Samsung BD-P3600 Blu-ray Player

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.

You’ll find no buttons on the player’s front panel at all. There’s a small door on the far right that provides access to one of the player’s two USB slots. The top of the case curves slightly and features a piano black finish. Here you’ll find touch-sensitive interface keys that are similar to the PS3’s. This gives the player a slightly higher-end feel, but it also creates some aggravation if you have the player in a rack and have to hunt for the right key.

The back panel is where you’ll find some big differences compared with the other players in this roundup. The Samsung has a full complement of connectivity options for both newer and legacy systems. This includes a full 7.1-channel analog audio output. On the digital side, you get a TosLink output and an HDMI 1.3a output. Analog video connections include component video and composite video. Samsung excludes S-video and digital coaxial audio connections.

For connectivity, Samsung has finally incorporated a feature that we’ve been longing to see here at Home Theater. The BD-P3600 is BD-Live compatible and includes a dongle for Wi-Fi Internet connectivity. The dongle attaches to the rear USB port. There’s also a standard LAN connection if you already have a wired setup. I’ve been hoping we’d see Wi-Fi from Blu-ray manufacturers soon, and kudos to Samsung for stepping up to the plate on it!

Samsung also includes 1 GB of internal memory. This alleviates the hidden cost and additional hassle of needing external memory to take advantage of the BD-Live features that new-release Blu-ray Discs frequently offer. Most manufacturers still require you to buy your own, which is disappointing considering the rather cheap cost of internal memory.

The Samsung powers up incredibly fast. When you turn on the player, an onscreen display instantly greets you. The Samsung has a home menu that offers connection with its other features: Netflix streaming video and Pandora Radio. I’ll go into these features in a little bit.

The setup menus are very simple and a bit lacking in terms of tweakability compared with the Panasonic DMP-BD60. I was also disappointed to find that some of the audio options default to undesirable settings. For example, dynamic range compression defaults to on. You also don’t get any options for color space output.

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