Price: $350 At A Glance: Exceptional speed • Plethora of streaming services, including Netflix, Blockbuster, and VUDU • Built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi • Blu-ray 3D
Blu-ray 3D Is Here
To 3D or not to 3D, that is the question. Sorry to go Shakespeare on you, but I’m skeptical as to whether 3D is the next big thing on the horizon. Samsung is one of the major players vying for your 3D dollar, and I have to give the company credit for leading the charge on the next advancement in home entertainment. You may recall that Samsung was the first company to release a Blu-ray player (BD-P1000). While that launch wasn’t as smooth as the company would have liked due to a faulty noise-reduction setting, Samsung eventually fixed it, and the format has now become mainstream. Is history going to repeat itself for Blu-ray 3D? And if not, is the BD-C6900 worth your 2D investment?
2D Performance 3D Performance Features Ergonomics Value
Price: $160 At A Glance: 3D at rock-bottom price • Superb A/V performance • Online apps well-implemented • No multichannel analog-audio outputs • No DTS-HD decoding
Samsung's BD-D5500 proves that you don't need to spend a lot on a 3D Blu-ray player to get great results. Its video and audio performance are top-notch, and it provides 3D capability and access to lots of online and locally networked media content. However, it's lack of DTS-HD decoding is a significant drawback, which you can overcome by spending $40 more for the BD-D6500, $20 more for the Sony BDP-S480, or $10 less for the Panasonic DMP-BDT110.
Price: $300 At A Glance: Top-of-the-line streaming • Exceptional 2D and 3D playback • Compact, sleek design
Blu-ray players just aren’t what they used to be—they’re a lot more. Sony’s PlayStation 3 has long offered more than just standard Blu-ray playback. Today’s breed of players bring not only state-of-the-art Blu-ray performance but also connectivity to your home media network and a range of streaming options from the most popular movie and music providers on the Internet. These players can become the hub of your home entertainment system and eliminate the need for separate devices to get the most out of today’s technology.
Price: $150 At A Glance: Unique design • Middling Web browser with built-in Wi-Fi • Extremely loud disc loading
Every year a new generation of Blu-ray players hits the market from the major electronics manufacturers. While 3D was the last big advancement to hit the streets, the latest rage is 4K upconversion in the flagship players, but you won’t find that on the budget-friendly Samsung BD-F5900. What you will get for $150 is a 3D-capable player with a plethora of streaming options, a built-in Web browser, and Wi-Fi capability. With all these goodies, is there a reason to pay more for a Blu-ray player? Read on and see…
AT A GLANCE Plus
Outstanding audio and video performance
Loaded with streaming options
Unique screen mirroring with Samsung smartphones and tablets
Suspect build quality
Controls are on top of the player, limiting placement options
A good budget player that makes up in performance and features what it lacks in build quality.
Last week I was playing poker with a bunch of guys and our topic of conversation turned to home theater. I was asked what I was currently reviewing, and when I mentioned the Samsung BD-H6500 Blu-ray player, one of my friends was shocked. “They’re still selling Blu-ray players! Why?” Needless to say, I was shocked, too. When I asked the table of nine other guys, only two said they had watched a Blu-ray movie in the past three months; the rest were getting their movies from PPV (pay per view) or streaming them from Netflix, Vudu, or Amazon VOD.
With more than a little excitement, I hooked up the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray disc player. Here it is, the first Blu-ray player to hit the world. I put it right on top of the Toshiba HD-XA1 HD DVD player, which I'm sure the Blu-ray people would love to hear, and the HD DVD people not so much. I ran the HDMI cable to the virtually reference-quality Yamaha DPX-1300 projector, put in my old standby The Fifth Element (of course), and sat back, ready to enjoy. The disc started up promptly (take that, Toshiba!), and, within seconds, there was Blu-ray. It only took a few seconds more before I uttered something along the lines of, "What the hell?"
While the in the end, Samsung's first foray into the Blu-ray world wasn't the major culprit in said format's poor picture quality (turns out most of the early discs just didn't look very good), it was still rather lackluster. It didn't upconvert DVDs very well, it didn't offer a 1080p/24 output, and it didn't decode any of the new audio formats. With its second-generation offering, Samsung has fixed most of these shortcomings. Most.
The BD-P1500 is Samsung's fourth-generation Blu-ray player. Its elegant high-gloss, piano-black chassis is sure to stand out in any equipment rack. While dedicated Blu-ray players haven't reached rock-bottom prices yet, the BD-P1500 is Samsung's least expensive to date at $400, $150 less then the BD-P1400 that came out less than a year ago. The BD-P1500 is not the holy grail of Blu-ray players, but its feature set and lower price could be just what you've been waiting for.
Price: $400 At A Glance: Netflix streaming • Average usability • BD-Live support • Outstanding HD and SD video processing by Silicon Optix HQV
Streaming in Blu
Samsung was the first consumer electronics company to bring a Blu-ray player to market. Since then, the company has released quite a few players with varying degrees of performance. With the BD-P2500, Samsung delves into another market for the first time—video on demand. In the January issue, I reviewed the LG BD300, which was the first player to incorporate Netflix streaming capabilities. The BD-P2500 brings this same feature to the fold and includes some other features that the LG lacks.
Price: $400 At A Glance: Extremely responsive • Fast load times • Pandora and Netflix streaming • Full interactivity and audio decoding • Wireless Internet connectivity
Samsung has delivered some solid Blu-ray offerings in the past. The company hasn’t been shy about including high-end video processing, and it’s quick to adopt new features for its lineup. The new BD-P3600 is no exception. It comes with $100 tacked onto its price tag compared with the other players in this roundup, but you may find some interesting features that are worth the investment. At $400, it’s the most feature-laden player of this group and includes onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, 7.1-channel analog outputs, Netflix streaming, and Wi-Fi connectivity.
The BD-P3600 is a very sleek-looking player that takes a minimalist approach to aesthetics. The front panel is jet black, and only the tray is obvious. It also has a garish-looking sticker that flaunts the player’s advanced features. Personally, I’m a silkscreen guy when it comes to logos. I think manufacturers should skip the cheap-looking stickers on their players’ front panels.
Price: $450 At A Glance: Solid performance on both DVD and Blu-ray Discs • Netflix and Pandora streaming capability • Unique wall-mount design
Back in 2006, Samsung was the first manufacturer to release a Blu-ray player to the masses. It contributed to the format’s less than stellar launch reportedly due to an incorrect default setting in the video processing chip set used in the player.
Samsung fixed the issue in its debut player with a firmware update and has been at the forefront of player development ever since. Over the generations, its players have offered HQV video processing, Wi-Fi, and media streaming capabilities. The BD-P4600 is Samsung’s most expensive offering in 2009 at $450, but it brings a lot to the table with oodles of features, solid performance, and a unique design.