Gadget news
Hisense AX5125H review: impressive Dolby Atmos performance in an affordable soundbar system
9:00 pm | June 22, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Hisense AX5125H review: Two minute review

The Hisense AX5125H is a 5.1.2-channel soundbar system comprising four units –  a soundbar, a subwoofer and two satellite speakers.

Compared to the best soundbars, the Hisense AX5125H has somewhat basic features, with only Bluetooth connectivity for music streaming as opposed to the Wi-Fi streaming you’ll find on the similarly priced Sonos Beam and Bose Smart Soundbar 600. However, unlike those soundbars, the AX5125H provides a ‘real’ surround sound experience with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compatibility out of the box as opposed to requiring optional speakers at an additional cost. 

The AX5125H takes a no-frills approach, and it shows. But for a budget soundbar, the AX5125H’s sound is impressive, providing plenty of punch, clarity and immersion. Dolby Atmos and surround effects are accurately reproduced, speech is crystal clear and bass is weighty yet controlled. Even streamed music sounds good despite being limited to Bluetooth quality. For an affordable system, the Hisense AX5125H rivals some of the cheaper examples of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars

Its main bar may be a little on the wider side, but the AX5125H’s sub and rear speakers have a compact design – ideal for those looking to minimize the impact of external boxes. Its materials and build quality aren’t the most premium, but both are better than expected thanks to stylish metal grilles and a reassuringly solid feel. The provided remote feels every bit cheap, however. 

The Hisense AX5125H's simple plug-and-play approach makes setup a breeze. Those who like a good app for control and settings adjustments will be disappointed as one isn’t available, leaving all control to the provided remote. But for those looking for simplicity, the AX5125H provides.

For a 5.1.2-channel speaker array with nine speakers across four units, including two up-firing drivers for Atmos, the AX5125H is an incredible value at under $350 / £350 / AU$450. Those looking for a soundbar with all the bells and whistles may want to look elsewhere, But, if you’re after a soundbar that’s going to add plenty of oomph to your TV plus real surround immersion on a budget, look no further than the AX5125H.

Hisense AX5125H main soundbar connected to Hisense U6N

The Hisense AX5125H's main soundbar provides excellent speech clarity (Image credit: Future)

Hisense AX5125H review: Price & release date

  • Release date: 2023
  • Price at release: $449 / £499 / AU$599 
  • Price at time of writing: $299 / £349 / AU$449  

The Hisense AX5125H is a 5.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos soundbar system that comes with a main soundbar, subwoofer and two satellite speakers. Upon its release in 2023, the AX5125H sold for $399 / £499 / AU$599. At that price, it was in a similar price range to the Sony HT-S2000, one of the best budget soundbars on the market.

Since its release, prices for the AX5125H have dropped, and at the time of writing, we’re seeing it available for as low as $299 / £349 / AU$449 – again in line with the Sony HT-S2000’s current prices. 

Hisense AX5125H review: Specs

Hisense AX5125H connections

The Hisense AX5125H's connections include not only HDMI but also a 3.5mm AUX input (Image credit: Future)

Hisense AX5125H review: Features

  • 5.1.2-channel configuration
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compatible
  • Bluetooth-only streaming     

Featuring nine speakers across four ‘boxes’, the Hisense AX5125H offers a 5.1.2-channel speaker array and supports the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats, along with the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats. 

The AX5125H has seven preset ‘AI EQ’ sound modes such as Movie and Night, and includes an AI mode that analyzes content to improve the sound. Unlike soundbars from brands such as Sonos, Bose and Sony, the AX5125H does not have a companion app or any kind of EQ customization, instead relying on basic Bass and Treble adjustments with the provided remote control. 

The AX5125H has two HDMI ports (one with eARC), plus optical digital, 3.5mm AUX, and USB connections. There’s no built-in Wi-Fi, but Bluetooth version 5.3 is provided for music streaming. 

Some of the AX5125H’s budget and mid-range rivals such as the Sonos Ray, Sonos Beam and Bose Smart Soundbar 600 provide Wi-Fi connectivity and app features such as EQ. On the other hand, you are getting a more complete surround package out of the box with the AX5125H. 

  • Features score: 4/5

Hisense AX5125H soundbar, sub and rear speakers

The Hisense AX5125H soundbar with sub and two rear speakers: 9 speakers and 5.1.2 channels across four units (Image credit: Future)

Hisense AX5125H review: Sound quality

  • ‘Real’ Dolby Atmos sound 
  • Punchy, dynamic performance  
  • Small satellite speakers can get overwhelmed

Watching Star Wars: A New Hope on Disney Plus, the effectiveness of the surround sound was immediately apparent during the final attack run on the Death Star. The screeching TIE fighters and roaring rear engines sounded like they were coming from all around thanks to the Hisense’s effective Dolby Atmos delivery, led by the main soundbar’s up-firing speakers. The soundstage was surprisingly wide, and it gave all aspects of the soundtrack room to breathe. Dialogue was crystal clear, and the horn-heavy score, explosions and gunfire were all presented with equal importance. 

Switching to The Batman on 4K Blu-ray, the opening crime scene section demonstrated the AX5125H’s subtleties. Dialogue was impressive, and the low hum of the officers' voices, camera clicks, and even the stretching of Batman’s leather suit were all easily distinguishable and accurately placed. 

Moving to the chaotic batmobile car chase, the same punchy power and balance I heard in Star Wars was present, and the driving rain showcased the AX5125H’s Atmos chops.

Music listening was also enjoyable with the AX5125H, despite the streaming quality being limited to Bluetooth. Whatever genre I threw at it, the AX5125H obliged. The pounding drums, bassy synths and gravelly vocals of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark were all well-handled. Thelonius Monk’s Japanese Folk Song demonstrated the AX5125H’s ability to convey all frequencies, with the twinkling piano keys and sharp sax balancing well with the smooth drums and double bass. Finally, listening to Caroline Polachek’s Welcome To My Island, her soaring vocals could be pushed to high volumes with no strain.

The Hisense AX5125H is not all perfect, as its smaller satellite speakers could sometimes get overwhelmed reproducing surround effects. Even so, its performance was meaty and even feisty. 

  • Sound quality score: 4.5/5

Hisense AX5125H sub

The Hisense AX5125H's sub provides plenty of powerful bass in a fairly compact size (Image credit: Future)

Hisense AX5125H review: Design

  • Compact subwoofer and rear speakers 
  • Decent build quality 
  • Front LED display 

The Hisense AX5125H’s main soundbar measures 36.2 x 18.8 x 3.5-inches (920 x 478 x 90mm), the subwoofer 8.5 x 12.3 x 11.9-inches (210.5 x 310 x 300mm) and the satellites 3.6 x 5.7 x 4.3-inches (90.1 x 140.5 x 110mm). 

Build quality is mixed, though the grilles for each speaker are the kind of black mesh metal you’d expect to find on more premium units. It also features a front LED display. There is an option to dim and brighten the LED display to four levels, plus turn it off completely to prevent distractions.

The provided remote is basic but serviceable, with Bass and Treble EQ buttons and a dedicated button to cycle through the sound presets. 

  • Design score: 4/5

Hisense AX5125H remote

The Hisense AX5125H's supplied remote is basic and feels a bit cheap, but is simple to use (Image credit: Future)

Hisense AX5125H review: Usability & setup

  • Two HDMI ports
  • Easy, basic setup
  • No app support   

Setup of the Hisense AX5125H is easy. Once I connected the main soundbar to a TV using its HDMI eARC port, I then connected the wireless sub and satellite speakers by pressing the pairing button on each unit and all were connected and ready to go. Once paired, there was no need to pair again on the next usage even when I unplugged them.

With no companion app, everything is controlled using the provided remote (or your TV remote using HDMI-CEC). 

The AX5125H’s front alphanumeric display gives clear feedback from input commands and adjustments without any need to rely on the blinking LEDs you find on some soundbars such as the Sonos Beam and Ray. Although obscured somewhat by the soundbar’s grille, it’s still a welcome feature. 

  • Usability & setup score: 4.5/5

Hisense AX5125H rear speaker next to remote

Despite the fairly small size, the Hisense AX5125H's satellite speakers (one shown next to the AX5125H's supplied remote) provide excellent immersion (Image credit: Future)

Hisense AX5125H review: Value

  • Full soundbar package for a budget price 
  • Good performance for the money 
  • Lacks premium features such as Wi-Fi  

At roughly $349 / £349 / AU$449 for a complete surround package with two up-firing speakers, the Hisense AX5125H provides excellent value. Despite missing some features such as Wi-Fi connectivity and a companion app for EQ control, the system’s performance more than makes up for the omission.

At this price range, there is budget competition from Bose, Sonos, and Sony, but crucially, these will be all-in-one bars that don’t provide the full surround sound experience you get from the AX5125H. Yes, it may not rival more premium soundbars, but the sound quality it provides is nothing short of impressive for the price.

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Should I buy the Hisense AX5125H?

Buy it if...

Don't but it if...

Also consider

Hisense AX5125H soundbar, sub and rear speakers in testing room

The Hisense AX5125H in our testing room, connected to a Hisense U6N TV (Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Hisense AX5125H

  • Tested with a variety of sources
  • Connected to a Hisense U6N TV
  • Dolby Atmos, surround and stereo sound tested

I tested the Hisense AX5125H connected to a Hisense U6N TV, and although Hisense-specific features were on offer, testing was done without these turned on. 

After cycling through the different AI EQ modes, including News, Night and more, I opted for Movie, which was the most accurate and immersive. After this, I tested the AX5125H with a variety of sources, including broadcast TV, mainly testing lower-resolution speech and signals, and 4K Blu-ray and Disney Plus for Dolby Atmos and surround playback.

I next tested music streaming from Spotify and Tidal using Bluetooth, playing reference tracks from multiple genres that I have used to test soundbars, headphones and speakers in the past. 

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: 21st June, 2024
Panasonic DP-UB820 review: a fantastic, affordable 4K Blu-ray player that’s built to last
6:09 pm | December 20, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Blu-ray Computers Gadgets Home Theater Televisions | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: One minute review

The Panasonic DP-UB820 is one of Panasonic’s mid-range 4K Blu-ray players that offers a strong suite of features, and supports a lot of audio and video formats including Dolby Vision and HDR10+ for video, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for audio, and can even support up to 7.1 channels of audio directly with audio analogue output options. It has Wi-Fi for streaming apps such as Netflix, too.

Performance wise, the Panasonic DP-UB820 offers fantastic 4K image reproduction with vivid colors, deep black levels and stunning contrast, particularly when it comes to Dolby Vision – it's up there with the best 4K Blu-ray players. Its 4K upscaling is effective, giving regular (non-4K) Blu-ray a whole new level of detail. Even DVDs are given a new lease on life thanks to the UB820’s upscaling efforts, though you'll notice far more that it was a lower-quality source. 

Audio performance is also superb, with Dolby Atmos effects coming through clear and adding that extra layer of immersion to any movie. Paired with one of the best TVs and best soundbars, the Panasonic DP-UB820 completes the home theater experience beautifully.

The Panasonic DP-UB820’s software feels a little cumbersome at times, but it still gives plenty of options and settings for people to adjust to get the picture and audio of their movies to just how they like it. 

Design-wise, the Panasonic DP-UB820 may not be the most remarkable bit of kit, but it’s still a solid player that keeps things simple. Whilst its front panel that covers the whole device keeps things a little neater, it does mean people will have to think about where the hinged panel will open and close with the disc tray, meaning those with shelved TV stands may have to do some Tetris-esque moving.

In terms of value, the Panasonic DP-UB820 is one of the best Blu-ray buys today. Priced at under $500/£349/AU$760, this really is a well-featured and high-performing player for the price. Thanks to some personal history with this player, I can also confirm this will work and work and work until it can't give anymore; it's a solid investment.

Panasonic DP-UB820 remote

The Panasonic DP-UB820's remote (pictured) is a little button heavy but functional nonetheless. (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Prices & release date

  • Released in August 2018 
  • Priced around $499/£349/AU$769 

The Panasonic DP-UB820 is a mid-range,4K Blu-ray player that sits in the middle point of Panasonic’s range of 4K Blu-ray players, above budget models such as the Panasonic UB154, but below the premium Panasonic DP-UB9000. It's officially priced with a slighter higher tag of $499 in the US, but the DP-UB820 is competitive at £349 and AU$769 in the UK and Australia respectively. 

At the time of writing, we’ve seen the DP-UB820 for much lower prices than above, falling to around $399 in the US, £249 in the UK, and as low as $538 in Australia. Whilst these prices do fluctuate, they often drop to this level or only slightly higher. For a player with this level of features and capabilities, this is an excellent price. 

Panasonic DP-UB820 picture settings menu on Panasonic MZ1500

The Panasonic DP-UB820 offers lots of settings that you can adjust to get the picture how you'd like. (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Specs

Panasonic DP-UB820 rear panel

The Panasonic DP-UB820 comes with plenty of connections including twin HDMI (one is audio-only). (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Features

  • Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support 
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support  
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and streaming capabilities

The Panasonic DP-UB820 is packed with features for its price tag. It supports playback of 4K Blu-ray, regular and even 3D Blu-ray, DVD, AVCHD, CD and various recordable disc formats as well. It  doesn’t support SACD, unfortunately, but you could step up to the Magnetar UDP800 if you need that.  

In terms of HDR support, the UB820 has covered all the bases with support for Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10 and HLG included. 

For audio formats, the UB820 again supports the vital Dolby and DTS formats including Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, DTS:X and DTS:HD Master Audio. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are in bitstream output whilst Dolby TrueHD and DTS:HD MA are in bitstream and decoded outputs.

Music formats are also heavily supported including the usual FLAC, WAV, MP3 and AAC formats to name a few. There’s also support for Hi-Res Audio files including DSD at 2.8 MHz (2ch and 5.1ch), 5.6 MHz (2 ch and 5.1ch) and 11.2 MHz (2ch) and ALAC files (96 kHz/32 bit at 7.1ch and 192 kHz/32-bit at 5.1ch). 

Connectivity on the UB820 is again well-stocked, and includes two HDMI ports (one for audio and one for audio/video), digital optical output, analogue audio output (both LR and up to 7.1 channels) and two USB inputs (one 3.0 and one 2.0) for HDD playback. It also has Wi-Fi connectivity for streaming, with apps such as Netflix built into the streaming hub. 

The built-in software for the UB820 offers plenty of menus and settings to tweak so you can tailor the picture of your movies to what you need. Some particular highlights include choosing the display, labelled ‘HDR TV type’ in the Advanced Settings section, which offers options such as 'OLED' and 'Middle to High Luminance LCD', which made subtle changes to the picture based on choice. Although it didn’t make a huge difference, it was a welcome feature nonetheless.

Other settings, also in Advanced Settings, including Deep Color Output, HDR/Color Gamut Output and more for picture, and there were also adjustments for audio including Downmixing and 7.1-channel audio reformatting. Among these, there were also picture settings you could adjust such as black level, contrast and noise reduction for non-HDR sources such as regular Blu-ray.

Performance-wise, the UB820 was easy enough to navigate but there were some small frustrations. This included some settings that could only be changed when going back to the main menu of the UB820 itself, such as HDR10+ or Dolby Vision mode. During testing, the UB820 would favor HDR10+ over Dolby Vision when I tested it with a disc that supports both – which is frustrating because Dolby Vision looked better in most cases (more on that below). The only way I could find to avoid this is to deactivate HDR10+ – but I want it active for when I'm watching something that only supports it! This is only a problem if you have a TV that supports both HDR formats, but that includes the kind of home theater fan this Blu-ray is aimed at, right? There were also times where the software would stutter and pause, but this was not often. 

For the price however, the Panasonic DPUB820 is stacked with features and connectivity, especially at a very reasonable price.

  • Features score: 4.5/5  

Panasonic DP-UB820 with Godzilla on screen

Movies such as Godzilla vs Kong (pictured) looked incredible on the Panasonic DP-UB820, with vibrant colors and stunning contrast and depth. (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Performance

  • Excellent picture reproduction
  • Effective upscaling on most sources
  • Fantastic audio performance

Straight off the bat, the Panasonic DP-UB820 has great loading times, with the process from loading the disc into the tray to the first logos displayed on screen taking 35-40 seconds all told, not dissimilar timings to logging into some streaming apps and loading previously watched TV shows.

4K pictures look sensational through the UB820. Firstly, using Godzilla vs Kong to test both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ formats, in the climactic fight scene between Godzilla and Kong in Tokyo, the colors of the eye-watering neon signs buildings were bright, dynamic and had plenty of garish punch as you would expect. Contrast was also superb, with deep, rich black levels complementing the bright colors. Everything looks sharp and textures were crisp without being overly hard. 

