Top critical review
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After 2 years, I threw this HTIB in the trash...literally
on May 11, 2009
After deciding on a Samsung HTIB system to integrate with my 2-year-old Samsung 46" HDTV, I came across this HT-BD1250 system at Best Buy with all the features I wanted (Bluray, surround sound with wireless to the rear speakers, Anynet+ integration, iPod integration), plus a few that I decided were "nice-to-have" (wireless network integration/Pandora/Netflix). Once I realized I would need to add the Samsung SWA-4000 wireless speaker amplifier and additional HDMI and optical cables for integration with my TV and HD/DVR cable box, the total package through Amazon was by far the best deal and way to go.
First quick note: You DO NOT need anything other than BASIC HDMI cables, which when purchased as a package here with Amazon are 80+% cheaper (even with the shipping charge from the third-party vendors) than if you buy them at Best Buy or other brick/mortar. DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE on so-called "higher end" HDMI cables.
As for the HTIB system itself, I found that the documentation guided me through most of my installation/cabliing scenarios, and everything worked pretty much the first time once I powered everything up. I needed to make a few calls to Samsung tech support to get everything configured the way I wanted (I had some specific questions about the video/resolution modes switching between HD and non-HD inputs), but the support was English-speaking and reasonably competent. (I only got one "bum steer" from their tech support when I was making what turned out to be a user error on my part with the iPod integration, but the tech also didn't identify it correctly and wanted me to send the unit in for service at my own expense...not an acceptable option. I later walked away from it for a few hours and then returned back to it with a clear head, and figured out my error in using the setup menus, and it turned out all was well after all.)
I should probably mention my wiring/integration setup: I have a Samsung LN-4661F HD TV, a Motorola HD/DVR cable box from my cable company, and now my Samsung HT-BD1250 HTIB. Cabling is as follows: HDMI Out from the Motorola HD/DVR cable box to HDMI In 1 on the TV (CATV audio and video are integrated on the HDMI), HDMI Out from the HD-BD1250 HTIB to HDMI In 2 on the TV (for DVD/BD video), and Optical Audio Out 1 from the TV to Optical Audio In 1 on the HD-BD1250 (to feed the CATV audio back from the TV to be reproduced through the HTIB's sound amplifier).
I attempted to use a "standard" USB wireless network adapter to integrate with my home wireless network and found that it was unable to detect it; I suspect I could have made it work with some additional initial configuration first on my laptop, but I ended up scrapping that idea and I simply ordered the Samsung Wireless adapter for this unit, and it integrated perfectly with my home network in minutes. If you're really tech-savvy and think you can get a "standard" USB wireless adapter configured to work with this, I suppose you could try to do so and save $30 or $40, but for $79.99 the Samsung WIS09ABGN adapter works right out of the box and is a supported solution.
As for the wireless network/Internet integration itself, I've tested Pandora and it works well; haven't tested Netflix on demand yet. I also have yet to be able to figure out how to get integration with my PC via wireless to work as a source input (like to access music/multimedia I have on my PC), but it's an advertised feature of this system and I'm confident I can hack my way through and make that work eventually...not a priority for me, though, just another "nice to have".
The iPod integration works fairly well, but I'm a little disappointed that I was not able to figure out how to make "Shuffle" functionality work...I seem to be stuck playing my music in the order it's stored in my playlists. Not sure yet if this is a limitation or if I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.
The wireless speaker connection to the rear speakers with the SWA-4000 configured well pretty much the first time (I just had to play with the power cycling upon initial configuration) and the sound has been loud and clear. I did experience exactly one sound dropout on it the first day which immediately resolved and has not recurred, but it got my attention and I'm concerned about it based on reviews I read of other Samsung HTIB systems with wireless rear speaker connections. We shall see.
Configured out of the box, sound to the rear speakers only comes out if the input source provides it (like from a Dolby 5.1-enhanced DVD or BD), but I found that by cycling through the Dolby Effect Modes on the remote to the "Matrix" setting, I can hear sound through all 5 speakers all the time...exactly what I want, and the sound is great.
Another quick item to mention: I tested a couple of "standard" DVDs and the "1080p upscaling" feature of the BD player works well. As a result of this, I plan to only choose the added expense of Bluray discs in cases when I know there will be real value added, either feature-wise or sound/picture-wise (example, I purposely chose The Dark Knight as my first Bluray disc purchase). For my 45-year-old eyes and ears, upscaled DVD will be more than adequate in most cases.
Finally, I found that even with Anynet+ capability, I still needed to access all 3 of my remotes (TV, HTIB, and CATV) to control all needed functionality. Samsung support informed me that Anynet+ capability would allow integrated power on/off and basic volume/channel control, but it would not allow advanced function control on my TV such as P.SIZE, etc. Keep your expectations realistic on what Anynet+ will and won't provide. I solved this by also purchasing a Logitech Harmony One universal remote (which I have reviewed separately), and this product, while expensive, is a true one-remote solution for my new home theater setup, and one I would recommend highly.
Bottom line (for this reviewer): For me, the HT-BD1250 HTIB was not a true one-box solution. However, after adding the SWA-4000 wireless speaker amplifier, 2 inexpensive HDMI cables and 1 inexpensive optical audio cable, the Samsung WIS09ABGN adapter for wireless network/Internet integration, and the Logitech Harmony One universal remote, I am now extremely pleased with the result, and I look forward to using my new Home Theater every day after work. I feel like I'm finally fulfilling to potential of the HD TV that I purchased 2 years ago...and I now know that was certainly NOT the case with my old setup of just the TV and my HD/DVR box with a 5-way component cable providing the connection.
The Samsung HT-BD1250 HTIB is a good solution if you do your research and you set your expectation levels properly.
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Review update from author:
I spoke to Samsung Level II tech support, and they informed me that (a) PC integration is not available - the placard included with the system is "not exactly true", and (b) Shuffle functionality on iPod is not available, despite the fact that Level I support told me I should be able to "use any feature that I can use conventionally on an iPod". Again, "not exactly true".
These are not showstoppers, but I am disappointed in those 2 shortcomings. Not enough to return the unit, but enough to hold my rating at only 4 stars instead of 5.
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Review update #2 from author:
Signed up for a trial subscription of Netflix, and tried the Instant Queue/Streaming to my HTIB. It works well, but we definitely found that the picture quality was not nearly DVD quality (let alone BD quality). We watched National Treasure 2. I'm sure this has to do with the speed of my Internet connection (<3Mb/sec) and my 802.11g wireless network (I don't have 802.11n on my older router). Not enough to ruin the movie for us, but definitely a factor worth noting.
Still, having Netflix Streaming On Demand for a subset of their movie offerings is a nice entertainment option for us.
Review rating still stands at 4 stars out of 5 for me.
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Review update #3 from author: (2 years later)
After reasonably good performance from this system for about 1.5 years, I started to experience more than occasional sound dropouts from the rear wireless speakers, and then worse still, neither DVD nor BluRay discs would play to completion. The player would just stop and die, and the only way to resolve it was to completely power down and restart all my components. This problem became consistent with all discs. With the unit out of warranty, I decided the hassle/cost factor to try to repair it just wasn't worth the effort, so I began shopping for a replacement system (eventually settled on a Sony HTIB), and I disconnected all the components of this Samsung system and literally threw it all in the trash.
Review rating now changed from a 4 to a 1 star as a result of this unit unable to fulfill its long-term requirement for me.