Samsung UBD-M9500 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Plethora of streaming options
Outstanding picture quality
Dual HDMI outputs
Minus
No 3D support
Flimsy disc tray
No Dolby Vision support

THE VERDICT
This second-generation Ultra HD Blu-ray player delivers exceptional performance and value, especially for heavy Netflix or Amazon users.

I’m in my 13th year of reviewing consumer electronics, and I’m continually amazed at the industry’s pace of innovation. In the span of about 20 years, we’ve gone from bulky, backbreaking CRT displays to flat-panel TVs that hang on the wall, as well as projectors that are smaller than the base of a vacuum cleaner—all at prices that the middle class can easily afford.

Some might argue that progress is occurring too fast and that keeping on the cutting edge is nearly impossible, and I wouldn’t disagree. After all, 3D has come and gone in a few short years, and one could make a pretty strong argument that the 1080p delivered from Blu-ray has all the resolution we need for the foreseeable future, given how far the average consumer sits from their display. But 1080p is so yesterday, and the electronics manufacturers need a new hook to get you to upgrade.

Their latest push is with 4K, which in its consumer Ultra HD version is actually 3840 x 2160—four times the resolution of 1080p. Granted, these displays have been on the market for a few years, with one caveat: It was a standard in motion. Thankfully, those days are largely behind us now, and most midline-and-up 2017 models will support the other key features that UHD has to offer—namely, WCG (wide color gamut) and HDR (high dynamic range). If you want to have all your bases covered, though, be sure your new TV takes advantage of both leading versions of HDR: not just HDR10 but Dolby Vision as well.

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So now that we have rock-solid displays that can show off the latest technology, there’s still one ingredient missing: content. Without that, what’s the point? As I stated earlier, Blu-ray’s 1080p is pretty damn good—but along with the electronics manufacturers, the movie studios need to make a buck, too, so they’ve come up with Ultra HD Blu-ray as their ultra-premium disc format, in order to sell you their latest blockbuster as well as catalog titles you’ll feel obligated to upgrade.

For the majority of releases, Ultra HD Blu-rays offer not only the image benefits associated with the format, but often an immersive, height-enhanced audio track in Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. Furthermore, the discs come with an UltraViolet code to access the movie digitally from your provider of choice (mine is Vudu). What’s even more impressive is that some, but not all, studios include a UHD stream. When you take all of that together, the new format is a pretty good value for the premium price.

Of course, in order to play these discs, you need an appropriate machine—and what’s amazing is how competitively priced Ultra HD Blu-ray players were right out of the gate. Samsung was first on the block with the UBD-K8500 last year (Sound & Vision, June 2016), which Tom Norton rightly rated as a Top Pick. Granted, it wasn’t perfect, but at a debut price of $400, it was easy to forgive its horrendous remote and somewhat clunky user interface.

That Didn’t Take Long
Here we are a little over a year later, and Samsung’s second-generation UBD-M9500 player is here, with the same MSRP of $400 but a street price of $299 from most online retailers. In addition to playing discs, it serves as an entertainment hub that can stream media from your home network, USB drive, or favorite online service, such as Netflix, Amazon, or Vudu, among many more options.

The form factor mostly matches last year’s model, with one addition: There’s a text display on the face that will flash a message letting you know what action is taking place, such as “Play,” “Stop,” or “Loading.” The disc tray is situated on the left and is somewhat flimsy, but at this budget-friendly price, you can’t expect industrial-strength build quality. Manual controls for power and eject are on the right, along with an LED power indicator. And there’s a USB port on the right-side panel (which could be problematic to access if the unit is placed inside a rack).

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On the rear panel, you’ll find a plug for the detachable power cord, an Ethernet port, and two HDMI outputs—a main that outputs both audio and video to a display and a secondary that outputs audio only. This allows users with older AVRs or surround processors that don’t support HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0a (which require throughput of 18 gigabits per second) to send the audio to their rig while sending the video to their display. Fortunately, my setup meets all the specs, so I only needed to use the single cable.