When looking at Dolby Vision vs HDR10+ through the same player, on the same TV – which will only be a choice for those whose have TVs that support both formats such as the Hisense U8K, Philips OLED808 and Panasonic MZ1500 to name a few – Dolby Vision had the edge. During the same Godzilla vs Kong scene above, switching between the two HDR formats demonstrated that Dolby Vision offered deeper black levels, and this added contrast made the colors seem to pop more than through HDR10+, and even means there's an perceptive improvement in some texture and detail. That's definitely not to say HDR10+ looked bad, far from it in fact, but if you have the option of both I'd go for Dolby Vision.

In Top Gun: Maverick on 4K Blu-ray, and Dolby Vision performance was brilliant there, too. People’s skin tones and facial details during close-up shots were extremely rich, refined, and felt true-to-life. Brighter images felt natural yet vibrant. Motion was extremely well-handled by the UB820 and during any of the jet sequences, there was minimal judder and blurring. 

Moving on to lower-quality format discs, I started by viewing the same scene from Godzilla vs Kong as I’d used before for comparison, but on regular Blu-ray, and was blown away by the UB820’s picture, thanks to its effective 4K upscaling. Although it wasn’t quite as good as the 4K disc itself, the picture still carried enough vibrant color, rich contrast and crisp textures to make you look twice and question whether you’d put the 4K disc in. 

Watching a DVD of The Amazing Spider-man didn't deliver the same standard as Blu-ray upscaling (no surprise, given that it's now having to upscale to 16 times as many pixels), and textures appeared soft in places as a result – but the overall quality was still strong, as the UB820 maintained good levels of detail, punchy colors and solid textures overall.

I also tested older movies including the 4K Blu-ray of Alien and a Blu-ray of Thief to see how the UB820's processing handled film grain. Although there was film grain present, more so in Thief, the UB820 balanced keeping enough grain for the enthusiast alongside upscaling it to take advantage of a 4K screen. It didn't come across as artificially cleaned up, and there was no obvious problem of it struggling to find detail among the grainer scenes, such as the shots at dawn near the start of Thief.

Moving on to audio, the UB820 did a fantastic job of reproducing Dolby Atmos effects with the jets in Top Gun: Maverick feeling like they're gliding around the room with a suitable Dolby Atmos soundbar or surround system. 

Testing the DTS:HD Master Audio 5.1 mix of Alien, the foreboding and doom-ridden parts of the soundtrack were as claustrophobic as you’d hope, and those moments of noise cutting through the silence of the Nostromo’s landing early on were powerful and direct.

As for music, there is a built-in app called Berliner Philharmoniker featuring performances of classical music and listening to Mozart concertos, also in Dolby Atmos, which is a fun addition, and really shows off your sound system. Every instrument had room to breathe, and there was a fantastic balance between the trebles, mids and bass. 

Finally, I tested its CD playback, and although not mind-blowing, vocals were still clear, and there was a good balance between other instruments, with a healthy showing of bass. 

  • Performance score: 5/5

Panasonic DP-UB820 with disc tray open on white stand

The Panasonic DP-UB820 does have a hinged panel that opens with the disc tray which could be a problem for particular shelving in certain narrower units. (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Design

  • Lightweight but durable build  
  • Hinged panel in front of disc tray  
  • Plenty of connections for mid-range player  

The Panasonic DP-UB820 is lightweight compared to its more premium counterpart, the Panasonic DP-UB9000, with the former weighing in at a much lighter 2.4kg compared to the latter’s 8kg weight. Although it’s not made of metal like more premium Blu-ray players, the UB820 still feels durable.

The disc tray and digital display, which looks a bit old-school, are set behind a hinged panel that opens and closes with the disc tray itself. While this keeps things looking neat, it does mean the UB820 needs space across the whole front to allow the panel to open. This could cause a problem for those with restrictive TV stands in one way or another, though may not be a problem for most people.

There are plenty of connections on the rear panel of the UB820 including two HDMI ports, USB, digital optical output, up to 7.1 channels of analogue output, and LAN for wired network connections. For a mid-range player, this is a lot of connectivity and presents a lot of audio options for movie users.

The UB820’s supplied remote is on the smaller side and features plenty of buttons to press including a number pad. If anything, there are probably a few too many buttons, but there are also options to navigate the various menus that do make navigation that bit easier.

  • Design score: 4/5 

Panasonic DP-UB820 menu on Panasonic MZ1500

The Panasonic DP-UB820's software isn't the most dazzling, but it is effective and offers plenty of features. (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Value

  • Excellent price for the performance and features
  • Solid, reliable and built to work
  • Covers most of the bases extremely well

Quite simply, the Panasonic DP-UB820 is a workhorse. During my time working for a major AV retailer, the UB820 was the Blu-ray player of choice to display demo material across 15 TVs, for eight hours a day, seven days a week, using an HDMI splitter. In the nearly three years I was at that job, the HDMI splitter failed multiple times, while the UB820 simply trucked on doing its job. The UB820 is built to last and will give you years of entertainment. 

Price-wise, the UB820 has an extensive list of features and connectivity, supports a lot of physical sources, picture and audio formats and even has Wi-Fi built-in for streaming all for under $500 in the US, under £300 in the UK and $750 in Australia. Compared to similarly priced players, such as the Sony UBPX800 Mk II, the Panasonic is the total package. 

  • Value 5/5 

Panasonic DP-UB820 showing Top Gun Maverick

The Panasonic DP-UB820 produces excellent textures and sharpness, shown here on Top Gun: Maverick (pictured). (Image credit: Future)

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Should I buy it?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Also consider

How I tested the Panasonic DP-UB820

Panasonic DP-UB820 with Panasonic MZ1500 and Sonos Beam (Gen 2) connected

(Image credit: Future)
  • Multiple sources including 4K and standard Blu-ray, DVD, CD
  • Tested with Panasonic MZ1500 TV
  • Tested over the course of two months

For testing the Panasonic DP-UB820, I connected it to a 55-inch Panasonic MZ1500 OLED TV, which supports both Dolby Vision and HDR10+. I then tested the DP-UB820 for picture using 4K Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray, DVD for disc playback and upscaling testing. 

Once I'd chosen the discs, I assessed pictures based on HDR performance including Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and more, and looked at 4K upscaling of non-4K formats such as DVD and Blu-ray.

For sound I tested the UB820 using CD, streaming apps and the same discs to test Dolby Atmos and DTS sound reproduction.

I also tested the software of the DP-UB820 looking at menu navigation, input speed, number of settings and more to see how comprehensive the DP-UB820 was for a mid-range Blu-ray player.

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: a Sonos Beam alternative with surprisingly big sound
2:00 pm | November 12, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar: two-minute review

The HT-S2000 is Sony's entry-level 3.1-channel soundbar. Initially priced at $499 /  £449 / AU$695, it’s a compact, all-in-one model with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, with the height effects in both immersive soundtrack formats delivered using virtual processing. 

Sony’s design for the HT-S2000 uses five speakers: three for the left, right and center channels as well as two dedicated woofers for the bass. Connections include HDMI (with eARC/ARC) and optical digital audio inputs. There’s also a USB type-A port to play music on connected USB drives. Unlike some of the best soundbars, the HT-S2000 doesn’t support music streaming using Wi-Fi or AirPlay, though its Bluetooth 5.2 support will let you play music wirelessly from a phone. For those looking to expand their soundbar’s capabilities in the future, the HT-S2000 can also be paired with Sony’s optional wireless surround speakers and subwoofers.

Sony’s soundbar has solid build quality and a sleek, no-nonsense look. It’s easy to set up, and Sony provides its own Home Entertainment app to help with that task – it also lets you tweak the sound for your specific installation. There are a range of Sound EQ modes, including automatic volume levelling, that can be accessed using either the app of Sony’s bundled remote control. The HT-S2000 also features Sony’s proprietary Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround processing, both of which work to enhance the level of audio immersion coming from the soundbar’s basic 3.1-channel speaker array.

The HT-S2000’s overall performance is great for the price. It delivers dialogue that sounds consistently clear even when pushed to a high level, and bass output is better-than average for an all-in-one soundbar. Sony’s proprietary processing allows for the height effects in Dolby Atmos soundtracks to extend beyond and above the screen boundaries of a TV the soundbar is connected to and there’s also a notably good surround sound ‘wrap-around’ effect when the S-Force Pro Front Surround feature is active.

When it was first released, the HT-S2000 wasn’t the strongest value as it lacked features found in some of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars selling for the same price, such as up-firing speakers and built-in Wi-Fi for lossless music streaming. But the HT-S2000 has since widely dropped in price to $349 / £299, making it a much more compelling value, especially given its performance.

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar on TV stand

Sony's soundbar is a good fit for TVs with a 55-inch (shown here) or a 65-inch screen size. (Image credit: Future)

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: price and release date

  • Released in March 2023
  • $499 / £449 / AU$695

Sony’s HT-S2000 soundbar was released in March 2023 at an initial price of $499 /  £449 / AU$695. Its price has since dropped to $349 in the US and £299 in the UK, though it’s still selling for AU$695 in Australia.

In the Sony 2023 soundbar lineup, the HT-S2000 sits below the HT-A2000, another 3.1-channel model that adds Wi-Fi streaming along with Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2 support.

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: features

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS: X support
  • HDMI and optical digital connections
  • Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround processing

The HT-S2000 is a 3.1-channel soundbar with support for the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio formats, which it delivers using virtual processing. It doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi for streaming, though you can stream music to it over a Bluetooth wireless connection.

Two Sony audio processing features found on the HT-S2000 are Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround. The first helps to elevate sound effects, music and dialogue to screen level or even above where they will sound more natural. The second provides a virtual ‘wrap-around’ so that surround effects sound like they are coming from the sides of the room.

Connection options on the HT-S2000 are basic. It has an HDMI-eARC port for connecting to a TV, an optical digital audio input, and a USB type-A port that can be used to play music files stored on a USB drive. Like other soundbars from brands including Sonos, Bose, Samsung, and LG, the HT-S2000 can be expanded by adding Sony’s wireless surround sound speakers and subwoofers.

  • Features score: 4/5

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar on white background

The soundbar's top-mounted controls (Image credit: Future)

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: sound quality

  • Very good dialogue clarity
  • Spacious virtual surround 
  • Sounds good with music

 A key benefit of the Sony soundbar is its handling of dialogue in movies and TV shows. Watching a few dialogue-heavy scenes from Top Gun: Maverick, voices sounded clean, and I could push the volume to relatively high levels without it sounding edgy. For comparison’s sake, I swapped out the Sony with a 2.1-channel model and found dialogue in the same Top Gun: Maverick scene to be significantly less clean-sounding. The comparison demonstrated the advantage to using a soundbar like the HT-S2000 with a dedicated center-channel speaker, which is a feature that 2.1-channel soundbars lack.

Skipping ahead to the aerial dogfight scene in Top Gun: Maverick, Sony's soundbar sorted the dialogue, music (The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again) and sound effects in an impressively clear manner. There was also a decent amount of bass, which enhanced the sound of drums in the music and added definition to the trajectory of the fighter jets. The soundbar’s virtual processing made height effects in Dolby Atmos soundtracks like Top Gun exceed the height of my TV’s screen. And while the presentation wasn’t as expansive as what I’ve experienced with soundbars featuring dedicated Atmos speakers, it still had a satisfying level of immersion.

Music also sounded surprisingly good on the HT-S2000, especially given its low price. It’s possible to listen to plain stereo with the soundbar’s virtual processing disabled, but pressing the Sound Field button on the remote control adds a level of spaciousness that enhances the stereo separation without making voices and instruments sound unnatural. Equally important, it elevates the presentation in the vertical dimension so that the sound doesn’t appear to be coming from a horizontal bar located beneath your TV’s screen.

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar on white background

Ports on the HT-S2000's left and right sides enhance the soundbar's bass output. (Image credit: Future)

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: design

  • Compact design
  • Above-average build quality 
  • Alphanumeric front-panel display

The HT-S2000 has a compact, all-in-one soundbar, measuring 31.5 inches wide by 2.5 inches high and 5.25 inches deep. Build quality is a cut above most budget soundbars, with the Sony’s sturdy black plastic cabinet fronted by a metal mesh grille. Ports located on the soundbar’s left and right sides allow for enhanced bass output, while its X-Balanced Speaker Unit design physically aligns the 3.25 x 1.8-inch drivers and 3.75 x 1.8 woofers to reduce distortion.

Capacitive controls on the HT-S2000’s top surface let you adjust volume and connect with Bluetooth devices, and there’s also a small remote with additional controls to switch inputs, select sound EQ modes, and adjust the bass level. Sony’s soundbar conveniently provides visual feedback to remote control commands via its alphameric front panel display. That feature is one you don’t regularly find on lower-cost soundbars, and it’s a superior option to basic LED lights.

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar inputs

Inputs include HDMI and optical digital connections (Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 4.5/5

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: usability and setup

  • HDMI eARC/ARC connection to TV
  • App-based setup 
  • No voice assistant support

The HT-S2000’s single HDMI input makes the setup process simple. Just connect it to a TV’s HDMI eARC (or ARC) port, select that input on the soundbar, and you’re ready to roll. Another option is to use the soundbar’s optical digital input, but that connection type doesn’t support Dolby Atmos or the HDMI-CEC control that lets you adjust the soundbar’s volume level using the TV’s remote control.

Sony’s Home Entertainment control app duplicates all the functions of the soundbar’s hardware remote and also provides a range of setup options for initial installation and performance. The latter includes an A/V sync adjustment, automatic volume level adjustment, and DTS Virtual:X to enhance basic stereo or mono soundtracks.

The soundbar’s alphanumeric front panel display makes using it super-easy as you don’t have to rely on a sequence of flashing LEDs to let you know what input or sound mode is selected. There’s no voice assistant support as on some other soundbars in the HT-S2000’s price range such as the Bose Smart Soundbar, but that’s not a feature I imagine most users will rely on, especially when using their TV’s remote control for volume adjustment.

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar remote control held in hand

Sony's remote is larger than the ones provided with some other soundbars and has clearly marked control buttons (Image credit: Future)
  • Usability and setup score: 4.5/5

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: value

  • Affordable price
  • Very good performance for the money 
  • Lacks Wi-Fi and AirPlay streaming options

At its initial $499 /  £449 / AU$695 price, the Sony HT-S2000’s overall value proposition was just average. It faced very strong competition from the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), another all-in-one soundbar with virtual Dolby Atmos processing, and one with a built-in Wi-Fi for app-based control and audio streaming. Another competitor was the Bose Smart Soundbar 600, which provides upfiring drivers to deliver height effects in Atmos soundtracks and also features built-in Wi-Fi for streaming.

At the time of writing, however, the HT-S2000’s price has widely dropped to $349 in the US and £299 in the UK, making it a much better value given its overall performance and features. Being able to stream uncompressed music directly to the Sonos or Bose from a phone using Wi-Fi or using AirPlay does boost the value of both, but many people mainly use their soundbar for TV audio and are okay with a lesser quality Bluetooth option for their occasional music streaming. For those folks, the HT-S2000 will be the perfect entry-level soundbar.

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar on TV stand with Netflix Black Mirror menu in background

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Sony HT-S2000 soundbar?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: Also consider

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar on TV stand

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Sony HT-S2000 soundbar

  • Evaluated using both 4K Blu-ray discs and streamed sources
  • Break-in time allowed before critical listening
  • Tested using reference movie scenes and music tracks

I tested the Sony HT-S2000 soundbar in a 12 x 16 x 9-foot room using a 4K Blu-ray player, Apple TV 4K, and music streamed from my iPhone via Bluetooth and the Tidal app on the Apple TV 4K. I allowed it to break in by watching movies and TV shows before settling in for more critical listening using reference movie clips and music tracks. 

The key things I listened for with movies were dialogue clarity, bass definition, and a sense of spaciousness with the soundbar's surround mode engaged. For music, I paid attention to the naturalness of the sound with acoustic instruments and voices, as well as the dynamics in louder tracks.

Having reviewed many soundbars in the same room over the years, I have a reference sound standard that the Sony HT-S2000 was compared to. For further comparison, I also used an Amazon Fire TV Soundbar, switching between the two compact models on identical movie clips and music tracks.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: November 12, 2023
Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: a more compact Sonos Arc alternative
5:49 pm | November 9, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: two-minute review

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar arrives as the most upmarket, most expensive member of the Bose family of soundbars – and it’s been given the far-from-enviable task of taking the Sonos Arc down a peg or two as the most popular all-in-one big soundbar. Which means it has its work cut out.

