Our Verdict 
Still among the best, even given the emergence of cheaper rivals
For 
Build and styling are second to none
good sonic integration
fine pictures
Against 
A little pricey among the current crop of rival systems
Reviewed on

This package is very familiar to us already: it won the home cinema in a box Product Of The Year gong at our 2006 Awards.

However, it's at the upper end of the price scale in this sector of the market, so can it justify the price tag? Or do its more wallet-friendly rivals match it for performance?

It's obvious straight from the box that the Philips has had a great deal of thought put into its design: it offers a 6.1 speaker array, complete with a centre-back channel, while the three back speakers communicate with the front part of the system wirelessly, removing the need for unsightly cables trailing from one end of the room to the other.

An extra box – to be placed towards the back of the room – contains amps for all the rear speakers, as well as a 2.4 GHz wireless receiver.

It's a sleek and sexy package all round. The main unit is a very smart affair: it has the air of a high-end (and high-cost) style system. Beneath the main unit's back plate lies an HDMI output, delivering upscaled pictures in 720p or 1080i, while other socketry is housed in a separate box.

More after the break

Detailed picture, good sonic integrationGetting it into action, it's easy to remember why we gave it an Award. Pictures are solid and clear, with good contrast and black detail, while the colour palette strikes a fine balance between realism and vibrant spectacle.The Philips offers a smooth, cohesive and well-ordered sonic performance: the impressively enveloping soundfield is partly thanks to that extra centre-rear channel, but it is also due to a well-dispersed, detailed and polished performance with good integration between the main speakers and subwoofer – rare among packages of this class.

The surround speakers use ribbon tweeters, which helps to render both movies and music with spaciousness and precision. 

That said, some newer, cheaper rivals are setting high standards at lower prices. But there's no question, the Philips HTS9800 is still a good buy.