COMPANY INFO
Samsung
(800) 726-7864
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
pw's picture

No Dolby Vision no deal..
Already outdated..

brenro's picture

Never happen. The jury's still out on DV.

jnemesh's picture

HDR10+ supports everything DV does, except for the 12 bit support, which no one is using. Samsung, the WORLDS LARGEST DISPLAY MANUFACTURER, refuses to support the format, AT ALL (even in their blu-ray players). It's not gonna happen, no matter how badly DV fanboys want it to happen. (Why are there even DV fanboys???) It's essentially DOA.

brenro's picture

The UBD-8500 has had all the bugs worked out, is still for sale, and sells for a hundred bucks cheaper. This article fails to tell me what makes the new one better.

David Vaughn's picture
I have both players and prefer this generation. First, it's a bit faster to boot up and load discs. Second, the remote is improved (a non factor if you use a Universal remote). Third, I like how you can customize the main menu to the services you actually use (last year's model may do this now, but I haven't had it plugged in for nearly 6 months now). Is that worth $100? To me it would be.
brenro's picture

You should have written the review.

David Vaughn's picture
I did write the review! For print you only have so many words. Also, it isn't a comparison to last year's model, it's a review about this particular unit. Also, if you read between the lines you'll see that I called these things out (except for the speed) in the review.
brenro's picture

I have the older model and was looking to see if there was a compelling reason to upgrade. Keep up the good work!

David Vaughn's picture
Thanks for the kind words. It was an easy oversight! Have a great holiday season.
michaelalanlittrell@yahoo.com's picture

David...Thanks for the short review. I had the UBD-K8500 and demoed the UBD-M9500. I thought the build quality was the same between the two units. I think the remote on the M9500 is just as bad or worse than the K8500's. Still not backlit and the remote is all black (including the keys) which makes using the remote in a darkened remote difficult. The remote in your article is silver BTW. The user interface is improved for sure (not that the original was bad) and the on screen info displayed by the player is much better, but I did not see an improvement in picture quality over the predecessor. At $279 for the M9500, the Sony which is currently on sale at $150 is a better value in my opinion.

David Vaughn's picture
I'm not sure where the remote that is pictured came from because that's not the remote that came with the player. I'll inquire with the webmaster if the wrong image was uploaded. Regardless, I thought the spacing was better on this remote versus last year's player and I didn't misclick like I did last year. I haven't tested the Sony player, so I'm not sure how well it works. If it's a typical Sony, you may have to go through their service page to use Netflix, etc, which didn't work very well in the past for me personally.
David Vaughn's picture
If a UHD player (or Blu-ray player) is doing its job right, you won't see any difference in performance. Personally, I did see a slight improvement because there wasn't any red push in the image, which the UBD-K8500 had initially. I'm not sure they ever fixed that via firmware because once the Oppo came out, the K8500 was put back in its box and hasn't been used since. I still use the Oppo daily for disc playback, but I watch Netflix and Amazon using the M9500.
drny's picture

Whoopy for M9500 and its streaming prowess.
Samsung can keep it its streaming apps, just gives us back 3D playback.
I was also looking to upgrade to a second generation UHD player.
One with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, along with good old 3D.
I don't get it.
Any TV that can take advantage of UHD blurays 4k and HDR already has a multitude of apps.
I stream Netflix 4k, Youtube, and Amazon Video directly to my Samsung JS9500 via a LAN connection.
Streaming via a direct hardwired LAN connection, to the display, gives the viewer the best possible quality.
In my opinion Samsung missed the boat with the M9500.
I guess I will have to wait for Oppo's second generation UHD player and pay through the nose.

David Vaughn's picture
For those of us with front projectors, we need devices that can stream. In my opinion, the Samsung blows the Roku 4K away in reliability--it just works versus the Roku that I returned to the store in less than a week because it was so unreliable. This player was released nearly 6 months ago and frankly, is already outdated. I'm sure their next player will have Dolby Vision (or it better!).
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