So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Pioneer HTP-GS1 Xbox Home Theatre
- Looks great, greatly improves gaming experience, easy to use
- Poor music playback
If you're an Xbox gamer listening to sound from the television, do yourself a favour and buy this.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
Pioneer's HTPGS1 is an officially licensed home theatre system for the Xbox 360 console. Designed specifically to complement Microsoft's next generation powerhouse, the system comes with a matching design and colour scheme, and offers exceptional gaming sound to fully immerse you in the experience. While the bass heavy tone does leave music playback somewhat lacking, for those wanting to enhance their gaming and movie watching, this is a great package.
The HTPGS1 is a novel system, and there's nothing else quite like it on the market. Aesthetically, it blends perfectly with the Xbox 360 system. Using the same smooth white plastic finish, silver details and curvy edges, the two products sit comfortably side by side. If there's one complaint we would have, and this is being really picky, it's that the power light should really have been green, not blue, but aside from that, Pioneer has done a good job of replicating the Xbox 360 design. The four small satellite speakers sit unobtrusively in the corners, while the subwoofer, which handles all the connections and inputs, can be tucked out of sight. The small control panel, which contains the screen, can then be placed somewhere near the console. Setting things up is easy, with colour coded wires and simple proprietary plugs.
The next stage of setup is to use the automatic calibration microphone, a feature that is fast becoming ubiquitous in the home theatre market. This small attachment listens to a series of test tones output by the system and adjusts the volume of each speaker accordingly. We actually thought it made the rear speakers a little too quiet, but it's no problem to manually adjust speaker settings later using the control panel. Finally. you just connect the Xbox 360 using its optical audio cable and you're up and running. An auxiliary digital optical connection is also provided, enabling additional external devices to be connected. The remote control is excellent, as it merges all the buttons from the Xbox remote with others to control surround modes and auxiliary inputs.
We tested the HTPGS1 across the three areas it's most likely to be used with: movies, games and music. First, to movies. The HTPGS1 retails at a price equivalent to many low-end home theatre systems, so we weren't expecting to be amazed. True enough, the system isn't the best we've heard, but it does sound surprisingly good. As we came to see when using the HTPGS1 across all media, it suffers from a slightly booming sound, but when watching movies this can actually be an advantage. For example the explosive introduction from Swordfish has never sounded better, with ball bearings ricocheting round the room and the thunderous bass rocking our seats. We were very impressed for the most part, and with Dolby Digital and Pro Logic II, sound processing is handled neatly.
Next it was on to the crux of the system, gaming. For this we tested a variety of genres including racing, sport and platform titles. All the games we tried were much more immersive using a full surround system than when simply using television speakers. When racing our Lotus Elise down a freeway it was much more satisfying to feel the rumbling of an engine and screech of tyres behind our heads. The roar of the crowd during sports titles really was a roar. And when battling hordes of soldiers we could distinctly hear the slice of the sword and clash of shields coming from different directions. While it may not be ideal for some sources, booming sound from the subwoofer is exactly what we want when gaming.
Finally we moved on to music, and it was here that we were left a little disappointed. Across almost every genre, music had a slightly strange quality, not quite sounding as it should. We tried tinkering with the system's many sound processing options, but to no avail; the balance between ranges just wasn't quite right. On top of this, we really noticed the disparity between the subwoofer and satellites. The booming subwoofer could never quite give the impression that it was part of the same system, with its thunderous overtones incapable of conveying the subtleties of many tracks. The few genres of music that worked well with the system were those that were less heavy, primarily classical styles and acoustic pieces, but just how many gamers enjoy blasting out Beethoven is anyone's guess.
Pioneer has targeted one market with this product, and nailed it perfectly. Sure, the musical abilities of the system may be lacking, but that's not a huge problem. The HTPGS1 also happens to match the Xbox 360 aesthetic perfectly and comes in at a reasonable price. As such, this is the ideal accompaniment for the Xbox 360, and will greatly enhance your gaming experience.
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