While watching Freeview, channel changing is very quick and it’s also quick to load digital text. As for picture quality, studio-shot high-definition programmes like Alan Carr Chatty Man and Strictly Come Dancing boast that dazzlingly sharp and shiny look that makes hi-def so irresistible. Meanwhile, dramas like Accused on BBC One HD are reproduced with amazing depth and density. Colours have a natural, nuanced look about them, and skin tones look particularly good. There’s no noise, juddering or other nastiness to sully the picture either.
The great news is that these superb-looking pictures are captured on the hard disk without any perceptible decrease in quality. Detail remains sharp, there’s no digital noise and colours look every bit as accurate as they do live. Standard definition pictures also come up smelling of roses – the upscaling process introduces no artefacts, colours retain their strength and detail is crisp.
A clean bill of health on the Freeview side then, but how does it fare with Blu-ray? A similar prognosis we’re happy to say – Watchmen looks gorgeous, with its bold comic book colours splashed across the screen with striking vibrancy, while sharp detail rendering gives the image incredible clarity. We’re sold. It’s also relatively quick to load discs, firing up Terminator Salvation in well under a minute and 'Watchmen' closer to 30 seconds.
It also does a terrific job with the other types of media it supports – compressed music and CDs sound clean and well-balanced, while DivX videos play without a hitch and look as good as we’ve seen them.
All things considered, the BD-C8500 is a great idea well realised. It combines two of the hottest home entertainment technologies – Freeview HD and Blu-ray – in a single stylish unit, without compromising on picture quality in either department. We’re also big fans of the feature list, which includes modern must-haves like DLNA networking and Internet access, plus the operating system is top-notch. It’s just a shame that the recording limitations and lack of series link make it feel a lot less flexible than 'dedicated' PVRs.