Also found within Smart Hub is Your Video – which displays information about the movies available in Smart Hub apps, as well as giving ratings and recommendations – and a Search tool that looks for content by keyword. All-in-all Smart Hub is a beautifully presented and intuitive feature that adds a great deal of value to the overall package.
This wealth of online content is joined by AllShare DLNA media streaming, another mainstay of Samsung’s Blu-ray range. It allows you to access music, videos and photos stored on PCs, NAS drives and other devices on your home network. What separates Samsung’s streaming feature from its rivals is the breadth of supported formats – with MKV, AVI, WMV, DivX HD, XviD, AVCHD, MP3, WMA and JPEG on the list, this is the perfect player for those with large and varied digital media collections. The good news is that you can play these files from USB sticks too.
So far so generous for a so-called budget player, but surely 3D support would be too much to ask at this price? Seems not. The BD-D5500 can indeed play 3D discs thanks to the HDMI v1.4 output, so anyone with a compatible TV can see what all the fuss is about without having to pay through the nose. However, there’s no 2D-to-3D conversion as found on Samsung’s higher-end players, one of the few casualties of that budget price tag.
And in keeping with the other Samsung Blu-ray products we’ve tested this year, the BD-D5500 is an absolute joy to operate. Not only is the onscreen presentation gorgeous, using full colour HD graphics, impressive animations and a straightforward structure, but it’s also slick and responsive when moving the cursor around.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the inventive, sophisticated main menu, which shows a row of options sitting on a platform along the bottom – move left or right and the icons scroll along like they’re on a conveyor belt. These icons and the huge text above them make it easy to find any function, giving them obvious names like ‘My Devices’ and ‘Internet’.
This slickness and logicality permeates every screen, including the crucial setup menu. We particularly like the Network Settings section, which uses animated graphics to show you how to get online, as well as displaying easy to follow instructions. This is definitely a player designed to appease experts and technophobes alike.
Smart Hub might look a little busy at first glance but its layout is actually very thoughtful. It’s designed to resemble an Android handset or iPhone, with little square thumbnails arranged in a grid – a wise move given how easy those gadgets are to use. The only real difficulty we encountered was punching text into the dialogue boxes when setting up accounts or using apps like Facebook – there’s a mobile phone-style text entry system that means well but always takes an age to use.
Finally a word about the remote, which is child’s play – literally. The huge rubbery buttons, massive lettering and colour-coded keys make it look like something designed to control a toy robot or battery-powered space station, but that can only be a good thing. The intelligent button layout is the other key to its success, with a perfectly placed multi-directional pad and playback controls.