When we say home theater system in a box, we mean something that is almost ready to use right out of the box. A bundled solution that includes the video player, the speakers and sound system, as well as other accessories. All you need to do is to connect it up and you’re ready! Compare this with the customization option where you select each and every piece of the system separately, purchase them separately and then make them work together. Clearly, the advantage with a system in a box is convenience, and assured compatibility between the different pieces of the system. There are many great options when it comes to selecting a home theater system in a box. Onkyo, Panasonic and Samsung lead the way with some great offerings. Things that make them stand apart are great features at fairly decent prices. Here is a look at some options that vie for the title of the best home theater system in a box, the truly the best units!
The Panasonic Units
Panasonic SC-BT200 Blu-ray Disc Home Theater System is available on Amazon for $398. This is a great option from Panasonic that adds YouTube and Amazon video-on-demand capability to the Blu-ray Profile 2.0 player. The sound system supports all Dolby and DTS sound formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. A 7.1 channel amplifier is included along with bamboo-cone speakers and a powered sub-woofer. The system also supports your iPod, so you can access its audio and video content, and there is even an SD Memory Card slot to view photos as well as video stored on SD cards.
Panasonic SC-PTX7 is another great option from Panasonic. The SC-PTX7 includes an 80 GB Hard Disk Drive for storing your video and audio content. Like the SC-BT200 it also has an iPod dock, and it has a 3.1 channel setup with Dolby Virtual Speaker technology. The player is DVD and also has an AM/FM radio built-in. An included Ethernet connection makes it ideal for interfacing with other PCs in your household, and firmly establishes this between a pure home theater and an HTPC. At $339 from Amazon, there is definitely something to be said for such an option.
The Samsung Units
An extremely affordable option at less than $229 (Amazon won’t tell you the final price until checkout), the Samsung HT-Z320 comes with an upscaling DVD player, which takes the standard DVD output and upscales it to an 1080p HD output. The sound system is 5.1 channel and supports standard Dolby formats as well as the DTS format. In addition to an iPod dock it also has an USB port, so stuff stored on your USB flash drive (audio, video, images) can be accessed. The Samsung HT-Z320 supports the DIVX format so CDs and DVDs burned using the DIVX codec can be played on the system.
Samsung’s more heavy duty option is the Samsung HT-BD1250 with the Blu-ray, which also has support for streaming for a number of providers including Blockbuster, Netflix, and YouTube. It comes in at less than $549, and has an FM radio tuner as well as an iPod dock. The sound system is 5.1 channel with support for all Dolby and DTS including Dolby TrueHD support.
Onkyo & Sony Units
Onkyo’s heavy duty ($750) option has a 7.1 channel sound system that supports all Dolby and DTS formats, including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and DTS Neo:6. It supports up 5 A/V inputs and one output via HDMI interfaces. The bang for the buck here really is all about sound. The Onkyo HT-S7200 even comes with the Audyssey 2EQ automatic speaker setup system, and Audyssey’s Dynamic Volume and EQ. One for the sound freaks; still needs the investment of a DVD and Blu-ray player. The system also has an AM/FM tuner.
Sony’s option at just over $400 is another great buy. It has a Blu-ray player that comes along with a high class 5.1 channel sound system that supports all the Dolby and DTS formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. It also features an iPod and iPhone input port.
*Note: all prices as on 3/22/10 on Amazon.com.