Incredibly, Smart Hub is just the tip of the iceberg. As mentioned, the BD-D8500 allows you to watch 3D Blu-ray discs on a compatible 3D TV, but what’s even cooler is that Samsung has added 2D to 3D conversion to its players this year, which means that you can watch any 2D Blu-ray in pseudo-3D on any 3DTV – something that until now you could only do on Samsung’s 3DTVs (although Panasonic has now added the feature to its 2011 TVs and Blu-ray decks). This feature will also work for programmes from the Freeview tuner.
The fantastic feature list continues with the inclusion of built-in Wi-Fi adapter, which supports 802.11n as well as WEP, WPA-PSK and WPA2-PSK encryption protocols. This allows you to stream media from PCs and NAS drives on your home network, download BD Live content and access Smart Hub without the need for a cumbersome Ethernet cable. The media streaming feature (labelled My Contents in the main menu) works brilliantly with our Windows 7 laptop, loading up our vast MP3 library in double quick time and scrolling through the long list of Artists and Albums with surprisingly alacrity.
And like previous Samsung players, the list of supported media formats is virtually all-encompassing. You can play MP3, WMA, WMV, JPEG, DivX HD, MKV, AVI, XviD, MP4 and more, and these can be streamed over a network or played from a USB flash drive or disc. The deck also spins AVCHD discs. It also decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio decoding, plus there’s a couple of handy CD playback functions – AMG displays information about the disc being played, while the CD ripping feature lets you copy tracks to the hard-disk. It also gives you the freedom to move music, photos and videos between the HDD, connected USB drive and connected AllShare devices.
On the PVR side, there’s a massive 500GB hard-disk on board that holds up to 120 hours worth of hi-def recordings (or 240 hours of SD). You can’t alter the recording quality to increase that time, but the HDD is so capacious that you probably won’t need to worry about that.
There are dual DVB-T2 tuners onboard, which earn Samsung some serious Brownie points as it means you can simultaneously record one channel and watch another. You can’t, however, record two channels at the same time, because only one of the tuners is linked to the hard-disk drive, which some users might find frustrating.
You’ll also find common PVR stuff like Timeshift, which allows you to pause and rewind live TV using an onscreen timeline, an eight-day EPG and series link (accompanied by a Schedule Manager that shows you the all the programmes due to be recorded from that series).
Recordings are accessed from the ‘My Contents’ section of the main menu, and to maintain consistency the library layout is the same as the MP3 or AllShare menus. Recordings are clearly labelled with the full programme name and thumbnails, plus they can be edited – Rename, Split and Partial Delete are the options on offer, all of which are easy to use due to the thumbnail-based editing screens.
There’s also a choice of picture settings (Normal, Cinema, Dynamic) and a User setting that allows you to alter individual picture parameters, plus all the usual Freeview gubbins like Audio Description, subtitles, channel management and loads more.