Samsung BD-C6900£219.00 - www.askdirect.co.uk
The BD-C6900 was the UK’s first 3D-capable Blu-ray player and still ranks as one of the best. A big part of its allure is the typically swanky Samsung design with a sleek black finish, touch-sensitive controls and a backlit top window.
Samsung doesn’t stretch to a second HDMI output, but offers owners of older amps a get-out clause in the shape of 7.1-channel analogue audio outputs, allowing you to pipe 3D pictures to a TV and decoded HD audio to your receiver independently.
Obviously there’s an Ethernet port too, but the built-in Wi-Fi adapter provides a much more elegant way of connecting to the internet (plus there’s 1GB of BD Live memory built right in). Once connected you can stream a wide selection of music and video formats from PCs on your home network and delve into the online treats served up by Samsung’s Internet@TV. This web portal ranks alongside Sony’s system as the best in the business, offering a wide range of popular ‘apps’ that includes Facebook, YouTube and BBC iPlayer. A USB port provides yet another way of watching your media.
The superb menu system makes it a smooth operator, it loads discs quickly and in action it serves up supreme Blu-ray pictures. As a 3D source it does a fine job, layering the image convincingly and dragging out fine detail from all areas of the picture. When partnered with an LCD TV you may notice some problems with ghosting but on the whole this is an excellent performance from a slick, attractive and feature-packed player.
Panasonic DMP-BDT100£210.33 - www.1staudiovisual.co.uk
After launching the pricey-but-impressive DMP-BDT300 (still the only Blu-ray deck to provide two HDMI outputs) Panasonic came up with a cheaper version - the BDT100 - that cuts back on frills but keeps all the essentials.
Cutbacks are apparent on first glance – the design is less swanky and the rear panel has fewer sockets, losing the BDT300’s second HDMI output, coaxial digital out, 7.1-channel outputs and second USB port.
There is a USB port on the front, but if you want to connect Panasonic’s £80 Wi-Fi adapter that leaves nowhere to plug in a USB stick for multimedia playback, plus you’ve got a hulking great piece of plastic sticking out the front of your machine. Alongside it is an SD card slot for BD Live storage and playing back AVCHD and SD Video.
Panasonic’s Viera Cast brings a variety of websites to your TV, although the choice of YouTube, Dailymotion, Bloomberg and Picasa pales in comparison to Sony and Samsung’s wider range of content.
The DMP-BDT100 is also DLNA certified, but disappointingly its talents are limited to streaming recordings from Panasonic recorders and you can’t stream music, video or photos. Media files can be played back from USB sticks and its support for MKV and DivX Plus HD is always welcome.
The player is a doddle to use and delivers some of the best 3D images we’ve clapped eyes on, particularly when viewed on a Panasonic plasma TV.
As explained by Panasonic to us at a recent briefing, the on-board PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus with 4:4:4 colour upsampling has a big impact on the quality of 3D images, keeping colours looking faithful and textured. The overall depth and sharpness of the 3D image is astonishing too, and 2D pictures look terrific.
It may not be able to match its rivals on price or features, but if your main concern is picture quality you can invest in the DMP-BDT100 with confidence.