As much we liked last year's slew of Blu-ray home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems, they still involved some features compromises, such as missing built-in Wi-Fi and HDMI connectivity. This year, Blu-ray HTIBs are filling in a lot of those holes, and Samsung's HT-C6500 ($550 street price) is one of the most fully featured we've seen, including built-in Wi-Fi, two HDMI inputs, and 1GB of onboard storage. The HT-C6500 also has Samsung's expandable Apps platform, which includes streaming-media services such as Netflix, YouTube, Vudu, and Pandora.
If only features mattered, the HT-C6500 would be less of a standout choice; for example, the LG LHB535 ($400 street price) includes much of the same functionality for $150 less. What puts the HT-C6500 over the top is its outstanding sound quality, coming much closer to the sound of a separates-based system than any other HTIB we've tested recently.
Most of our complaints come on the design side, such as the buttons on the top of the player, the need for a separate iPod dock dongle, rather than a dock integrated into the system, and a graphical user interface designed more for a standalone Blu-ray player. We also still have some concerns about Samsung's Blu-ray player reliability (last year's HT-BD1250 was not spared from reliability issues, according to user opinions), but we didn't run into any issues during our testing.
Those issues aside, its excellent mix of features and superior sonics make the HT-C6500 the best Blu-ray HTIB we've tested this year.