tones.
DiVX files present no problems but JPEGs look fuzzy, and the unit refused to play a CD-R of JPEGs that has played on other systems successfully. With movies, the HT-XQ100 knocks out quite a racket - it's not very controlled. The passive subwoofer is too boomy and bullies the other speakers, forcing us to trim down the level significantly.
Otherwise, effects during ferocious battle scenes are nicely steered between channels and dialogue emerges from the centre channel without sounding muffled. You get a lot of enticing features for the asking price plus an unusual design, but a lack of control and refinement means that ultimately, the performance isn't great.