15th Oct 2008 | 09:22
But does this Samsung set offer the performance to match its design?
Samsung is pushing the 'designer' envelope with its latest creation.
The HT-X715 is a 5.1 cinema system, but not as we know it. The organic shape of the centre unit and speakers looks otherworldly, especially with the crystal-like ruby-red plastic around the speaker baffles.
The subtle colouring is what Samsung calls its 'touch of colour' design in the US, 'Crystal Design' over here and it's meant to match the company's TVs. The good news is that somewhere underneath all the sculpted plastic is a DVD player, ﬁve-channel amplifier and 5.1 speaker system.
Touch sensitive buttons
The pebble-like head unit looks best standing vertically and can be ﬁxed upright to the wall next to your TV. The slot-loading disc drawer is on top so all you see is the tactile bonnet. Touching it awakens the LED display, showing a series of cheerful symbols, a greeting and the time.
Useful track information scrolls across the screen, too, so it's not purely for show. The touch-sensitive buttons are just visible on the plastic body, but otherwise it's completely smooth; the HDMI output and other connections are tucked away at the back.
Five rounded speakers complement the system perfectly with their own cable management and matching ﬁnish; the rears are wireless ready, if you add the optional SWA-4000 adaptor.
Once you get over the Hollywood styling though, it becomes clear that these are quite lightweight plastic boxes that aren't designed for larger cinema installations, despite the 800W power claim. But there are ﬁve, plus a similarly-styled subwoofer, so you do get surrounded by sound.
The system ticks most of my must-have feature boxes, with an HDMI output for upscaled video, compatibility with nearly all disc formats and the ability to read from – and even record onto – a USB drive.
There's even Bluetooth connectivity if you want to access ﬁles stored on your mobile phone, for example. All that's missing is a dedicated iPod socket and an HDMI input.
Samsung's onscreen user interface and remote make it very easy to get started. The supplied cables are colour-coded and there's no auto-setup to run through.
Connecting via HDMI to my reference TV gave a crisp, upscaled image at 720p with vivid colours and reasonable contrast, that was just
a little more grainy than that from the Philips SoundBar.
Sonically, the Samsung manages to deliver a cohesive wrap-around sound through those beehive speakers.
The front tallboys deliver decent midrange, although the treble is a bit shrill and not designed for big volume levels. The bass meanwhile is somewhat too boomy; while it'll impress at low levels, it falls apart when you raise the dB.
Essentially, the Samsung HT-X715 is a stylish sound and vision system that's not supposed to blow the doors off of a dedicated home cinema room.
At this it succeeds. Full marks then for originality, but a must-try-harder for actual sonic performance.