In terms of operation, Samsung has really gone to town on this year’s Blu-ray products. You can clearly see its attempts to make the menus look and feel welcoming and straightforward through the use of brightly coloured graphics, large text and uncomplicated menu structures. It’s lovely stuff, the sort of onscreen design that doesn’t put you off using the product. Some menus drag slightly (particularly the DLNA menus) but the delays are far from infuriating.
The main menu is the best of the bunch, using animated icons laid out along a platform, with corresponding options floating above. Everything, including USB and DLNA playback, HDD recordings, the EPG and Smart Hub can be accessed from here, as well as the all-important Settings menu, which again is a cinch to use. The Recorded TV menu lays out programmes in blocks with a thumbnail, and these can be sorted by name, date or channel. There’s a range of editing features too, allowing you to delete parts of your recordings using an intuitive onscreen editing tool, but accessing these features is very long-winded.
Also long-winded is the process of setting up your Smart TV ID for apps like Facebook and Twitter. What's more, entering e-mail addresses and passwords using the onscreen keypad, which designed to look like that of a mobile phone, is convoluted, making you toggle through various pages of letters and switch between different text-entry methods. Thankfully you only have to do it once if you select the ‘remember my details’ tick box.
Other setup procedures are more straightforward, particularly Wi-Fi setup, which guides technophobes through the process using pretty graphics and simple explanations. Elsewhere one of the main things that makes this deck pleasant to operate are the little dialogue boxes that pop up when there’s a conflict or something you need to know. Recording clashes, timer schedule changes – anything that happens, the deck will tell you about it. There’s even a helpful feature that lets you know when an SD programme you’ve selected is also being shown in HD.
Selecting DLNA or USB content is simple too – the menus share the same layout as the Recorded TV display. Even the EPG is a design master class, squeezing a six-channel, two-hour programme grid, live TV box, programme synopsis and controls into a single screen without feeling cluttered. The only flaw is that you can’t read any of the programme names in the grid, which is a shame.
Hit the Info button while watching TV and you’ll see one of the best onscreen info banners around. The range of details on display is comprehensive, using coloured icons for things like aspect ratio, resolution, audio format, subtitles and Audio Description. What’s more you can browse the entire channel line-up and see what’s on days in advance.
The whole shebang is controlled by a wonderfully user-friendly remote that sports large, tactile buttons, large lettering and a sensible layout. The playback keys even glow in the dark, and helpfully there are dedicated buttons for Smart Hub and 2D-to-3D conversion. Hit the Tools button and you’ll find more options, including a range of picture presets and a User setting that lets you adjust various picture parameters.