First impressions – and second impressions too, for that matter – are very good, though. The Smart Ultra is properly built and finished from tactile, high-quality materials, and by the standards of the best soundbars, it’s of very discreet proportions. It’s well specified, including dedicated upward-facing speaker drivers – you’ve always a better chance of generating a convincing impression of spatial audio if you’ve got the physical equipment (rather than just some clever sound processing) to help you. And between a remote control handset, a couple of physical on-bar controls, voice-assistant compatibility, and one of the better control apps out there, getting what you want from the Bose couldn’t be any simpler.

In performance terms, it generally makes a good impression too. Certainly no one’s going to be disappointed by the width and coherence of its soundstage, nor by the impressive amount of detail it retains and delivers from a soundtrack. Dialogue, in particular, enjoys proper expression – and, as we know, that’s always the most important part of any movie soundtrack. There’s a slight shortage of low-end ‘punch’ and substance to the sound, though, and only a very modest sensation of the audio ‘height’ that is basically the whole point of getting one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars.

And when you remember that ‘punch’ and ‘height’ are among the two real strengths of the usually cheaper Sonos Arc or the more expensive but exquisite Sennheiser Ambeo Plus, it becomes apparent that the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar is sitting in a slightly awkward spot – however, it's notably more compact than the Sonos Arc, which may make it a winner for some people.

Bose smart ultra soundbar close up showing a grille for an upfiring speaker

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar is hiding an upfiring driver behind here. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: price & release date

  •  Released October 10th 2023  
  •  £899 / $899 / AU$1499 

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar went on sale on October 10th, 2023. It's priced at $899 in the US, £899 in the United Kingdom, and in Australia it will set you back AU$1,499. 

This means it’s a little more affordable than the Sony HT-A7000 or Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus, both of which we’re big fans of. And more significantly, it’s the same money officially as the very similarly specified (and extremely successful) Sonos Arc, though the Arc is regularly available with discounts now, which means in real terms you should expect to pay less than the price of the Bose.

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar close up showing the curved corner of the soundbar

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar's build quality and finish is impressive. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Specs

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar

Some of the soundbar’s connections  (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Features

  • 9 speaker drivers arranged in 5.1.2 channels
  • Dolby Atmos support, but no DTS:X
  • TrueSpace turns regular audio into Atmos-like sound

The Smart Ultra Soundbar uses a nine-strong line-up of speaker drivers in order to deal with Dolby Atmos spatial audio soundtracks (and Bose's TrueSpace technology to up-mix non-Atmos content to the point that it uses all nine drivers too).

Six of these nine drivers are 100 x 50mm ‘racetrack’ full-range drivers, and are of plastic with ferrite magnets. There’s one behind each exposed metal grille on the top surface of the soundbar, angled in an effort to create the sonic height that’s basically the whole point of a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The other four are grouped towards the center of the bar – there are two either side of a 25mm neodymium tweeter that’s positioned dead center. There’s another of these tweeters at each end of the soundbar, and they spread sound beyond the physical confines of the soundbar’s cabinet. 

It seems safe to assume there are nine discrete blocks of amplification powering this driver array, and it seems safe to assume it’s of the Class D variety. But having seemingly taken a leaf out of the Sonos' playbook of inexplicable secrecy, Bose is neither confirming nor denying. And there’s no indication of the amount of power this putative amplification turns out, either, nor of the Smart Ultra’s frequency response.

Physical connectivity is kept in a couple of little recesses on the rear of the cabinet. In the first you’ll find sockets for HDMI eARC, Ethernet, digital optical and a USB-C slot that’s purely for servicing. In the second there’s power, and a collection of 3.5mm sockets – they’re for data, for connecting the Adaptiq calibration mic, connecting a bass module, and an IR blaster respectively.

Having only one HDMI socket is frustrating here – it's so useful to have at least one passthrough – but the Sonos Arc has the same limitation, so Bose isn't alone.

Wireless connectivity is covered off by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. Chromecast is built in, Apple AirPlay 2 is available (both of which make multi-room set-up straightforward), and Spotify can be embedded into the Bose Music control app.

Sound format support extends to Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus. Bear in mind, though, that TrueSpace is constantly doing its thing, analyzing incoming non-Dolby audio content and deciding how best (or, more particularly, with how much spatial audio effect) it should be delivered. And you’ve further input into the way sound is presented thanks to the defeatable ‘AI Dialogue Mode’ that is constantly assessing audio content to give dialogue (and the midrange in general) a little push towards the front of the soundstage.

  • Features score: 4/5

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar bass reflex port close-up

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar's rear-firing bass reflex port aims to help make up for its lack of real subwoofer. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Sound quality

  • Spacious, organized sound 
  • Poise and insight in equal measure 
  • The spatial sound isn't especially pronounced 

Like any worthwhile Dolby Atmos soundbar, the Bose Smart Ultra is at its most impressive and convincing when given some properly accomplished Dolby Atmos content to deal with - and when reproducing the painstakingly remastered Atmos soundtrack on a 4K UHD Blu-ray disc of The Shining to deal with, the Bose wastes little time in establishing its credentials.

For example, it’s impressively detailed from the top of the frequency range to the bottom. This is most immediately apparent through the midrange, where voices project well and are absolutely loaded with information regarding tone and timbre as well as character and emotional state. The Bose communicates freely where dialogue is concerned, and voices are distinct and explicit as a result. But it’s true of frequency information on either side, too – bass sounds are respectably deep and varied, while the top of the frequency range is crisp and attacking. 

The Smart Ultra isn’t the deepest-digging soundbar you ever heard, it’s true – those who equate ‘punch’ with ‘excitement’ may be a little underwhelmed – and there could be greater substance to treble sounds to balance out their shininess and bite. It’s possible to mitigate these traits just a little in the Bose Music control app, but the fundamentals of the tonality that’s available here will always be apparent.

The driver array does very good work in conjuring appreciable sonic width to the soundtrack – the distance it can reach both left and right is considerably bigger than the physical dimensions of the cabinet. By way of mild contrast, though, the vertical extension the Bose can muster is fairly modest – there’s some height to its presentation, for sure, but it’s not especially pronounced. If your expectations of a Dolby Atmos soundbar include a suggestion of overhead sound, there’s not going to be much about the way the Smart Ultra goes about things to excite you, especially when you can get the multi-channel mastery of the Samsung HW-Q990C for around the same price.

Switching to some two-channel content lets the TrueSpace technology do its thing – and its thing turns out to be pretty effective. The same accurate, detailed and slightly lightweight tonality is in evidence (though just a hint of sibilance creeps into the top of the frequency range) and the same spacious, well-defined soundstage is apparent too. Also apparent is the technology disinclination (or inability) to summon any meaningful suggestion of height to the sound it delivers.

Using Bluetooth to stream a file of Kraftwerk’s Computer World results in quite a lot of the Smart Ultra’s positivity where soundstaging is concerned going astray. Detail levels stay agreeably high, and there’s decent rhythmic expression to the square-edged four/four presentation – but a mild-but-definite vagueness creeps into the layout of the stage, and the latent edginess of the tonality becomes a little more pronounced. TrueSpace has its limits, and it seems that stereo music is among them.

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar paired with the TV

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar's reflectivity isn't ideal… (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar: Design

  • Suitable for TVs of 48 inches and up
  • Very well-built and premium
  • Glass top is highly reflective

Of course, it’s not enough for a soundbar at this sort of money to simply perform to a certain standard – when you’re charging premium money, it’s important to try and add at least a little perceived value where design is concerned too. Bose has decided the way to do that is to top the Smart Ultra Soundbar with tempered glass.

And up to a point, it’s a sound strategy. This soundbar looks a) very similar indeed to the Smart Soundbar 900 it replaces, especially where the cutaways in the glass to expose the metal grille above the up-firing drivers are concerned, and b) a more upmarket and premium proposition than, say, the similarly priced Sonos Arc. But there are a couple of problems with the admittedly luxurious glass finish: it reflects the light of the screen above it quite readily, and it collects fingerprints like a scene-of-crime investigator. 

Otherwise, a combination of perforated metal that covers the front face and wraps around the sides of the bar and high-quality plastic make up the Smart Ultra. Build quality is well up to par, and the standard of fit and finish is appropriately impressive.

Its width is about the same as a 48-inch OLED TV, such as the LG C3, so it should work well with this size of TV and up – which is a plus over the Sonos Arc, which needs a TV of at least 55 inches.

  • Design score: 4/5

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar remote on top of the unit

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar's remote control is nicely tactile. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Setup & usability

  •  'Adaptiq’ automatic room calibration
  •   Voice, app and remote control
  •  'AI Dialogue’ mode is new

You’ve got to hand it to Bose: it’s made setting up the Smart Ultra Soundbar about as simple as can be, and made whoever’s doing it look like a weirdo to any observers at the same time.

Once the soundbar is in position, and the appropriate connection to the TV and to power have been made, opening the ‘Bose Music’ control app that’s free for iOS and Android gives comprehensive control of the Smart Ultra. And first things first: it puts you in charge of the Adaptiq automatic room calibration system. Plug the Adaptiq mic into the rear of the Smart Ultra, and then put the mic on your head. You read that right.

The calibration system fires off the usual selection of test-tones in order to best set up the soundbar to suit your specific environment. The app will ask you to change positions as many as four subsequent times in order to do its thing – and after that you can take your little plastic mic-hat off and hope never to need to use it again.

The Bose soundbar's Adaptiq headset mic worn by a man who looks unamused

Your delighted correspondent mid-calibration. (Image credit: Future)

The app also features volume control, input selection, EQ adjustment for center, height, bass and treble, and an audio delay adjuster to help achieve perfect audio/video sync. It allows you to group your compatible Bose products together (including surround and/or bass speakers if you’re going the full home theater hog), gives access to Spotify and TuneIn internet radio, holds half a dozen assignable presets, and allows you to switch AI Dialogue Mode on or off. 

It’s where you can set up Amazon Alexa voice control – which proves sharp-earned and reliable. The Bose Voice4Video feature leverages the power of Alexa to allow you to take control of your TV, cable- or satellite TV box using your voice, meaning you can switch on the TV and switch inputs just by asking. The Smart Ultra can also be used with Google Assistant, provided there’s an appropriate speaker on a common network.

This is a responsive, useful app, and is admirably unfussy in the way it presents itself, too.

There’s a little remote control handset too, if you prefer. It covers only the headline controls – input selection volume up/down/mute, play/pause and power on/off – but its rubbery long-travel buttons feel quite good, and it’s useful if the device you’ve installed the app on isn't to hand.

There are a grand total of two physical controls on the soundbar itself, both capacitive touch-surfaces. One switches the integrated mics on or off, while the other is a multifunction ‘action’ control.

  • Setup & usability: 5/5

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar on the AV rack

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar is the right width to match TVs of 48 inches and up. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Value

  • Big, organized sound 
  • Great build quality and excellent control options 
  • Seems a touch expensive next to its most obvious rivals 

If we accept that Bose has the Sonos Arc squarely in its sights with the Smart Ultra Soundbar, then I have to conclude that the Bose is just a little overpriced. Yes, it’s flawlessly constructed and finished, from materials that look and feel good (the suitability of glass in front of a TV notwithstanding), and it’s simple to set up in the first place and operate thereafter. 

But while there’s plenty of merit in the way it performs, not least in its wide, well-defined and nicely balanced presentation, it’s slightly lacking in a couple of areas. And given that these areas – low-frequency impact and the creation of appreciable sonic height – are among the Sonos Arc’s particular strengths as an all-in-one soundbar, they seem almost compounded. Which in turns serves to make the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar seem a less compelling proposition than it otherwise would.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Should I buy the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Also consider

How I tested the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested a standard living space 
  • Used for over a week 
  • Tested with streaming services and 4K UHD Blu-ray content 

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar has been sitting beneath a Philips OLED TV (where it happily reflects part of the images coming from above) for well over a week. For several days it’s been working full 10-hours shifts while I assess its performance – plus, of course, it’s been doing its thing for an hour or two every evening while the household unwinds in front of the television. The room it’s in is open-plan, so side boundaries are fairly distant, but the ceilings are of unremarkable height, which is helpful to soundbars when it comes to generating overhead audio effects.

Content has been sourced from premium-tier video streaming services, from Dolby Atmos-enabled 4K UHD Blu-ray discs, from broadcast TV and, for music, via Bluetooth and the Spotify account embedded into the Bose Music app.

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: a cheap, basic soundbar with benefits
3:00 pm | October 7, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar: two-minute review

The Amazon Fire TV Soundbar is the company’s first soundbar, and as with other Amazon-branded products, it arrives at a competitive price point  of just $119. It's currently only available in the US, though. Amazon’s offering is about as basic as a soundbar gets. It has a 2.0-channel speaker array and both HDMI and optical digital ports for a TV hookup, along with Bluetooth for music streaming.

There are many features found on the best soundbars that Amazon could have added to its model to make it a more compelling option – built-in Wi-Fi, for example. That specific feature would have given Fire TV users the ability to create a wireless, voice-controlled ‘Alexa Home Theater’ as they can with the company’s Echo wireless speakers. As it stands, even though Amazon claims its soundbar is ‘designed to work with Fire TV’, there are no specific Fire TV-related features. This is a cheap, basic soundbar that works with any TV featuring an HDMI eARC/ARC or optical digital connection.

Amazon’s soundbar has a compact design, and its build quality is good for the price. It provides Movie, Music and dialogue-boosting EQ modes, all selectable using the supplied remote control. There’s also DTS:Virtual X processing to expand the sound for movies and TV shows with surround-encoded soundtracks.

Sound quality is surprisingly good for the cost. Music sounds decent enough when played at reasonable levels. Eeven though bass is limited, movie soundtracks are strongly enhanced when the virtual processing is enabled, with the sound expanding well beyond the confines of the soundbar and TV screen. Dialogue is for the most part clear, though male voices can sound too heavy with the bar’s Bass setting, which is otherwise optimized for movie playback.

An advantage to the Fire TV Soundbar is that it’s easy to set up and use. If you're simply looking for a basic, low-cost soundbar to improve upon your TV’s built-in speakers that you can just set and forget, it will do the trick. As for value, you can find other equally good options for around the same price, so Amazon’s first real home theater audio offering isn’t exactly setting the budget soundbar space on fire. But that situation could change come Amazon Prime Day or Black Friday, when the Fire TV Soundbar is likely to see the same deep discounts that other Amazon-branded products typically get.

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar on TV stand with TV in background

Amazon's compact soundbar is a good fit for TVs with a 55-inch (shown here) or smaller screen. (Image credit: Future)

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: price and release date

  •  Released in September 2023 
  •  Priced at $119
  • Limited to the US

The Amazon Fire TV Soundbar was released in September 2023 and is priced at $119. At present, it’s only available in the US.

Amazon appears to have designed its first soundbar as a basic, low-cost audio upgrade for its Fire TV lineup, but it can also be used with any TV. At just $119, its price competition includes cheap, off-brand soundbars as well as the Roku Streambar, a higher spec offering with built-in streaming capabilities.

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: features

  • Dolby Audio and DTS:Virtual X processing
  • HDMI and optical digital connections
  • Bluetooth wireless streaming

Amazon’s soundbar is about as basic as soundbars get, with a 2.0 speaker array and HDMI and optical digital audio ports for connecting to a TV. There is no built-in Wi-Fi to enable audio streaming from phones or tablets using AirPlay 2 or Chromecast, though Bluetooth wireless streaming is supported.

At $119, you wouldn’t expect a soundbar to have Dolby Atmos support, even of the virtualized type, and the Fire TV Soundbar not surprisingly doesn’t. What it does support is Dolby Audio, which here ends up being 2-channel Dolby Digital with sound processing to enhance detail and normalize volume levels when switching between TV channels or sources.

Along with Dolby Audio, the Fire TV Soundbar has DTS:Virtual X processing and Movies, Music and Dialogue EQ modes.

  • Features score: 3/5

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar top panel controls

The soundbar's top-mounted controls (Image credit: Future)

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: sound quality

  • Good overall dialogue clarity
  • Spacious virtual surround
  • Light on bass

When I first plugged in the Fire TV Soundbar, I was happy to note that it provided a strong sound quality boost over the built-in speakers of the Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED TV I connected it to. Dialogue clarity received an immediate boost, and there was a spaciousness and heft to the sound that wasn’t there previously.

