T3: This stylish unit boasts more bells and whistles than a Notre Dame May day parade. Look at the spec: HDMI output with video upscaling, a 6.1-channel surround sound set-up and wireless – yes, wireless! – rear speakers.
The Philips HTS9800W system boasts flat-panel speakers, a compact, wall-mountable main unit with blue-tinted, touch-sensitive controls and a slot DVD drive. It’s reminiscent of the sort of thing you’d get from Bang & Olufsen a few years ago, basically – reassuringly expensive-looking.
Pros: Rock-solid video and 6.1 audio performance, Modish looks, Rear speakers are wireless
Cons: No digital audio input, Multiple cables to the main unit “hub” look messy
Verdict: Cool performance, even cooler design… and not too expensive either (600.00 GBP, about 900 euro).
Performance is impressive. The 6.1 speaker configuration gives you an extra rear-centre channel (which either works independently, with DTS ES or Dolby Digital EX discs, or belts out a mix of the rear left and rights). As a result, the sea battle in Pirates of the Caribbean turns into a cacophony of shivering timbers, screaming shipmates and cannons booming at you from all sides.
The system also plays Super Audio CDs and can “upconvert” normal CDs as well. It’s not going to have audiophiles trembling in their polo necks, but September by Earth, Wind and Fire sounds undeniably firey (and windy and earthy).
Using the HDMI output, DVDs can be upscaled to 720p or 1080i resolutions. It’s a detailed but noise-free image – even misty scenes look smooth in Pirates – and a big improvement over RGB Scart.
Our only gripes are the lack of a digital audio input and the slightly complicated cabling for the main unit and subwoofer. Other than that, it’s a fantastically versatile and smart-looking system, well worth its asking price (600.00 GBP, about 900 euro).