When we reviewed the Samsung HT-TQ85 late in 2006, we were impressed by its slick design, excellent feature set, and stellar sound. The HT-X70 has a similar feature set to the HT-TQ85--HDMI input and output, USB port, DVD upconversion, XM-ready--but features significantly smaller speakers, designed to blend into your living room instead of taking it over. We definitely liked the styling on this smaller unit, but couldn't help but feeling that the lack of size held the HT-X70 from rocking out on music, although it still managed to deliver enough oomph with movies. One other nitpick we had was the "Made for iPod" marketing on the box--it included a cable to connect to an iPod, but you can't navigate your iPod using the onscreen display, which limits its appeal. Still, the HT-X70 is a solid choice with an excellent feature set and slick design. More sonics-conscious listeners may wish to step up to Samsung's offerings with larger speakers.
The HT-X70 has the typical look of a Samsung product. The front panel of the receiver/DVD-changer is black and split horizontally into two sections, with both the top and the bottom sloping in toward the middle, which makes it stand out a little from standard AV products. On the bottom half, there's a power button to the far left that is surrounded by a bright blue light--bright enough that we appreciated the dimmer button on the remote, which turns the light off and dims the display. You can also flip down the section surrounding the power button to reveal some extra connectivity, including a USB port, headphone jack, and auxiliary input. Further right is the LCD screen, which is easy enough to read from a seating distance of about 7 feet back.
Still further right are a few front panel controls--including function, play, stop, chapter forward/backward--plus a large silver volume knob. The top half of the front panel mostly houses the carousel-style five-disc DVD tray. Along the very top of the far right are five buttons to select an individual disc. The overall size of the main unit is smaller than a standard AV receiver, but larger than a slimline DVD player, coming in at 3 inches high and 17 inches wide and deep.
The five speakers are essentially identical in design, with the only slight difference being that the center channel does not have a flat bottom--it's designed to lie horizontally. Each speaker measured 11.8 inches high by 3.5 inches wide by 4.5 inches deep and has rounded corners to give it a sleek look. The speakers are completely black and feature a nonremovable grille up front.
While the whole design is slick, we were especially impressed with the styling of the subwoofer. It's tough to make a sub look good, but the HT-X70's subwoofer has a nice understated design that won't make you rush to hide it in the corner. Like the speakers, it's also all black with rounded corners, and from the front there's a slightly opening for the bass port, which gives it a very modern look. Note that it's not a powered subwoofer, so you won't need to plug it into the wall for power.
There's no doubt the physical unit looks nice, but the user interface doesn't quite match it in the looks department. Compared to other home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTIBs), it's standard fare, but it would be nice if HDMI-equipped HTIBs featured slick high-def graphics, since they'll almost certainly be hooked up to HDTVs. We also found several of the menus to be considerably confusing or awkward, especially when setting the speaker levels. Of course, other HTIBs--albeit ones that are generally more expensive--offer automatic speaker calibration, which would make this less of a problem.
The remote will be familiar to anyone who's used a Samsung DVD player in the past. Overall, the layout is pretty good, as the directional pad is nicely located and there's at least some differentiation between the play, stop, and fast-forward/rewind buttons to make it possible to navigate by feel, rather than having to look at the remote. However, whenever we had to use one of the more advanced functions, we found ourselves getting confused. For example, to change the output resolution, you need to hold down the SD/HD button, and then it will cycle to the next resolution--we had to consult the manual to figure that out. To execute even a relatively simple function like Disc Skip, you need to press a button labeled "TV/Video" that has "Disc Skip" written above it. Once we figured out all the functions via trial and error, we got the hang of it, but it's not simple enough for a guest to figure out right away. Another quick note regarding the remote--we did find it difficult to the control the HT-X70 once the disc tray was ejected, as it seemed to block the IR signal from reaching the player. We were able to get it to work by aiming the remote from down low, but it was still a pain.