Watching scenes from the sci-fi film District 9, the interviews dispersed throughout the action sounded full-bodied, and so did the comments from Vikus as he wandered around the alien compound. With the Surround mode switched off, effects in the movie’s soundtrack were constricted, but when I switched it on, helicopters and machine gun fire sounds expanded beyond the TV’s screen and there was a naturalistic sense of ambience.

When I next watched a scene from Top Gun: Maverick where Maverick is disciplined by Rear Admiral Chester ‘Hammer’ Cain, I found that the dialogue, while mostly clear, was too bass-heavy, with a ‘boomy’ quality. Checking the soundbar’s Bass setting, the medium option was selected, so I dialed it back to low. The effect of that change was to thin out the overall balance of the sound, so I decided to switch back to medium and live with too-boomy dialogue.

For comparison’s sake I swapped out Amazon’s soundbar with a Sony HTS2000 soundbar ($500 / £449 / around AU$788), a 3.1-channel model with virtual Dolby Atmos processing, and found dialogue in the same Top Gun: Maverick scene to be significantly cleaner-sounding with the Sony’s medium bass level selected. The comparison demonstrated the advantage to using a soundbar with a dedicated center-channel speaker, which is a feature that 2.0-channel models like the Fire TV Soundbar lack.

Otherwise, I was impressed with how effectively the Fire TV soundbar’s DTS:Virtual X processing widened the soundscape on Top Gun: Maverick and other movies, and did so without negatively affecting other elements in the audio mix such as music and dialogue. Bass was one area where I found the Amazon bar to be lacking, especially in comparison to the much more expensive Sony model. But given the Amazon’s compact design, the amount of bass it did deliver was actually better than expected.

I don’t expect music to sound great on budget soundbars and the Amazon Fire TV soundbar didn’t do much to change my mind. That being said, when I streamed Endless Time by The Weather Station using the Tidal app on the Omni QLED TV, the song’s simple Joni Mitchell-like piano and vocal presentation sounded smooth and natural. There was also a good sense of spaciousness with the Surround mode enabled. Other, more dynamic music I played sounded a bit harsh and congested with the volume pushed to a high level, though it was comparatively fine with the volume dialed back to a normal listening level.

  • Sound quality score: 3.5/5

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: design

  • Compact design
  • Remote control included
  • Front-panel LED indicator lights

The Amazon Fire TV Soundbar is a lightweight and highly compact design, measuring just 24-inches wide by 2.5-inches high and 3.5-inches deep. Its black plastic cabinet has rounded edges and is fronted by a black mesh grille. A row of control buttons are located on the top surface that let you adjust volume, select inputs, pair the soundbar with Bluetooth devices, and power it on and off. 

An equally compact remote control is packaged with buttons to adjust volume, switch inputs as well as select the EQ, bass and virtual surround sound modes. Remote commands trigger a sequence of LEDs on the soundbar's front, with one to three lights indicating the volume level range, for example. There’s also voice confirmation when selecting EQ modes, with a robot-like (not Alexa) voice telling you if Dialogue, Music, or Movie mode is selected.

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar back panel inputs

Inputs include HDMI and optical digital connections (Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 3.5/5

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: usability and setup

  • HDMI eARC/ARC connection to TV
  • Easy Bluetooth pairing 
  • No alphanumeric front panel display

Given the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar’s basic design, setup poses no challenges. You simply connect it to your TV’s HDMI eARC/ARC port or optical digital output, and Amazon even gives you an HDMI cable to speed things along. Once an HDMI connection is made, you can use your TV’s remote control to adjust volume instead of the one supplied with the soundbar.

Pairing a Bluetooth device like a phone is equally simple. You just press the Bluetooth button on the soundbar’s control strip and a blue LED starts pulsing to indicate it’s in pairing mode. You then check the Bluetooth setup menu on your phone or tablet, select the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar, and you’re ready to stream.

Audio features such as EQ modes, bass level, and surround sound can be easily accessed from the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar’s remote control. A drawback to inexpensive soundbars like this one, however, is having to rely on LED light sequences instead of an alphanumeric display (or a control app) to make adjustments. But these proved easy enough to work with on the Fire TV Soundbar and having voice confirmation when switching EQ modes made things that much easier.

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar remote control in hand

Amazon's small remote provides all the controls you'll need, but the soundbar's volume can also be adjusted with your TV's remote when it's connected to an HDMI eARC/ARC port. (Image credit: Future)
  • Usability and setup score: 4/5

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: value

  • Good overall value 
  • Faces strong budget competition
  • Look for Prime Day and Black Friday discounts

The Amazon Fire TV Soundbar is one of the least expensive options on the market, although you can also buy a 2.0-channel model from Sony or a 2.1-channel system with a wireless subwoofer from Vizio for even less than the $119 Amazon is charging here. And spending a bit more will get you the Roku Streambar, a model with the Roku streaming platform built-in that can be expanded with the company’s wireless surround speakers and subwoofer.

Nevertheless, given its good design and decent overall sound, Amazon’s soundbar ranks fairly high for value. You’d have to step up to the $500 range to get reliably better performance, along with extras like Dolby Atmos support via virtual processing or upward-firing speakers. And while I strongly feel that better sound is worth extra money, not everyone wants to spend that much to improve their TV’s built-in audio. For those who instead think around $100 is the right price, the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar is a solid budget-bar option.

While Amazon’s soundbar is a good deal at its current price, the company typically offers substantial cost reductions on its Fire TV products both on Prime Day and during the Black Friday sales. Should the Fire TV soundbar get a 25% or better price cut during either of those events, which I expect it will, its overall value will get a strong boost.

  • Value score: 4/5

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar close up

The Fire TV soundbar has smooth, rounded edges and a mesh front panel grille. Build quality is good given the low price. (Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: Also consider

Amazon Fire TV soundbar on TV stand with Fire TV in background

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar

  • Evaluated using both 4K Blu-ray discs and streamed sources
  • Break-in time allowed before critical listening
  • Tested using reference movie scenes and music tracks

I tested the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar in a 12 x 16 x 9-foot room using a 4K Blu-ray player, Apple TV 4K, and music streamed from Tidal via an Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED TV as sources. I allowed it to break in by watching movies and TV shows before settling in for more critical listening using reference movie clips and music tracks. 

The key things I listened for with movies were dialogue clarity, bass definition, and a sense of spaciousness with the soundbar's surround mode engaged. For music, I paid attention to the naturalness of the sound with acoustic instruments and voices, as well as the dynamics in louder tracks.

Having reviewed many soundbars in the same room over the years, I have a reference sound standard that the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar was compared to. For further comparison, I also used a Sony HT-S2000 all-in-one soundbar, switching between the two compact models on identical movie clips and music tracks.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: October 5, 2023
LG G3 OLED review: LG’s brightest OLED TV ever delivers elite pictures
5:46 pm | September 22, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Televisions | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

LG G3: Two-minute review

The LG G3 is the latest flagship OLED TV from the company that has put OLED on the map more than any other. The G3 is another landmark set, though, taking brightness to a new level for LG, and besting what’s come before in many ways.

The LG G3 is priced like a premium flagship TV too, though its price has dropped somewhat since its launch in March 2023 – though the Samsung S95C is a similarly specified TV that’s available for less at the time of writing (though the two will battle this out in price drops, no doubt). With the G3 ranging in sizes from 55-inch to 83-inch (although the 83-inch has a less-bright panel so will perform differently), there’s an option for nearly all home theater lovers, although if you need smaller you can always look at the LG C3, which also ranks among the best OLED TVs.

With the introduction of Micro Lens Array (MLA) technology to improve brightness in its already fantastic OLED Evo panel, plus a new generation of image processor, the G3’s picture quality is phenomenal. Vibrant colors and crisp textures work in harmony with deep blacks and dynamic contrast, making the picture of the G3 nothing short of sensational – at the very top of what you can get from the world’s best TVs.

Although built-in sound in the G3 is decent, with a surprising amount of bass in some sound modes and clear dialogue generally, the LG G3 could benefit from one of the best soundbars to match the excellent quality of its picture. If stronger built-in audio quality is essential to you, you may want to look at TVs such as the Sony A80L and even the Samsung S90C.

As far as gaming goes, the LG G3 is a paradise. With extensive gaming features and compatibility including 4K 120Hz support on all four 2.1 HDMI ports, Dolby Vision gaming at 120Hz, VRR, and ALLM, this is as well-specced as it gets for games. Put all this with an intuitive Game Dashboard menu and extremely useful Game Optimizer picture mode, and it’s hard to fault. 

LGs smart TV platform, webOS 23, is intuitive and more streamlined than last year’s software, webOS 22, and offers you greater customization options in terms of categorizing apps via its Quick Card option and also tailors recommendations on what you want to look for. Thankfully, webOS 23 has also toned down the amount of recommendations compared to last year as well, because they were a little overwhelming.

In terms of design, the G3 is a stunning TV, with a sleek, bezel-less build that looks elegant when mounted on a wall. Still, though, it’s extremely frustrating that for people who want to put this TV on a stand, a desktop stand is not included and will cost you extra – it only comes with a special gap-free wall-mount.

If you’re looking for a TV to suit any situation including gaming, movie marathons or daytime viewing, with image quality that’s as good as anything else on the market, the LG G3 is definitely one of your top choices. There are cheaper high-quality OLEDs out there, such the LG C3 or Sony A80L, but they sacrifice brightness or other features compared to the G3. The biggest competitor is the Samsung S95C, which we rate slightly higher due to its better sound and great external connections box, creating slightly better value overall – but the G3 should definitely be one of your options if you’re looking to buy one of the best 4K TVs available today.

For this review, we tested the 65-inch version of the LG G3. 

LG G3 with mountainous landscape on screen

The LG G3 looks stunning with Dolby Vision content and shines with landscape shots  (Image credit: Future)

LG G3 review: price and release date

  •  Released in March 2023 
  •  From $2,099 / £1,999 / AU$4,195 (55-inch)
  •  Up to $5,799 / £5,999 / AU$10,995 for the 83-inch 

The G3 is one of LG’s most elite OLEDs, sitting only below the LG M3 and its wild wireless tech, and the 8K Z3 series. At the time of its release in March 2023, pricing for the G3 started from $2,099 / £1,999 / AU$4,195 for the 55-inch version, $2,799 / £2,699 / AU$5,295 for the 65-inch, $3999 / £4,299 / AU$8,395 for the 77-inch and  $5,799 / £5,999 / AU$10,995 for the 83-inch version. This was competitively priced with its closest competitor, the Samsung S95C. 

At the time of writing, several months after release, prices for the LG G3 have dropped but it still remains well into the higher end of the OLED market. However, expensive as it may be, compared to similarly specced TVs such as the Samsung S95C or Sony A95L, the G3’s price remains competitive.  

LG G3 review: Specs

Rear of LG G3 showing connections and ports

The LG G3 has a lot of connectivity options, including four 2.1 HDMI ports (Image credit: Future)

LG G3 review: Features

  •  Micro Lens Array (MLA) OLED Evo panel  
  •  Alpha 9 Gen6 processor 
  •  4K 120Hz with Dolby Vision support for gaming 

OLED technology continues to evolve, and the LG G3 features what LG refers to as Brightness Booster Max; a light-boosting technology that LG claims makes the G3 70% brighter than previous generation OLEDs. 

The key bit of technology in LG G3 to achieve this is Micro Lens Array (MLA) technology, which is a layer of microscopic lenses that sit in a layer above the OLED panel and enable much more of the light from the panel to reach your eyes. Absent from the more affordable LG C3, this MLA tech makes the G3 stand out in LG’s line-up. The LG G3 supports Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG HDR formats, but as with all LG TVs, it doesn’t support HDR10+.

In terms of gaming features, the LG G3 covers a lot of bases, with Dolby Vision gaming support, four HDMI 2.1 ports rated for 4K 120Hz, with VRR including AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, ALLM and HGiG compatibility. Coupled with the Alpha 9 Gen6 processor, the G3 is packing some serious performance for gaming and picture processing.

The 4.2-channel speaker system, with Dolby Atmos and DTS compatibility, aims to improve on the audio performance of other OLEDs in order to attain a sound that can complement the picture on screen. 

The overhauled smart TV software, webOS 23, has access to all the major apps including Netflix, Disney Plus, Prime Video and Apple TV Plus to name a few. A new Quick Cards system in the home screen categorizes apps by genre such as Sport, Music and so on, and its main home menu has had ads and recommendations reduced, allowing the webOS 23 home screen to fit over two pages as opposed to the four it was spread over last year, leading to a neater-looking homepage.

  • Features score: 5/5

LG G3 with John Wick on screen

Contrast is brilliant and people look natural, as shown here in John Wick: Chapter 2. (Image credit: Future)

LG G3 review: Picture quality

  •  Brilliant brightness levels 
  •  Detailed and natural image 
  •  Deep black levels 

Let’s start with some numbers: with the LG G3 in Filmmaker HDR mode, we measured peak brightness at an impressive 1,449 nits on a 10% window, which actually tops the Samsung S95C’s 1,400 nits, making this marginally the brightest OLED we’ve measured so far. It hit a respectable 219 nits on a full 100% window, but that’s notably lower than the 265 nits we measured for the S95C.

LG suggested the G3 would have a 70% brightness increase on previous generations of its OLED TVs, and with these numbers, we can confirm it. Last year’s LG G2, measured in the bright Vivid mode in our review, hit 1,000 nits in a 10% window and the LG C3, in the same Filmmaker mode as the G3, hit just over half the G3’s result with 830 nits. The G3’s MLA panel has certainly boosted the peak brightness by a substantial amount.

During this test, I used the 65-inch G3 and it’s worth noting that the 83-inch G3 does not include MLA, so is likely to perform closer to the LG G2’s results for brightness, although we have yet to confirm this for ourselves. 

In Filmmaker HDR mode again, the LG yielded some great results with its color accuracy, delivering an average Delta-E value of just under three. This demonstrates the difference between a color test pattern and what’s shown on screen, and we’re happy that anything under three is accurate enough for TV viewing. DCI-P3 coverage (the color space used for mastering 4K Blu-rays and digital cinema releases) was 98% and BT.2020 was 73.8%, both of which are very good results. Grayscale Delta-E values, testing black levels and contrast accuracy, averaged around 1.9, which is another excellent result. 

One thing I noticed straight away was how well the G3, with its MLA panel and anti-glare screen, made easy work of the testing room’s bright, overhead lights and spotlights when we pushed them high to see how it fared. Only the reflection of some awkwardly placed overhead lights was visible, so the LG G3 should be fine with generally bright indoor lights. The Samsung S95C’s higher full-screen brightness will be a little better for really bright, sunlit rooms – though neither holds a candle to mini-LED TVs such as the Samsung QN95C. Nevertheless, with only minor reflections, it’s still extremely impressive how well the G3 handled the bright testing facility.

The out-of-the-box picture is certainly impressive on the LG G3. I cycled through several of the picture presets to test the G3 for color, sharpness, contrast and also brightness, seeing just what the MLA panel could do. Using a couple of scenes from The Batman to test these presets, starting with one scene where Batman lights a bright flare to guide people in a darkened, flooded room. Standard mode had a decent enough picture with bright color, but black levels weren’t as deep and brightness was pushed a little too far. 

However, switching to Cinema mode, the contrast was more balanced, enabling the G3 to show how it can accentuate shadows, giving a rich detail to the overall picture. The G3’s Filmmaker mode added further to this, giving the flare a subtle, yet vibrant feel that made it stand out without blowing out. In another scene, where Batman first appears in a subway fight, black levels were outstanding as the shadows and Batman’s suit looked truly dark without losing any detail. 

Testing Dolby Vision HDR content, again in Filmmaker mode, I streamed a lightsaber fight from Star Wars: The Last Jedi on Disney Plus. In it, the lightsabers’ colors were punchy and dynamic without being too glaring. Red was a very prominent color in the scene, as guards, Kylo Ren’s lightsaber and a chunk of the background were all red, but the G3 handled the vibrancy well, keeping a natural, yet flashy look with all the red in the scene.  

Using the Spears & Munsil UHD HDR Benchmark Blu-ray to test more HDR content, a range of demo material highlighted the phenomenal picture quality of the G3 even further. Several snowy scenes showcased how the G3 can handle vivid whites without overdoing them and keeping a natural feel. During some landscape night shots of a city, contrast levels were excellent, with the black of the night sky contrasting well with the bright lights of the buildings. 

