Your essential system set-ups


Home Cinema Systems


Budget system

SONY BDP-S5100 ★★★★★ £140

Simply astonishing performance and pictures for less than £150. Smart functionality too: you can’t go wrong…

Mid-range system

SONY BDP-S790 ★★★★★ £200

What a bargain! Not only is this a superb 2D and 3D Blu-ray player, it is also the first to upscale to 4K ultra high definition.

Hi-End system

SONY BDP-S790 ★★★★★ £200

It’s testament to this player’s ability that a deck costing just £200 can also work in a full jazz-hands system like this one.


Budget system

ONKYO TX-NR515 ★★★★★ £250

Now available for

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Wharfedale Diamond 121


Our initial feelings on meeting these new Wharfedale Diamonds for the first time were surprise and a little disappointment. Not only had the curved cabinet of the Diamond 10.1 been replaced by a conventionally rectangular box, but it had also been accompanied by an £80 price hike.

While that might at first look like a bad deal for the consumer, it turns out Wharfedale has actually made some bold and fairly expensive changes in the design. There are all new drivers for a start, and the 13cm woven Kevlar mid/bass driver features a new cone and a blended dust

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Well, look at the handsome HTC, still heading up this fop 10 in the wake of our Supertest pitting it against the Xperia Z and Samsung’s hotly anticipated Galaxy S4. The One is a masterclass in smart phone craft, from its impossibly clear 1080p screen to its stokable aluminium body, clever Sense 5 skin and Ultra Pixel camera. The S4 might be better for power users, and the xperia Z for mobile movie buffs, but the One finally drags HTC out from under the also-rans.

Super-stylish, ultra-smart and a pleasure to use, the HTC One is a

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Sony BDP-S790

A quite remarkable device, this Sony sounds great, has a wonderful picture in 2D or 3D and is crammed with on-demand content including Sony’s own Movies Unlimited. Its trump card is 4K video upscaling: you may not need it yet. but you soon will.




Panasonic DMP-BDT220

It’s not the most extravagantly specified Blu-ray player around (though Panasonic’s remote-control app is a joy), but the BDT-220 has the sort of picture- and sound quality to make its price look like a misprint. And that’s our favourite kind of mistake.



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Sonos multiroom system

With Sonos you can expand your set-up at your leisure — why not start with a budget Play:3. and add a bigger Play:5 later? Then maybe hook up a Connect to your existing hi-fi and router, then add speakers to a Connect: Amp in another room, or a SUB for a bass boost. For a further upgrade, the Arcam rSeries SonLink DAC works a treat with the Connect.




Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6

Our favourite music streamer is only kept from the top spot by the brilliant flexibility of the full Sonos system;

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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

The Paperwhite’s 6in touchscreen has 62% more pixels than its predecessor, giving it pin-sharp text, but all you’ll care about is the built-in backlight. It’s a godsend for night-time reading, and even in sunshine the always-on light makes text sharper and ‘pages’ whiter than ever. With a solid build, grippy rubber finish and plenty of fonts, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Plus Amazon’s ecosystem still rules supreme. Feeling skint? The non-touch Kindle is just £70.

A light that could change reading habits — Kindle’s still on top

£110 ★★★★★


The age of the

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The movies, music and games to test your system



Download, CD, vinyl

Out now ★★★★

Some bands’ collections of B-sides, remixes and ‘rarities’ are overt barrel-scraping affairs, an exercise in contract fulfilment or an admission of creative bankruptcy. Belle and Sebastian do things rather differently.

After all, this is the band that didn’t include a single on an album until their sixth LP (Dear Catastrophe Waitress) — prior to that all the band’s singles and EPs were stand-alone.

So in the manner of 2005’s Push Barman To Open Old Wounds (which rounded up B-sides and what-have-you from the first five albums),

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£700 ★★★★★

With everything this Samsung plasma has to offer for £700, it’s hard to think of it as anything else but a bargain.

It’s unlikely to win any awards for style, but it’s far from ugly and it’s well-specified. There is Wi-Fi built-in, three HDMIs and two USB inputs. There’s no satellite input, though.

Samsung’s innovative Smart Hub is here just as it is on its £2000+ flagship TVs. Netflix, BlinkBox and LoveFilm are all included, as is the full roster of UK catch-up services. Samsung’s 2013 smart remote is included, offering pared-back controls, easier menu navigation and voice

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£1695 ★★★★★

Power output 85W per channel • Inputs 5 x line in, tape loop • Outputs Speakers, preamp, tape loop • Remote Yes • Dimensions (hwd) 8 x 43 x 33cm, 13kg

It’s an old favourite of ours, used so often that we don’t bother putting it away anymore.

That’s because it sounds wonderful. There’s a lot to admire on every level. Its presentation is big and powerful, with far greater and authority than we’d expect from a rated output of 85W per channel. Put on anything by Hans Zimmer and the Caspian M2 will easily convince you that

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PMC Twenty 23


The Twenty 23s are diminutive for floorstanders, but the sound they produce belies their size.

Transmission-line technology

PMC uses a transmission-line design to improve bass performance. The rear output of the mid/bass driver forces through a damped path within the cabinet, where most high frequencies are absorbed, leaving the lowest notes to exit the speaker.

Physics are so annoying. Not least because they dictate that a small driver is never going to produce huge volumes or the very deepest bass. And so it goes with the PMC Twenty 23s. These are a speaker of relatively compact dimensions (by floorstander

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