Samsung already makes some of the most impressive Blu-ray players and systems in the business, but its 2011 range promises to be its best ever. With loads of new features aligned to the company’s canny fashion sense and keen eye for value, Samsung is taking the fight to its big name rivals – the first evidence of which comes in the form of the BD-D8500, a Blu-ray player with a built-in Freeview HD PVR that we’ve got our hands on before anyone else.
The BD-D8500 is a revamped version of the BD-C8500, adding 3D playback to a feature list already bulging under the weight of its own generosity. That, along with the built-in PVR, makes it the clichéd ‘one-stop shop’ for all your home entertainment needs, saving you money and space in your AV cabinet by combining two boxes into one.
The unit itself is typically stylish, but then you’d expect nothing less from a Samsung product. It’s not so much the overall look of the unit, which is essentially a slim black box, as the attention to detail – it features a new LED panel on the front that incorporates touch-sensitive controls into the display itself, including stop, play/pause, enter and eject. Next to them is enough space to show relevant words, the running time or any other pertinent information. Just below this is a disc slot that looks neater than an unwieldy tray.
The black finish is sleek and sexy, while the silver lip running along the front and brushed top panel inject a bit of extra glamour. There’s more to discover under a flap on the bottom right-hand side, including a USB port and a common interface slot that lets you add pay TV channels. Overall build quality is robust enough, with a slightly plasticky feel serving as the only reminder that we’re not dealing with a high-end player.
On the back is a standard array of sockets, which doesn’t include any inputs for recording external devices on the built-in hard-disk. You get an HDMI v1.4 output capable of sending hi-def 3D signals to a TV or AV receiver as well as HD audio bitstreams and multichannel PCM. It’s joined by component, composite, optical digital audio and analogue stereo outputs. There’s an Ethernet port and RF input/loopthrough for the Freeview HD tuner, but no multichannel analogue outs for decoded HD audio.