As for motion, the G3 handled fast paced action scenes with ease. Again in The Batman, during the Batmobile chase, the darting cars looked fluid, with the G3 (with little to no motion processing on in Filmmaker mode) making light work of this testing scene. Also, during both the training and final missions of Top Gun: Maverick, the G3s’ processor effortlessly handled the swooping fighter jets, as they careered through the air at a blinding pace, still managing to keep the detail and quality of the picture. 

If you find yourself drawn to a brighter picture mode such as Standard – but not Vivid, which should be avoided at all costs – motion processing called Trumotion does create the dreaded ‘soap opera’ effect, but thankfully the G3 picture settings give you ample settings to tweak to avoid this. However, if you want the best picture, my advice is to stick with Filmmaker mode as it makes the G3 shine, putting it up there with the best OLED TVs

  • Picture quality score: 5/5

Upfiring speakers of LG G3

The LG G3 has a 4.2-channel speaker system, with speaker around the edge helping to position sounds to match the screen. (Image credit: Future)

LG G3 review: Sound quality

  •  4.2-channel speaker setup 
  •  Good, clear sound with Cinema mode  
  •  Dolby Atmos and DTS support 

Featuring a multi-speaker setup, the G3 looks to add a more positional sound system than the average TV. There are a variety of different sound preset sound modes for the G3’s TV speakers, which come with varying degrees of success.

The Standard TV preset was solid, with clear enough dialogue and good treble levels, although it was lacking in bass and the volume needed to be pushed more than on other sound modes. 

Cinema mode was definitely an upgrade, with a much deeper bass, better overall balance and thankfully, there was no sacrifice to other sounds. While watching The Batman, during the car chase scene, the rumble of the Batmobile’s engine was thunderous through the G3’s speakers in Cinema mode, with the trumpet led score still nice and clear. Dolby Atmos effects such as rain were still present but a little harder to hear.

Another sound mode featured is AI Sound Pro, one of LG’s sound technologies that in the G3 mixes sound from incoming sources to a claimed 9.1.2 mix in an effort to create a more immersive experience. When played through the same car chase in The Batman, overall volume was much louder and Dolby Atmos effects were amplified, with the rain coming through clearer in the mix. However, it became apparent that the bass had been reduced in favor of the other main channels, including dialogue. This ended up giving a more ‘clinical sound’ in comparison to Cinema, but for programs with a lot of speech, including a cooking show I watched on live TV, it definitely improved speech levels. 

The G3 also features an Auto Acoustic Tuning mode which promises to balance levels using mics in the remote, although during our test there didn’t seem to be a great deal of difference. The G3 also has the WOW Orchestra feature that combines the speakers of the TV with a compatible LG soundbar (rather than replacing the TV’s speakers with the soundbar), but I didn’t test that during my time.

The G3’s TV sound is good enough from its built-in speakers, with the highlights being Cinema mode and AI Sound Pro (for certain situations), but if you are looking for an immersive sound to go with the G3’s fantastic picture, you’re better off looking at one of the best soundbars to pair with it. If you do want a TV with more powerful, built-in audio, you’ll want to look at the Samsung S95C – our reviewers who’ve tried both recommend its sound higher. As far as TV speakers go, though, the G3 is still well above average.

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

LG G3 from a side angle on a stand

With an elegant, sleek frame, the G3 is a good-looking TV. (Image credit: Future)

LG G3 review: Design

  •  Elegant, slim design 
  •  Flush fitting to wall 
  •  Optional stand at extra cost is frustrating 

The G3 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors of the ‘Gallery’ range of TVs, with an attractive slim design that makes it look effortlessly sleek on the wall. In terms of the frame itself, its silver and metallic design make it not only look good, but also feel solid. 

This is saying a lot, considering the actual TV itself measures at a delightfully thin 2.4cm (just under 1 inch) so you’d be forgiven for thinking the TV will feel flimsy, but thankfully it doesn’t. In fact, it’s quite a heavy and solid beast.

A special flush-to-the-wall wall mount for the TV is provided in the box and sits near the top on the rear of the TV itself, which admittedly does feel like an odd place to put it, with the majority of the weight towards the bottom of the set. However, one welcome return from last year's G2 is that the included slim-fit mount does have some movement to it, enabling you to access the back of the TV to change any inputs or cables if you need to, rather than having to take the TV on and off the wall every time.

During our test, it’s worth noting that we had the optional stand attached to allow us to place it onto our cabinet. Sadly, much like the G2, this stand is not included and neither are any type of feet. Despite the visually appealing and sturdy nature of the stand, it means people looking to place their G3 on any furniture will have to pay extra ($149 / £99), so factor that into the cost.

The supplied remote, LG’s Magic Remote, a staple inclusion with LG’s TVs over the past couple of years, makes a return and still features the same voice control options, buttons and layout as before. The central wheel can still be a little fiddly to navigate menus but is definitely a quicker alternative to the normal arrows. The pointer can also sometimes feel a bit sensitive, but once you get used, it does make navigating the G3 easier.

  • Design score: 4/5

LG G3 main home menu on screen

The webOS 23 software streamlines the home menu of the G3 and adds Quick Cards for customization. (Image credit: Future)

LG G3 review: Smart TV and menus

  •  Intuitive and easy-to-use smart platform 
  •  Streamlined compared to previous year 
  •  Quick cards allows for great customization 

The G3 is loaded with LG’s smart platform, webOS 23. LG has improved on the Home screen from last year, condensing it down onto two pages rather than the several pages it was the year before. The glaring ads and recommendations have all been toned down as well, making for a much more user-friendly smart platform.

Navigating and changing settings such as picture mode, sound output (if you’re switching from TV speakers to a soundbar for example) and sleep timer is also extremely easy. A quick menu appears on the left hand side of the screen when you press the settings button (the gear icon) on the remote and these options are clearly displayed in an easy-to-use menu. For more advanced settings, the main settings page can easily be accessed and thankfully, this too is neatly laid out into four logical categories; Picture, Sound, General and Support.

The latest feature added to webOS is the introduction of Quick Cards on the main hub. Above the usual line of apps, which can be moved and customized, there sits a group of larger icons listed with titles like Game, Music, Sports. These can actually be used to organize your apps by theme, making for even greater user customization.

Another new feature is the built-in, hands-free voice control. By enabling this feature, you simply say ‘Hi LG’ and the LG awaits your commands. During my test, I found that although it was very responsive and quick to find results, it would sometimes cut me off early and didn’t take me to where I wanted to go. Although frustrating at times, it can be useful.

  • Smart TV and menus score: 4.5/5

LG G3 with Battlefield V and game bar on screen

The G3 has a game menu to tweak settings to get the best out of video games  (Image credit: Future)

LG G3 review: Gaming

  •  Game Optimizer mode and menu  
  •  4K 120Hz Dolby Vision support 
  •  Smooth and fluid motion during gameplay 

The LG G3 is packed with gaming features, including four HDMI 2.1 ports all rated for 4K 120Hz, giving gamers with multiple next-gen consoles plenty of space to plug them in and get the best out of them , whilst still leaving room for a soundbar. With VRR including AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync compatibility, and ALLM, the LG G3 offers a plethora of choice and support for gamers. 

When measuring input lag at 4K 60Hz, the LG G3 yielded a result of 12.9ms, a respectable score. But using the Game Optimizer feature to place input delay into Boost mode improved this result to 9.2ms, which is among the best in class.

When playing Battlefield V on Xbox Series X, I turned on the Game Optimizer picture mode to turn off any unwarranted ‘enhancements’ within its settings, like judder reduction or motion blur, to get the best out of the game. The motion within the game, running at 120fps, was smooth and clean, managing to feel fast paced without feeling sickening or jerky in any places. Panning and swapping between targets was a breeze and kept the action feeling pacy. 

Game Optimizer mode also managed to keep depth and details within the graphics, highlighting just how good the G3’s display was. In a stealth mission whilst infiltrating an air base in a rocky landscape, even terrain and small details such as bushes and stones looked natural, with the greens and browns still popping on screen despite darkened lighting. The sharpness of the picture gave everything a defined edge without being too defined, a problem that can occur within the sharpness detail of some TVs. 

Also featured was the Game Dashboard menu, which gave lots of opportunity for picture and sound adjustments to get the gaming experience just right. I switched between the ‘Standard’ and ‘First person shooter’ (FPS) picture options and you could see the difference having Battlefield V (a FPS) in the correct mode made, with motion becoming even more fluid compared to the ‘Standard’ game picture mode and lighting conditions improving to highlight hidden enemies. 

Much like its predecessors, the LG G3 has stellar gaming features. A wealth of connectivity and compatibility, the G3 is definitely a top choice for gamers. Paired with outstanding picture quality, the G3 finds itself amongst the best gaming TVs

  • Gaming score: 5/5

LG G3 remote in person's hand

LG's Magic Remote is featured with the G3 and offers a pointer and mic options (Image credit: Future)

LG G3 review: Value

  •  Most competitively priced with high-end TVs 
  •  Excellent performance and picture quality 
  •  A couple of minus points compared to equivalent sets  

The LG G3 is no doubt a high-end TV, and as such comes with a matching price tag. The picture quality, gaming features and increased brightness compared to normal OLED panels mean you’re getting a lot of TV for that cash, though. 

The G3’s closest rival, the Samsung S95C, is almost identical in price in a lot of territories and it looks like the competition over which of these two TVs is slightly cheaper will be hot, but with no stand included, weaker sound and lower full-screen brightness than the Samsung S95C (and given the S95C's great external connections box), the LG G3 isn’t quite as good value for money, despite beating it in some ways. 

If you are looking for a premium OLED TV, you expect to pay the money. Thankfully, since its release, the G3’s prices have dropped notably. An outstanding, detailed picture and excellent game performance definitely make this a TV worth its money – we just think Samsung S95C ekes a little more out.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

LG G3 with lake view on screen

Another landscape showing off the G3s' phenomenal picture quality  (Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the LG G3?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

LG G3 review: Also consider

How I tested the LG G3

LG G3 with snowy scene and wooden fence on screen

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested in our lab room with varying lighting conditions
  • Measurements taken using Portrait Display's Calman software
  • Tested through a variety of sources, both SDR and HDR

After running in the TV to ensure the best OLED performance, I began to test the LG G3 with a couple of different sources including gaming on an Xbox Series X and 4K Blu-ray discs, plus streaming content from several streaming services, including Disney Plus.

After assessing its presets, I chose the LG G3 most natural preset, Filmmaker mode, and began to watch things primarily on this picture mode (though this doesn't work with Dolby Vision). I used a number of 4K Blu-rays to look at elements such as color, sharpness, black levels, brightness and motion. I also streamed content from various sources, including Disney Plus for streamed Dolby Vision HDR, and watch live broadcast digital TV.

The next step was to take measurements of the G3, using Portrait Displays’ Calman calibration software. I measured the peak brightness on a 10% and 100% white window, with both HDR and SDR. I then measured grayscale, gamma and color accuracy, again using Calman, to provide average Delta-E values (which demonstrates the margin of error between the test pattern and what is displayed) for each of these categories. I also measured color space looking at DCI-P3 and BT.2020 coverage. For all these tests, I used the Murideo Seven 8K test pattern generator to create the patterns being measured.

To analyze input lag for the G3, I used the Leo Bodnar 4K Input Lag tester.

JBL Bar 1300X review: a soundbar that does Dolby Atmos right
6:00 pm | March 11, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar: Two-minute review

The JBL Bar 1300X is the company’s flagship Dolby Atmos soundbar system in 2023, and it’s one that delivers a serious wow factor. A big part of this is JBL’s innovative design, which uses truly wireless rechargeable surround speakers that dock into the sides of the main soundbar where they can enhance its sound output while recharging, before you put them back behind you. Beyond that, it’s a 16-channel system powered by 1,170 total watts, and it comes with a 12-inch wireless subwoofer that’s unusually beefy for one packaged with a soundbar.

At $1,699 / £1,299 / around AU$2,570, the JBL 1300X is one of the pricier soundbar systems on the market, though its cost is comparable to other offerings that deliver an equally rich sense of immersion, such as the Samsung HW-Q990B. It’s also feature-packed, offering both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X processing along with Atmos upmixing of stereo sources. Up-firing Atmos speakers on both the soundbar and surround speakers ensure full distribution of height effects in soundtracks throughout the room, and there’s also Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, and Bluetooth wireless streaming support.

Build quality of the system, which is best suited for 65-inch or larger TVs, is excellent. There are four HDMI ports (one with eARC), which is enough to handle disc player, streaming box, and game console sources, though 4K 120Hz passthrough isn’t supported.

System setup is exceedingly simple and uses JBL’s control app for sound calibration. The app lets you sign-in to the best music streaming apps including Amazon Music Unlimited, Tidal, Qobuz, and Spotify, and it provides a convenient place to stream from multiple services. A remote control is also included.

The sound quality of JBL’s flagship system is very impressive – right up there with the best soundbars. Dolby Atmos soundtracks have a substantial immersive effect and bass is both deep-reaching and powerful. Having up-firing Atmos speakers in both the front and rear of the room makes a notable difference, and is one of the ways this system distinguishes itself from the soundbar pack. Both music and dialogue come across as clear and natural-sounding, and with Dolby upmixing for stereo sources onboard, all manner of content becomes sonically room-filling.

While $1,699 is a lot to pay for a soundbar, the JBL 1300X is nonetheless very good value considering its innovative design and solid performance. You’d really need to step up to a separate AV receiver and speakers-based rig to best it, but then you’d be making your system – and life – more complicated. The JBL’s price is also comparable to flagship systems from other makers, including the Samsung mentioned above, or the LG S95QR – something that should put its cost into perspective when doing comparative shopping.

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar on TV stand

JBL's Bar 1300X features up-firing drivers on both the main soundbar and surround speakers. (Image credit: Future)

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar review: Price & release date

  • Released in February 2023
  • $1,699 / £1,299 / around AU$2,570

The JBL Bar 1300X was released in February 2023 and sells for $1,699 / £1,299 / around AU$2,570. That’s a hefty price for a soundbar, though it's in the same ballpark as other systems from Samsung and LG that offer high channel counts for maximum sound immersion.

For the cost, you’re getting a system loaded with appealing and useful features, and the design and build quality are excellent. JBL offers similar 7.1.4 and 5.1.2 soundbar systems, also with detachable and rechargeable surround speakers, at lower cost, though the immersive effect may not be as complete as with the Bar 1300X.

Hand holding JBL 1300X surround sound speaker with JBL soundbar in background

After removing the endcaps at either side of the soundbar, the surround speakers can be docked for re-charging. (Image credit: Future)

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar review: Specs

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar review: Features

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X processing 
  • 16 sound channels 
  • Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, and Bluetooth wireless streaming 

JBL’s top soundbar system is feature-packed. You get both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support along with the company’s MultiBeam processing, which uses digital processing and beamforming to widen the soundfield and create a more immersive surround effect. This is a 16-channel system powered by 1,170 total watts, with 650 of those dedicated to the 12-inch wireless subwoofer. Four up-firing speakers are located on the soundbar, while the surround speakers each also provide one up-firing speaker. Six upfiring drivers is the most I've seen in a soundbar so far.

The most unusual feature of the Bar 1300X is its rechargeable surround speakers, which are a truly wireless solution since they don’t need to be plugged in and will run for up to 10 hours. (JBL does provide the option to power the surround speakers via USB-C connection if you prefer not to have to recharge them on a regular basis.) These can also be used as wireless Bluetooth speakers when not in active duty in the home theater, and you can even pair them wirelessly for stereo playback.

Both AirPlay 2 and Chromecast built-in can be used for wireless streaming to the Bar 1300X, which also supports Bluetooth. Subscriber information for services including Amazon Music Unlimited, Tidal, Qobuz, and Spotify can also be entered in the JBL One app, providing a central location to access music and other streaming audio. The Bar 1300X also works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri for voice control.

  • Features score: 5/5

JBL Bar 1300X surround speaker on stand

The system's re-chargeable surrounds are completely wire-free, and can also be used as portable Bluetooth speakers. (Image credit: Future)

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar review: Sound quality

  • Powerful immersion with Dolby Atmos soundtracks 
  • Full, yet clean bass 
  • Clear, natural presentation of dialogue and music 

The JBL Bar 1300X did not disappoint in the slightest when it came to performance. With 16 channels at the ready, Dolby Atmos soundtracks on TV shows and movies showcased its spatial audio abilities most dramatically, but basically everything I watched and listened to sounded great on the system, which uses Dolby’s upmixer to render stereo and regular surround soundtracks in Atmos.

