The BD-C8500 is a Blu-ray player with a twist. As well as spinning hi-def movies, it can also record programmes from its Freeview HD tuner onto the 500GB hard-disk, bringing you two hi-def sources in a single slimline box. It’s not the first such product to be launched – LG’s HR400 beat Samsung to the punch last year (sadly we never got a sample) – but it’s still an interesting combi that lets you upgrade to hi-def with maximum convenience and minimum clutter.
On the outside, Samsung lives up to its reputation as the Gok Wan of home cinema with a typically exuberant design. Gloss black from top to bottom and measuring 430(w) x 61.5(h) x 300(d)mm, the deck is sleek and sexy, while the undulating white lights that shine through two windows on top are pure eye candy. The fascia features a row of illuminated touch-sensitive buttons covering the most-used functions, and a central display switches between the time and current channel number. It’s very attractive, and because you’re getting two machines for the size of one you’ll end up saving space in your AV cabinet too.
Also on the front panel is a small flap that conceals a USB port for digital media playback and a common interface slot, which comes as a pleasant surprise. That means you can add pay TV channels like Sky Sports to the line-up.
On the back you’ll find a fairly basic array of sockets, but with everything you need integrated into the box, this simple line-up of sockets is hardly surprising. There’s an HDMI v1.3 output of course, and an Ethernet port to take advantage of the Profile 2.0 deck’s BD Live functionality. You’ll also find optical digital audio, component and composite outputs, as well as RF input and loopthrough sockets.
The huge hard-disk provides 136 hours’ worth of hi-def recording time. There are no recording modes to trade off picture quality for extra recording time, but with 500GB of space that shouldn’t be an issue. The disc drive is for playback only and not recording, so you can’t internally archive programmes from the hard-disk, and with no Scart outputs there’s no easy way of making back-up copies on external recorders either. This has been conceived as a simple, self-contained PVR that plays Blu-ray discs, and that sort of simplicity is undeniably appealing.
But Blu-ray playback and HDD recording are just the tip of the iceberg. As is usually the case with Samsung products, there’s a wealth of networking features on board, which can be accessed very easily using the built-in Wi-Fi adapter. You can stream music, video and photos from networked PCs using the AllShare feature, or access a wide range of web applications through Samsung’s Internet@TV feature. We’ve talked about these excellent features many times already, but it’s worth noting that they’re easy to set up and implemented here with the same slickness and user-friendliness as the rest of Samsung’s current Blu-ray products.
The BD-C8500 also supports an extensive range of digital media types, including the increasingly popular MKV and DivX Plus HD formats plus MP3, AAC, WMA, AVCHD, WMV, 3GPP and JPEG. As for Blu-ray, it decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, as well as sending them as bitstreams from the HDMI output.
There are plenty of other features to discover, including CD ripping onto the hard disk, the AMG Metadata music database, 21:9 to 16:9 aspect ratio conversion and 1080p DVD upscaling, but one notable absentee from the feature list is 3D compatibility – that would have been the icing on the cake.