One good Dolby Atmos example is a scene from 1917 where the two British soldiers are exploring an underground German bunker and a trip-wire triggers an explosion that causes the structure to come tumbling down. The explosion in this scene sounded incredibly vivid on the Bar 1300X system, its potent subwoofer creating a low, thunderous rumble. As debris falls down on the soldiers in the aftermath, the system’s up-firing drivers created a strong sense of being within the space, while the main soundbar’s clear delivery of dialogue let me easily hear their shouts amidst the chaos.

Turning next to Top Gun: Maverick, the Bar 1300X system was well up to the task of rendering the motions of the Tomahawk cruise missiles and Super Hornet fighter jets during the climactic mission. The sound of the jets travelled from the front of my room to the back with pinpoint precision, and there was also a good sense of height when the jets swooped upward from the canyon into the sky.

I was eager to listen to some Spatial Audio tracks from Apple Music on the JBL system, and here again I was impressed. Streaming Beck’s Thinking About You via an Apple TV 4K (2022), the vocals came across as if they were floating in 3D space and there was no sibilance or edginess to the sound – something I’ve encountered on many other soundbars when listening to music. The bass guitar sounded very full, yet clean and well-defined, while the acoustic guitar and mandolin had a finely layered presence. A harmonica solo that closes out the track floated in space in a similar manner to the vocals, yet the mix positioned it equally in the rear channels, creating a strong sense of envelopment.

Streaming Max Richter’s Tranquility II and III from SLEEP: Tranquility Base, the pipe organ and keyboards had a smooth and natural presentation that was easy on the ears, and the system’s subwoofer did an excellent job of reproducing the lowest organ notes. The vocals soared above all of this in an impressive way, with the JBL soundbar creating an almost cathedral-like sense of space. 

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

JBL Bar 1300X subwoofer in room with wood paneling

With a 12-inch driver powered by 650 watts, the JBL system's subwoofer is a true bass beast. (Image credit: Future)

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar review: Design

  • Rechargeable, truly wireless surround speakers 
  • Excellent build quality 
  • Comes with brackets for surround speakers 

Given the Bar 1300X’s elevated price tag, you’re paying not just for sound quality but also design, and here JBL does not disappoint. The rear speakers can be “docked” at either side of the main soundbar for recharging, and when in that position they contribute to the bar’s output by widening the soundstage and supporting height effects. Once charged up, you simply remove them and replace the included end caps on the soundbar.

The main soundbar is 39.4 x 2.4 x 5.5 inches (W x H x D), making it a good match for 65-inch and larger TVs. It uses six 1.8 x 3.5-inch racetrack drivers and five 0.75-inch tweeters for the left, center, and right-channel output, and has four 2.75-inch full-range up-firing drivers. With a 12-inch driver, the system’s wireless subwoofer is fairly large and features a rear port to enhance output.

At 8 x 2.4 x 5.5 inches (W x H x D), JBL’s surround speakers are compact and can easily be placed on speaker stands. Another option is to wall-mount them using the included brackets for a more permanent installation, in which case you would use the speaker’s USB-C port for a power connection. Each surround speaker uses a 1.8 x 3.5-inch racetrack driver and 0.75-inch tweeter, along with a 2.75-inch full-range up-firing driver and two passive radiators.

  • Design score: 5/5

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar rear input panel

Four HDMI ports are provided, including one with eARC. (Image credit: Future)

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar review: Usability and setup

  • Four HDMI ports 
  • App-based setup and sound calibration 
  • No 4K 120Hz passthrough 

With four HDMI inputs, including one with eARC for connecting to a TV, the Bar 1300X is well-suited to take on complicated setups. For my purposes, I connected a 4K Blu-ray player and an Apple TV 4K box, and there was still a port left over for a game console, though the Bar 1300X’s HDMI 2.0b connections don’t support 4K 120Hz passthrough. Beyond HDMI, there’s also an optical digital audio input, a USB type-A port that can be used to play music files (US version-only), and an Ethernet jack for a hardwired network connection.

Setting up the system was almost disarmingly simple. The soundbar automatically made a wireless connection with the subwoofer and surround speakers, and the only other thing left to do was hit the calibration button in the JBL app. This triggered a series of noise bursts from each speaker that the system measured and used to automatically adjust for levels and timing delays on the surround and subwoofer channels.

JBL’s long, slim remote control has large and well-labeled buttons that are easy to see in dim lighting. You can use it to switch inputs on the soundbar and adjust volume, bass level, surround level, and the output of the system’s up-firing drivers. When switching inputs or making adjustments, an alphanumeric LED display provides feedback on the soundbar’s front, which is a feature I’d expect to see in a soundbar at this price. The display also alerts you when the battery power in the surround speakers is running down – a very useful thing.

The JBL One app that’s used for setup and initial calibration has controls for adjusting EQ and lip-sync, and it offers Moment presets that can store custom settings. It’s also used for signing in to streaming services you subscribe to, with the app offering a central place to access music.

  • Usability and setup score: 4.5/5

JBL 1300X soundbar front panel LED display showing HDMI input

A large LED display on the soundbar's front provides feedback for remote control commands and also alerts you when the surround speakers need re-charging. (Image credit: Future)

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar review: Value

  • Pricey, but very good overall value 
  • Wireless rear speakers can be used as portable Bluetooth speakers 
  • Compares well to other high-end soundbar systems 

At $1,699 / £1,299 / around AU$2,570, the JBL Bar 1300X is one of the more expensive soundbar systems you can buy. But it’s also one of the most capable and full-featured, which is something that needs to be taken into consideration when assessing its overall value. Competitors in its price range include flagship soundbar systems from Samsung and LG, both of which match, or nearly match, the JBL’s 11.1.4 speaker configuration.

Adding to the Bar 1300X’s value is the ability to use its wireless rear speakers as portable Bluetooth speakers, and high-quality ones at that. This lets you get good sound wherever you’re at, whether that’s watching Netflix shows on an iPad in your bedroom, or playing music while cooking in the kitchen.

The one thing that would detract from the Bar 1300X’s value is the fact that, at this price level, buying one of the best AV receivers and pairing it with an Atmos-ready speaker system becomes another option to consider, and one that could result in even better and more dynamic sound. But then again, the JBL Bar 1300X’s wireless subwoofer and surround speakers provide a more elegant and easy to set up option than a receiver and speakers, and for many users its sound quality will be more than good enough. 

  • Value score: 4.5/5

JBL 1300X soundbar on TV stand with TV showing the last of us

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the JBL Bar 1300X soundbar?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar review: Also consider

JBL Bar 1300X soundbar on TV stand

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the JBL Bar 1300X soundbar

  • Evaluated using both 4K Blu-ray discs and streamed sources
  • Extensive break-in time allowed before critical listening
  • Tested using reference movie scenes and music tracks

I tested the JBL Bar 1300X soundbar in a 12 x 16 x 9-foot room using a 4K Blu-ray player, Apple TV 4K, and music streamed from Apple Music and Tidal as sources.

After positioning the speakers and running the system through its auto-calibration process, I allowed it to break in by watching movies and TV shows for a number of weeks before settling in for more critical listening using reference movie clips and music tracks. 

The key things I listened for with movies were dialogue clarity, bass definition, continuity between the front and surround speakers, and the viscerality of overhead effects in Atmos soundtracks. For music, I paid attention to the naturalness of the sound with acoustic instruments and voices, as well as the dynamics in louder tracks.

Having reviewed many speaker systems in the same room over the years, I have a reference standard that the JBL Bar 1300X was compared to.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: March 2023
Majority Sierra Plus review: a cheap Dolby Atmos soundbar that’s big and (partly) clever
5:34 pm | March 9, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Majority Sierra Plus: Two-minute review

With the Sierra Plus, affordable audio brand Majority has (mostly) decided to go big. Big on specification, big on sound, big on the size of the soundbar that’s accompanied by a wireless subwoofer. In fact, one of the few ways the MAjority Sierra Plus isn’t big is in regards to the asking price. Here’s a 2.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos soundbar and subwoofer system for comfortably under £250 / $280, challenging the best cheap soundbars around for specs.

Setup is straightforward. The Majority Sierra Plus' control options are few but well-implemented. Wireless connectivity between soundbar and subwoofer is solid and stable. Once you’ve established where the two elements of the system are going to be positioned (and, in the case of the soundbar, made sure it doesn’t block a portion of your TV screen), it’s simple in the extreme to get up and running.

And where outright scale of sound is concerned, the Majority is a high achiever. There’s width and a suggestion of height to its sound, robust and well-controlled contributions from the soundbar, and a level of midrange communication and fidelity that’s almost as unexpected as it is welcome. 

Treble reproduction is a concern, though - it sounds as if it belongs to another system entirely. And while the subwoofer doesn’t drone, it doesn’t add a whole lot of detail to your listening experience. And these negative traits are given greater emphasis if you decide to switch from listening to movies to listening to music.

If you want a hint of Dolby Atmos at this sort of money, it’s difficult to suggest too  many viable alternatives among the best soundbars. But we'd encourage people to look to the Sony HT-G700 and Samsung HW-Q700B (when they're on deals) for better overall Dolby Atmos sound without spending tons more.

Majority Sierra Plus soundbar in a living room

(Image credit: Future)

Majority Sierra Plus review: Price & release date

  • $269 / £229 (around AU$410)
  • Released in the middle of 2022

The Majority Sierra Plus Dolby Atmos soundbar/wireless subwoofer system is on sale now, and will cost your around $269 / £229, depending on current offers. That makes it about AU$410 in Australia, though its availability there seems limited at best.

This, it hardly needs stating, is a very aggressive price for a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar that’s accompanied by a wireless subwoofer. Certainly it’s possible to spend more than this without even getting a sniff of spatial audio. So is the Majority Sierra Plus that most unusual of things: an authentic bargain?

Majority Sierra Plus review: Specs

Majority Sierra Plus close-up on the buttons

(Image credit: Future)

Majority Sierra Plus review: Features

  • 2x HDMI passthrough ports are great for the price
  • HDMI ARC doesn't support lossless Dolby Atmos 
  • No center channel, no DTS support

It’s important to keep your expectations realistic when considering the features and specification of the Sierra Plus. Don’t forget how much (or, more accurately, how little) Majority is asking for this system and you shouldn’t go far wrong.

The soundbar is where all the physical inputs and wireless connectivity live – the subwoofer just has a power lead (and not a long one, it’s worth noting) and a button to initiate pairing with the soundbar in the unlikely event that the process doesn’t happen automatically.

There’s an HDMI ARC socket, a pair of HDMI 2.0 4K HDR pass-throughs, a digital optical input, USB slot and a 3.5mm analogue input, all in a little recess at the rear of the soundbar’s cabinet. Wireless stuff, meanwhile, is restricted to Bluetooth 4.2 with SBC and AAC codec compatibility. 

At this sort of money, the HDMI pass-throughs are a fairly unusual and very welcome provision – certainly they’ll keep the number of connections to your TV down to a minimum. HDMI ARC, meanwhile, is good for dealing with the lossy form of Dolby Atmos that’s used by the likes of Disney Plus and Netflix – but owners of the best 4K Blu-ray players won’t be able to access the lossless version their machines deal in. That requires an HDMI eARC input. There's also no DTS support.

No matter how you get your audio on board, though, it’s delivered to you by a complement of six drivers in the soundbar plus another in the subwoofer. Facing out from the front of the soundbar in a ‘left/right’ arrangement there are four 57mm (fairly) full-range drivers, two at either end – each pair is reinforced by what Majority calls an ‘airport’ but what looks to me very much like a bass reflex port. 

On the top of the soundbar are a couple more of these drivers, angled up and out in an effort to create some of that sonic height that’s the reason we all got excited by Dolby Atmos in the first place. The subwoofer’s side-firing driver is bolstered by a forward-facing reflex port. 

Majority suggests there’s a total of 400 watts of Class D power doing the amplification business – there’s no indication of how that total is divided, though.

  • Features score: 4/5

Majority Sierra Plus subwoofer viewed from the side

(Image credit: Future)

Majority Sierra Plus review: Sound quality

  • Impressively wide sound, with some height
  • Big, with well-integrated bass
  • Weak treble, and not very dynamic

There’s two ways of looking (or, more correctly, listening) to the Majority Sierra Plus. The first is to admire the scale and forceful nature of its sound, look again at the amount you spent on it, and think ‘job done’. The second, naturally, is to go beyond the simple shock and awe of the system’s presentation and consider every element of its performance.

In addition to the horizontal projection of its sound, the Majority also manages to extract a mild, but definite, sensation of height from an appropriate soundtrack too (and given that this is a 2.1.2 -channel system with ‘only’ an HDMI ARC input, a stream of Black Widow via Disney+ will do just fine). The vertical effect is curtailed, sure, and nothing like as pronounced as the width that’s on offer here – but it’s there, for sure. Which already puts the Sierra Plus ahead of any number of price-comparable alternatives. 

There’s reasonable consistency to the tonal balance of the system from the midrange on down – quite often in products of this type, at this sort of money, the subwoofer can be heard doing its own thing, but the subwoofer here has a decent relationship with the soundbar. 

The handover between the two is achieved without alarms, and while the sub doesn’t have the variation or detail levels of the soundbar, it’s not quite as blunt an instrument as some alternatives. The bass stuff may not be the most varied, but it hits with determination and it’s controlled pretty well. Certainly the Majority doesn’t default to the droning some rival designs indulge in.

The midrange projects well, and carries enough detail to make dialogue sound characterful – there’s enough space around a speaker’s voice to allow them to communicate fully, even if they’re whispering. There’s good balance and poise to midrange information, a very pleasant kind of naturalness that makes voices both convincing and easy to follow.

It’s a different story at the top of the frequency range. The soundbar has no dedicated tweeters, remember, and treble contrives to sound edgy and insubstantial. This is a trait that is only compounded by increases in volume – so not only do top-end sounds seem unnatural, they don’t relate to what’s going on beneath them in the slightest.

Despite its ability to sound big and bold, though, there’s not a huge amount of dynamic subtlety to the Sierra Plus. Rather than go from ‘quiet’ to ‘loud’ it tends to prefer going from ‘loud’ to ‘louder still’ – and the result is a distinct lack of light and shade. Everything occurs at a very similar level of intensity, and consequently the overall presentation lacks drama.

As far as music is concerned, the Majority is somewhat out of its (already quite constricted) comfort zone. The subwoofer’s lack of insight is thrown into sharp relief by a listen to Chic’s Le Freak, and it relates to the soundbar with a fair bit less positivity than before. Rhythmic expression is no better than average, and the strange remoteness of the treble seems more pronounced too.

  • Sound quality score: 3/5

Majority Sierra Plus ports

(Image credit: Future)

Majority Sierra Plus review: Design

  • Suitable for TVs of 48 inches and up
  • Quite tall – be careful with low-slung TVs
  • Well-made and finished

If the quantity of raw materials your money buys you is important, you’ll be delighted by the Majority Sierra Plus – because your money buys you plenty. Be warned that the soundbar is tall enough to get in the way of the bottom of your TV screen if it has a low stand, and its width means it's suitable for TVs of 48 inches and up. Majority provides some basic wall-mounting equipment in the packaging. 

The subwoofer is a little more manageable, but bear in mind its power cable is hard-wired, so even though it connects wirelessly to the soundbar, its 1m-long power cable will dictate where in your room it ends up. 

Despite the ‘quantity-of-stuff-to-price’ ratio, though, there are no obvious compromises to the way the Sierra Plus is built or finished. The plastics and metal grilles of the soundbar look and feel fine, and are fitted together perfectly well. The subwoofer is the usual ‘vinyl wrap over MDF’, naturally – but, again, it’s constructed with obvious care and seems ready to last for ages.

  • Design score: 4/5

Majority Sierra Plus remote on a table

(Image credit: Future)

Majority Sierra Plus review: Usability and setup

  • Always-on display
  • Remote to change modes
  • Wireless subwoofer connected was seamless

There’s a quite assertive display behind the front grille of the soundbar letting you know what’s going on in terms of volume – and it’s on whether you like it or not. It will also give you some indication of input selection and the type of audio information it’s dealing with, but only swiftly, before it’s back to volume-level information.

As far as affecting volume level, selecting input and all the rest of it, there are some rubbery buttons on the top of the soundbar that deal with the basics, and a remote control handset that covers everything. 

Unlike a lot of products of this type and at this sort of money, the Majority’s remote control is quite robust and tactile, and it’s of a decent size, too. It lets you examine the four EQ presets, finesse bass and treble response, mute the system and so on.

We found that the soundbar and sub connected immediately, without any hassle.

  • Usability and setup score: 4/5

Majority Sierra Plus subwoofer viewed from above

(Image credit: Future)

Majority Sierra Plus review: Value

  • Upfiring speakers and HDMI passthrough for a low price
  • Sound fidelity can be beaten at this kind of price

As we’ve said all along, it depends how you look at it. There’s plenty of stuff here for your money, and in some ways there’s plenty of performance here too – certainly you’re unlikely to confuse the sound of the Sierra Plus to that of your unassisted television. 

There are shortcomings where the sound quality is concerned, though – and while Majority’s determination to offer a taste of Dolby Atmos at this price is to be commended, it’s safe to say you can get a more convincing (although admittedly smaller) sound for the same money elsewhere.

So if you want Atmos for a low price and some HDMI passthrough ports as a great bonus, it's incredible value. If you want a focus on sound quality, you can do better. On balance, we'll call it good value.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Should I buy the Majority Sierra Plus?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Majority Sierra Plus review: Also consider

  • First reviewed: March 2023
Xbox Series X review
5:52 pm | December 20, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Xbox Series X one-minute review

When the Xbox Series X launched, it felt as though a lot of features were missing. Of course, the hardware is incredibly impressive, but even that didn't stop it from being a hard sell at first. However, the console has come a long way since its initial release, and several updates along the way have drastically changed the console for the better.

The lack of exclusive games made it feel like you would struggle to get the most out of the Xbox Series X, especially with the competition from PS5 and a number of Sony-exclusive titles being thrown into the ring. Additionally, this wasn’t helped by the console’s continued use of the Xbox One interface. On the other hand, its UI was largely functional and in no need of a drastic overhaul. Quite refreshing, actually, given Microsoft's tendency to switch up its UI regularly in the Xbox 360 days.

So, when you first boot up the Xbox Series X, it’s easy to feel a little underwhelmed. It's not until you explore the console's array of features that it truly begins to shine. The improved library of games that showcase what Microsoft’s new hardware can do is a great starting point. Games like Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and Microsoft Flight Simulator are prime examples of what the Xbox Series X is capable of, and that’s hardly scratching the surface. 

We've always been impressed with the Xbox Series X from a hardware perspective. It's lightning-fast, practically silent, and delivers comparably exceptional performance to that of higher-end gaming PCs. This ensures that games – both old and new – look and perform better than they ever have before, providing a solid foundation for Microsoft to build upon as the generation progresses.

Xbox Series X one year on

Xbox Series X release date

(Image credit: Microsoft)

We've updated our Xbox Series X review to reflect our impressions after using the console for over two years. Microsoft has rolled out a few welcome improvements to the Series X, and now finally has the exclusive titles that take full advantage of the hardware's power like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. 

But unlike the best gaming PCs, which can cost thousands of dollars, Microsoft has packed a considerable amount of power under the Xbox Series X's monolith-esque frame for just $499 / £449 / AU$749. The end result is a competitively priced and technically advanced console providing drastically reduced load times and significantly improved visual fidelity.

The deal is sweetened further thanks to numerous quality-of-life features enhancing your gameplay experience, like Quick Resume and FPS Boost, which we'll discuss in further detail below. However, even though the Xbox Series X’s raw hardware power cannot be understated – and its new time-saving features are most certainly welcome – it's lacking in some critical areas. 

The Xbox Series X still doesn't have the same library of ‘must-have’ exclusives that PS5 or even Nintendo Switch can offer, but it does have Xbox Game Pass. It's a subscription service that lets you access hundreds of games for a monthly fee – and if you're someone who loves to play new titles each and every month spanning multiple genres, it's the best deal in gaming right now.

Even though Xbox Game Pass is mostly populated by older titles, many are optimized to take advantage of Xbox Series X's hardware, such as Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, and Sea of Thieves. So, it's a great place to experience new-gen games for less. What's more, all first-party titles hit the service on day one, and thanks to Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax Media, Xbox Game Pass is now home to a bunch of Bethesda titles - with future titles like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 landing on the service on day one. Microsoft also plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, which means series like Call of Duty and Diablo will hit this service in the future, if the long-fought-for deal goes through.

As such, the Xbox Series X represents the ideal time to jump into the Xbox ecosystem for the first time. It's also above and beyond the quality long-time Xbox fans have come to expect. And with console availability better now than ever, it's an ideal time to pick up Microsoft's powerhouse flagship.

Xbox Series X review: price and release date

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Future)
  • Xbox Series X release date: Out now (released November 10, 2020)
  • Xbox Series X price: $499 / £449 / AU$749

The Xbox Series X launched globally on November 10, 2020, giving Microsoft a two-day head start against Sony's PS5, which was released on November 12 (in select countries and November 19 for the rest of the world). Check out our PS5 review if you're interested in Sony's console.

The Xbox Series X is priced at $499 / £449 / AU$749. A lower-specced, digital-only version of the console, the Xbox Series S, launched on the same day, priced at $299.99 / £249.99 / AU$499. If that price point sounds more appealing, read our full Xbox Series S review.

While this isn’t exactly pocket money, it’s a decent price for the new Xbox. It’s the same price as the (now discontinued) Xbox One was at launch, also matching the MSRP of the also discontinued Xbox One X. Both are nowhere near as powerful as the Xbox Series X. Considering that the Series X has specs similar to a gaming PC, the $500 mark is pretty great – you’d be hard-pressed to find a good PC at that price.

However, as mentioned, if you want to get the most out of your Xbox Series X we recommend picking up an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which costs $15 / £10.99 / AU$15.95 a month (annual subscriptions are also available, which cuts a little off the yearly cost). While this is an additional outlay, that grants you extra access to hundreds of Xbox Game Pass games (including Bethesda and EA titles), Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and monthly free games, which should save you money in the long term compared with buying games separately. 

If you’re not fussed about the bells and whistles of Game Pass Ultimate, then it may be worth picking up a regular Game Pass subscription instead, which costs ($9.99 / £7.99 / AU$10.95). That only grants access to the service on console (rather than both PC and console) and does away with cloud gaming on mobile devices.

It’s worth pointing out that the Xbox Series X is also available on Microsoft's Xbox All Access subscription service in select regions, including the US, UK, and Australia. Xbox All Access bundles together the console with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on a 24-month plan (giving you access to the latter for the duration) at a price of $34.99 /£28.99 / AU$46 a month, with no upfront costs – which feels like a very good deal.

But the Xbox Series X isn’t the only new-gen console available, and it’s also worth checking out the PS5 and PS5 Digital, which initially launched at similar price points. However, we've recently seen the PS5 get a price hike with Sony blaming this on soaring inflation globally. Thankfully, Xbox won't follow PlayStation with price hikes but as it stands, Xbox doesn't rule out future price hikes

We won’t delve too much into that here, though, but it currently makes the Xbox Series X the cheaper powerhouse option.

Xbox Series X review: design

Xbox Series X review vertical orientation

(Image credit: Future)
  • Modern, sleek design
  • Extremely quiet
  • Emits same amount of heat as Xbox One X
  • Minimal UI and dashboard updates

The Xbox Series X design is a major departure from its predecessors – the upright tower design is more reminiscent of a desktop gaming PC, though you can position the console horizontally, too. Measuring 15.1 x 15 x 30.1cm and weighing 4.45kg, the cuboid-shaped console is matte black all over, apart from a green hue inside the indented cooling vents on the top – it’s clever and elevates the console’s design. 

The design of the face of the console is pretty straightforward, with the signature Xbox power button at the top-left, a disc drive (and eject button) at the bottom-left, and a pairing button and USB 3.2 port at the bottom-right (the pairing button also acts as an IR receiver). The back of the console has some cooling vents as well as an HDMI 2.1 output port, two USB 3.2 ports, one networking port, a storage expansion slot, and a power input port.

An interesting accessibility feature on the back of the console is that all the ports have tactile indicators (little, raised dots) which indicate which port you are touching. For example, the USB 3.2 ports have three raised ports, while the power input port has just one. This aims to aid reach-around cabling and to make the console more accessible to the visually impaired.

Xbox Series X review rear

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The sides of the console (when it’s upright) are blank, save for a discreet Xbox logo in the corner of the left side and four rubber pads on the right, which allow for the console to sit horizontally. On the bottom of the console is a slightly elevated disc-shaped stand, along with some more vents for cooling – as mentioned, the top of the console is designed to help with ventilation, as this is where the Xbox Series X exhausts any heat it generates.

The console itself looks minimalistic, sleek… monolithic even. Despite its weight and fairly large size, it looks considerably smaller than its measurements would suggest. We found it slotted with ease into an Ikea Kallax shelving unit (39cm x 39cm), when oriented either horizontally or vertically, and comfortably blended in with its surroundings. 

The Xbox Series X design is something you’ll either love or hate – we found it a welcome change from the previous low-profile Xbox consoles. It's sleek, modern, and looks like something a grown-up would actually want to own, and it's a nice evolution from the flat-but-compact Xbox One S and Xbox One X models. 

Still, the matte black design does mean the console is easily scuffed and scratched, though it doesn't get dirty. While we've seen Logitech show off a white Xbox Series X console in a recent advert, Microsoft has confirmed there's no plans to release the base console in additional colors at this time.

Quiet as a whisper – but pretty toasty

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: TechRadar)

A major upside of the Xbox Series X is how unexpectedly quiet it is. We've almost become accustomed to consoles revving up like they're about to take off when running games that really put them through their paces; but the Xbox Series X is the quietest Xbox we've had the pleasure of playing on.

When you're on the home screen, the console puts out around 30dB of sound – that's about the audio level of a whisper – and this changes very little when you actually load up and play games. When playing Sea of Thieves, No Man's Sky, and PUBG Battlegrounds, we found the decibels never exceeded 33dB.

That said, when installing a larger update we recorded levels up to 45dB, which is roughly as noisy as a printer in action. Even then, that's not too loud, and it barely registers over the sound of actually playing a game. This was also the case when sampling various new-gen titles.

It's welcome news for those who don't want their gameplay interrupted by the whirring of a struggling machine – but with this quietness comes some heat. The Xbox Series X is on a par with the Xbox One X for heat emission, with heat dispersed through the cooling vents at the top, which we advise leaving ample space for. The console itself does get toasty, too, but we didn't find that this impacted performance when running more intensive new-gen titles.

Xbox Series X: UI and dashboard

Xbox Series X UI

(Image credit: Microsoft)

While the external design of the Xbox Series X is a considerable departure from its predecessors, the console's UI and dashboard contain more subtle changes. The Xbox Series X dashboard is the same as the Xbox One’s. The main reason for this is because Microsoft rolled out a meaty update to the Xbox One back in August 2020 to make its UI more streamlined, and to converge it with that of the Xbox Series X.  

That means the Xbox Series X UI still has a tiled layout with customizable pins. So, you can choose which games and apps you want to see first on your home screen, and offers easy access to games, apps, party chat, and other features via the Xbox button on your controller. It's a pretty streamlined interface that allows for plenty of customization options and easy navigation. 

Customization seems to be at the heart of the Xbox Series X UI. In addition to moving around your pinned games and apps, Microsoft is also letting players express themselves a bit more with the inclusion of new profile themes, acting as a background for your profile page. Players can also now finally use dynamic backgrounds, which offers a more personalized home screen option for those who are bored of the Xbox One's static offering.

The Xbox Series X dashboard is quicker to navigate than previously, too, but we did find that there were some pop-in issues when content was being pulled in from the internet. We also found ourselves a bit underwhelmed generally by the UI and dashboard, as it’s lacking any real next-gen flair. We would have liked to see an overhaul that really distinguished the Xbox Series X from its predecessor and made it look new, with easier ways to navigate to media outside of having to add your streaming apps to a pin group.

We can expect further changes to come for the UI. If you're an Xbox Insider, Microsoft recently rolled new Xbox Series X homepage layouts but fans aren't happy. While this introduces some quality of life changes, some players weren't so keen on the "tile clutter" this introduced, while others aren't fond of ads still taking up homepage space. As a feature currently in beta testing, this could change, so we'll keep this updated as we learn more.

Xbox Series X review: performance

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Future)
  • Significantly faster loading times and more stability
  • Easily expandable storage
  • 4K/60fps gameplay (up to 120fps support)
  • Auto HDR

The Xbox Series X is an absolute powerhouse, rocking an eight-core AMD Zen 2 processor running at 3.8GHz, a custom RDNA 2 AMD GPU that puts out 12 TFLOPs of processing power, 16GB of GDDR6 memory, and a 1TB Custom NVMe SSD.

Xbox Series X specs

Xbox Series X on a blank background with two plants

(Image credit: Shutterstock / vfhnb12)

CPU: 8x Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.6 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU 

GPU: 12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU 

Die Size: 360.45 mm2 

Process: 7nm Enhanced 

Memory: 16 GB GDDR6 w/ 320b bus 

Memory Bandwidth: 10GB @ 560 GB/s, 6GB @ 336 GB/s 

Internal Storage: 1TB Custom NVME SSD I/O Throughput: 2.4 GB/s (Raw), 4.8 GB/s

Expandable Storage: 1TB Expansion Card (matches internal storage exactly) 

External Storage: USB 3.2 External HDD Support 

Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray Drive 

Performance Target: 4K @ 60fps, Up to 120fps

So what does that mean in terms of real-world performance? 

Shorter loading times

Yakuza: Like a Dragon on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Sega)

Well, for a start, the Xbox Series X is super-fast thanks to its NVMe SSD. We've seen the Xbox Series X shave tens of seconds off the load times in games, compared with how they run on the Xbox One S. The Xbox Series X always loaded quicker – in some cases by a few seconds, and in others almost halving the load time. 

To give you an idea of how much faster these load times are, we timed how long it took to load into a game from clicking the 'Continue' button on the menu screen, for the same games on the Xbox One S and Xbox Series X. 

While some titles benefit more than others from faster load speeds, even a few seconds saved is welcome. While games such as Ori and the Blind Forest load fairly quickly anyway, meaning the difference is less noticeable, it's with titles like Sea of Thieves where the power of the SSD really shines – we saw the loading time for Sea of Thieves cut down from roughly 100 seconds to just 35.

When it comes to next-gen titles, we found the few loading screens we were presented with lasted mere seconds. The speed advantage was really shown off by Yakuza: Like a Dragon's fast travel, which comes in the form of a taxi ride. It took around 4.7 seconds to fast-travel to a different district from the moment we accepted the ride, a big improvement over our experience on Xbox One.

4K at 60fps (up to 120fps)

The Falconeer on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Wired Productions)

The Xbox Series X’s RDNA 2 GPU allows the console to target 4K at 60fps, however, it also means there’s support for up to 120fps. 

Reaching 4K at 120fps

To make sure we could experience Series X gameplay the way it was intended, we hooked the console up to a 55-inch Samsung Q80T QLED 4K HDR Smart TV. We made sure the TV's game mode was enabled, and configured the Xbox's TV settings to allow for 4K UHD and 120fps, which is only achievable on an HDMI 2.1-compliant display like Samsung's here, and which is recommended for enabling the best visual experience possible. 

Unless you’re fussy about your frame rates, we would say that getting an HDMI 2.1-compliant display isn’t necessarily essential. The Xbox Series X’s native 4K at 60fps means you get the best of both worlds, minimal frame rate drops (resulting in a smoother experience), and pretty stunning visuals. However, it’s worth noting that for this you do require a 4K-ready TV for 4K resolutions.

While 120fps feels buttery-smooth in games such as The Falconeer, these games do sacrifice resolution as a result. So, for example, The Falconeer can be played in 4K at 60fps. But if you choose the 120fps option, you’ll notice fewer frame drops and better response times, at the expense of sharpness as resolution drops to 1080p. It’s all about compromise and personal preference.

That being said, the likes of Gears 5’s multiplayer allows for 4K at 120fps (thanks to Xbox Series X optimization) and, as a result, offers a smooth and visually impressive upgrade over its Xbox One predecessor. If you enjoy fast-paced competitive multiplayer, then you’ll notice a huge difference from the Xbox One family.

To enable 120fps, you can pop into your console’s audio and visual settings, where you can choose from various frame rate and resolution options. It’s pretty straightforward, and we're pleased to see just how many Xbox Series X games with 120fps support there is, including The Falconeer and Gears 5’s multiplayer, Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, Halo Infinite multiplayer, and more.

Auto HDR on Xbox Series X

Sea of Thieves on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Rare)

Like the Xbox One, the Xbox Series X allows for calibration of HDR for games. We'd advise setting this before playing any games, as it ensures the balance of contrast is spot-on, giving you the best visuals possible.

For our initial review, we primarily had access to a selection of backwards-compatible titles which are the best indicator of the boost in performance the Xbox Series X delivers over its last-gen counterparts. With the above settings enabled, we found that the games immediately looked better on the Xbox Series X – which isn't particularly surprising, given that Microsoft has implemented native HDR for these titles.

We go into detail as to how this performance boost improves Xbox Series X Optimized titles further down, but in short, when playing backwards-compatible titles on the Xbox One S and Xbox Series X versions side-by-side we could clearly see the visual upgrade.

FPS Boost on Xbox Series X

Watch Dogs 2 free

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Microsoft has added a new feature to Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S post-launch called FPS Boost, which has the potential to quadruple the framerates of older titles. It means that games that were previously locked to 30 frames per second can now hit 60fps - some games can even hit 120fps.

At present, FPS Boost only applies to a specific selection of Xbox One games. The list is extensive but unfortunately, Microsoft's not adding any further games to this. Still, FPS Boost is a fantastic upgrade, particularly for those with an Xbox Game Pass subscription, as it allows Xbox One games to utilize the power of the Xbox Series X. So, for compatible games, it feels less of a technological step back when you decide to revisit some of your favorite Xbox One games.

If, for some reason, you don't want to play these games at a higher framerate, you can also turn it off on a per-game basis. However, we'd recommend leaving it on as it makes games look visually smoother and feel far more responsive. 

We've included some of the Xbox Series X|S games that support FPS Boost in the linked list.

Xbox Series X Storage

Xbox Series X storage

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Xbox Series X's 1TB Custom NVMe SSD translates to 802GB of usable storage, with 198GB reserved for system files and the Xbox operating system. We were able to download 18 games of varying sizes before having to utilize the console's expandable storage. 

That's a fair chunk to play through, then, but we'd advise picking up the Seagate Storage Expansion Card if you really want to take advantage of features such as Quick Resume and the plethora of titles available through Xbox Game Pass. It’s important to note that true new-gen titles will likely take up more storage space once their optimizations have been rolled out. 

Along with our console, we were able to test Seagate's 1TB expansion storage card for the Xbox Series X, which also comes in 512GB and 2TB options. The 1TB card doesn't come cheap at $219.99 / £219.99 / AU$359, but we found it extremely easy to use – when we were running out of storage, we simply slotted the card into the back of the Xbox and accessed the extra terabyte. When the console detects that it's approaching its storage capacity, it asks if you want to install on the card instead, while also offering a straightforward option for freeing up space by deleting games. 

If the expansion storage card runs a bit expensive for your taste, you can always attach an external drive HDD or SSD via the console's USB 3.1 port. However, these can only play Xbox One and backward-compatible games (with the SSD allowing for faster loading times). You can store your Xbox Series X games on the external HDD or SSD, but only an NVMe SSD can play Xbox Series X Optimized titles. 

The process of adding an external hard drive works in the same way as it did on Xbox One: you simply plug the storage into one of the system’s USB ports, and the Xbox will detect it. If the drive needs to be formatted, you’ll see a prompt asking you to do this. It’s a plug-and-play solution that works just as you’d hope. 

What's good about the Xbox Series X's storage is that, when you’re installing (or uninstalling) games, you can select particular parts of games to install rather than the full thing. For example, you can download Doom Eternal's multiplayer but not the campaign, or vice versa. We're curious to see how many games will support this kind of installation functionality in the future, because it's a welcome feature and should help with storage management. 

Xbox Series X review: controller

Xbox Series X controller

(Image credit: TechRadar)
  • Feels familiar in the hand yet subtly different
  • Works on a range of devices
  • Improved tactile textures and refined geometry
  • New ‘Share’ button

The Xbox Series X Wireless Controller feels familiar in the hand yet subtly different. Compared to the Xbox One Controller, it's got improved tactile textures and refined geometry which makes for a more ergonomic, and more comfortable, playing experience. 

On the surface, the Xbox Series X controller doesn’t look like a particularly drastic departure from its predecessor. It sports a similar shape and keeps the traditional button and trigger layout. On closer inspection, though, you begin to notice the subtle differences Microsoft has implemented. 

The gamepad’s exterior now sports a matte finish that closely matches the console’s design. While this certainly looks sleek, there's a few drawbacks – the black controller that comes with the console easily picks up noticeable scuffs and scrapes, and considering the amount of hands-on time controllers are subjected, you may find it hard to keep yours looking in tip-top condition for years to come. Other color variants are available though (you'll need to buy these separately), including Electric Volt, DayStrike Camo, and Pulse Red, and some may be less prone to scuffs.

That's a minor quibble, though, and overall we found that the Xbox Series X controller resembles a more premium controller, both in look and feel. The revised pad now has a tactile texture on the triggers, grips, and bumpers, which we found made the controller feel more secure in our hands.

In addition, while the controller is the same size as its predecessor, the bumpers and triggers have been rounded and reduced in size by a few millimetres, which makes the gamepad feel less bulky. If you're someone with small hands, past Xbox One controllers have felt quite bulky, but this simple change improves comfort levels in a subtle but noticeable way. 

Xbox controller

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Perhaps the most notable changes to the controller are the addition of the ‘Share’ button and the hybrid D-pad. The Share button essentially acts as a capture button, allowing you to easily snap screenshots of your game – a single click takes a snapshot while holding the button down for longer records a 15-second video by default (you can adjust the video duration in the Capture settings). 

This is much easier than on the Xbox One, where you had to press the home button and then X or Y. Still, we did find it a bit fiddly to quickly take a screenshot – your experience may vary depending on how big your hands are.

The hybrid D-pad, on the other hand, aims to provide a middle ground between the Xbox One controller’s classic D-pad and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2’s changeable disc-shaped, faceted D-pad. What results is a kind of traditional D-pad, laid over a disc. Again, this is a small but welcome change and is intended to give more control and leverage over the D-pad – while generally feeling more comfortable.

But there’s a lot about the controller’s design that hasn’t changed. It keeps the 3.5mm audio jack and expansion port at the bottom, its USB charge port and pairing button at the top, and its View, Menu, and Xbox buttons on the face.

In addition to the cosmetic changes, the Xbox Series X controller brings improvements in functionality too. We found the controller to be more responsive, which is likely down to the lower latency Microsoft has boasted about (paired with more frame rate stability), while connecting the gamepad wirelessly via Bluetooth to a range of devices – including the Xbox One, an iPhone 11, and a Mac – was straightforward.

The Series X controller again runs on AA batteries (regular or rechargeable), but if you want to avoid the hassle of changing or charging batteries constantly then you can invest in a Play and Charge Kit (a rechargeable battery back that you can use to charge the controller while you’re playing or between sessions), or connect your controller to the console via USB-C (although this will, of course, limit your freedom of movement).

Xbox Series X review: features

Xbox Series X logo

(Image credit: TechRadar)
  • Quick Resume is pretty seamless
  • Great backward compatibility with games and accessories
  • 4K UHD Blu-ray drive
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS support

The Xbox Series X has a number of useful features and meaningful quality-of-life improvements. Unlike most consoles, there's active support for using a keyboard and mouse on Xbox Series X, while the 4K Blu-ray drive and access to entertainment apps means the console doubles up as a home entertainment system. We've even seen Discord become available for all Xbox Series X players.

Quick Resume on Xbox Series X

Gears Tactics on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: The Coalition)

Perhaps the most welcome of the Xbox Series X’s features is Quick Resume. The purpose of Quick Resume is to allow you to continue a game from a suspended state pretty much instantly. So, within seconds, you can jump back into the game where you left off, as if you never stopped playing, without having to sit through loading screens again. Not only that, but you can jump between multiple games that have been left in this suspended state in no time at all. 

We could seamlessly jump between gameplay in  seconds, as long as the games you're hopping between have already been booted up at some point beforehand. We were able to jump from being in a timberyard as Alan Wake to being Alyson Ronan in Dontnod's Tell Me Why within 11.4 seconds, by pressing the Xbox button on the controller and selecting the game from the sidebar. That's from gameplay to gameplay – no loading screens. If we wanted to access Tell Me Why from the Xbox dashboard home screen, selected as the current game we were playing, the time from the dashboard to gameplay was 2.7 seconds.

Online multiplayer games work a bit differently from other titles. Naturally, it wouldn't be feasible to allow players to suspend mid-play during online gameplay, or we'd just have a bunch of AFK players on the servers. For example, if you're mid-game in Sea of Thieves, and then decide to jump into another game, you’ll be removed from the game – but you can Quick Resume from the title screen.

Since its launch, Quick Resume has received an update that makes the feature more reliable, makes it easier to see which games you have stored in a suspended state. That also identifies which games actually support the feature, with the ability to simply select each game from the My Games and Apps menu. It's a very welcome quality-of-life feature that simply makes using Quick Resume a little bit easier.

Backward compatibility on Xbox Series X

Alan Wake backwards compatibility on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Remedy Entertainment)

Another of the Xbox Series X's best features is the breadth of its backward compatibility. There are well over 1,000 backward-compatible titles available, meaning you’ll be hard-pressed to find an older game you have that isn’t supported on the Series X. 

As mentioned previously, we found these titles loaded faster and simply played better; improved stability means fewer frame rate drops, which makes older games feel nicer to play, even if they're otherwise a little outdated by the standards of modern blockbusters. Sadly, Microsoft has confirmed it's unlikely that we'll see more added in the future.

This backward compatibility also extends to Xbox accessories. We found that we could easily connect the original Xbox Wireless Controller and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 to the Xbox Series X with no issues, and we were also able to connect our headsets.

Any officially licensed Xbox One accessory that connects either wirelessly or via a wired USB connection should work on the Xbox Series X, such as the Xbox Wireless Headset; however, it’s worth noting that optical port connections aren’t supported, although some of these products may work with a firmware update.

Smart Delivery

Watch Dogs: Legion on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Xbox Smart Delivery aims to allow players to always have access to the best possible version of an Xbox game, whichever console they’re playing on. Essentially, it’s a bit like forward compatibility and backward compatibility combined, making the most of cross-generation gaming. 

We found that we could access the games we had access to on Xbox Series X on the Xbox One S without issue, and without having to purchase two versions of the same title. So, for example, we could play The Falconeer on Xbox Series X – with its optimizations – then jump onto the Xbox One S and continue playing the game there, just without the Series X optimizations. 

Save data is carried between consoles, so we could easily jump between playing on both. Likewise, our Xbox One games were easily accessible on the Xbox Series X, with upgrades becoming immediately available for those that currently have Series X optimizations, such as Gears Tactics and Gears 5.

Multimedia on Xbox Series X


(Image credit: Netflix)

The Series X also offers a range of multimedia features. For one, the console boasts a built-in 4K Blu-ray player that’s simple to use. 

You also have access to a range of streaming services: there’s Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and others that are available on existing Xbox One consoles, plus some that are new to the platform, including Apple TV Plus and region-specific apps such as Hulu in the US and Sky Go in the UK. All of these can take advantage of the console's 4K UHD capabilities, although some require a decent internet connection.

While all the most popular entertainment apps are available, we did find that there are still some (more regional apps) that we wish we had access to, such as ITV Hub and BBC iPlayer in the UK.

Dolby Vision support

Gears 5 Xbox Series X

(Image credit: The Coaliton)

Microsoft is also the only new-gen console maker to support Dolby Vision, a more exacting HDR format that allows for superior contrast and color accuracy. In terms of content, you can watch shows and movies in Dolby Vision with Netflix (if you shell out for the premium subscription tier).

The advantage Dolby Vision has over standard HDR10 is that it supports 12-bit color, enabling the console to display more than 68.7 billion colors, far more than the 10-bit HDR format could show. Of course, how good those colors will look ultimately depends on your TV – which also needs to support Dolby Vision, although that’s par for the course. You can now enjoy Dolby Vision gaming too.

It's worth noting that the 4K Blu-ray player in the Xbox Series X doesn't yet support Dolby Vision, though we could see this changing in the near future with a firmware update.

DTS and Dolby Atmos support 

Forza Horizon 4 Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Playground Games)

While the default headphones setting for Xbox Series X is Windows Sonic, as on the Xbox One before it, the Xbox Series X also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS headphone: X sound – though you need to purchase a separate license for each.

Windows Sonic is fine for those who aren’t too fussed about their audio, but Dolby Atmos and DTS provide a fuller spatial sound experience. This means, for example, that you can tell from an enemy’s footsteps exactly where they are in relation to you. If you’re someone who plays a lot of online multiplayer then it could be worth picking one of these up, especially as you don’t need a specific headset for either to work – though to use Dolby Atmos you require a compatible soundbar.

It’s also worth noting that these only work with games that support Dolby Atmos or DTS sound, which include the likes of Gears 5, Forza Horizon 5, and Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Xbox App 

Xbox Series X app

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The new Xbox App for iOS and Android is an upgraded version of the companion app that gives you more control than before. 

It allows you to specifically manage storage across your Xbox consoles, voice-chat with friends on either Xbox or PC, and easily share clips and screenshots from games and granting easy access to remote play. 

You can even use the app as a remote control for your console, which is very handy for multimedia services. Overall, we found the companion app made it easier than ever to access and manage our Xboxes on the go. 

Xbox Series X review: library

The Touryst on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Shin'en Multimedia)
  • Launch title lineup is a bit disappointing
  • Combined with Xbox Game Pass, offers plenty to play
  • Plenty of backward-compatible games to play

The Xbox Series X game library is perhaps what lets the new console down the most. For a start, there were only a handful of new big-name games that landed on the console at launch – Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion, Dirt 5, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, none of which were Xbox exclusives.

In fact, every Xbox Series X launch game was already available (or would be available) on Xbox One – and many were released on PS5 too. The launch titles that were Xbox exclusives, such as Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps, were all optimized versions of Xbox One titles. 

The Xbox exclusive situation has thankfully improved, with Halo Infinite, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and Forza Horizon 5 bolstering Microsoft's lineup. However, there's still a distinct lack of games that can only be played on Xbox Series X|S, like Bloober Team’s psychological thriller The Medium. It’ll be a while yet before we get our hands on big hitters like Everwild and Fable.

While the next few months for Xbox games still look a bit uncertain, Microsoft has a major ace in the hole: its acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, and Activision Blizzard. This is a huge move by Microsoft that could seriously bolster that lackluster exclusive offering, meaning that future Bethesda titles like The Elder Scrolls 6 and Starfield will come exclusively to Xbox and PC. 

Now that’s a prospect that makes Xbox Series X very interesting and could give it a serious advantage over the PS5.

Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The saving grace, in terms of the games available, is that Xbox Series X players have access to thousands of backward-compatible games, so you'll have plenty of older games to play.

If you’re picking up an Xbox Series X, we would strongly advise picking up an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription to bolster your library. As previously mentioned, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate means you get access to hundreds of Xbox One games off the bat, including first-party Xbox games on day one. So, in terms of money-saving, pairing your Game Pass subscription with your new console means you won’t have to shell out for brand-new games – unless they’re not included on Game Pass.

In the past six months, we’ve seen even more titles added to Game Pass, including a large number of Bethesda titles, with Microsoft confirming we will see future first-party Xbox games hit the service on launch day - that includes Bethesda games. Activision Blizzard games will also come to the service if the aforementioned acquisition is approved.

If you're hoping to get Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for an even cheaper price, we've got good news. While this is currently being trialled in just the Republic of Ireland and Colombia, Microsoft is looking to launch an Xbox Game Pass family plan, allowing you and four players to jump in for a monthly cost of €21.99 – which comes to around $21.99 / £19.99 / AU$32.99

Xbox Series X optimized

Xbox Series X optimized logo

(Image credit: Microsoft)

A handful of the best Xbox One games have been optimized for the Xbox Series X. These titles have been upgraded or built with the Xbox Series X in mind, in order to make the most of the console’s power – and boy, do they show it.

We tested a few Optimized titles including Gears 5, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, The Falconeer, and Dirt 5, and found that these games boasted minimal loading times, improved stability, and considerably enhanced visuals. For example, Gears 5 on Xbox Series X boasts ray tracing and 4K at 60fps, making the campaign mode look better than ever before, and load faster.

It’s immediately more immersive, thanks to more stable frame rates and a lack of loading screen walls. The difference is even more noticeable in Gears 5’s multiplayer, which allows for 4K at 120fps, resulting in buttery smooth performance that feels much more responsive – which is critical in online multiplayer. With Dolby Atmos support too, it's a brilliant showcase for the Xbox Series X’s unbridled power.

Should I buy the Xbox Series X?

Xbox Series X horizontal

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Future)

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

First reviewed: November 2020.