Anyone who has read our reviews of Samsung’s latest Blu-ray players will know what features to expect from this PVR. Samsung’s Blu-ray and set-top box divisions have merged, which means this recorder benefits from all the same networking tricks, format support and web content as the brilliant BD-D6900 and BD-D8900. It also explains why the features and menu architecture on this PVR differ from Samsung’s Freesat PVR, which comes from a different division (look out for our review soon).
So where to begin? AllShare DLNA media streaming is perhaps the most alluring feature, as it’s not something you’ll find on many other Freeview PVRs. It means you can play music, video files and view photos stored on PCs, NAS drives and smartphones on your home network, and the inclusion of built-in Wi-Fi makes it really easy to do. Setup is a cinch and like most Samsung products the unit handles a wide range of media formats, including MKV, WMV, DivX HD, Xvid, MP3, WMA, JPEG and many more. If you’re not networked-up you can play your media files from USB flash drives and external HDDs. What’s more, you can copy files freely between your network, USB devices and this unit’s HDD.
Another reason why the BD-DT7800 steals a march on most Freeview PVRs is the inclusion of Smart Hub, Samsung’s brilliant selection of internet applications. Here, you can stream videos from BBC iPlayer, BBC News or YouTube, check your Facebook and Twitter accounts, view photos on Picasa, watch movies on demand from LoveFilm or keep yourself entertained with a vast array of games and puzzles. That’s just the tip of the iceberg too – in the Samsung Apps store you’ll find loads of other content, which is constantly being updated. Smart Hub also offers the same Your Video and Search features found on Samsung’s Blu-ray players, which make it easy to find content and to find new movies to watch.
The BD-DT7800 is not the only Freeview HD PVR that can stream content across a network or from the web – earlier this year Humax made its TV Portal available on the HDR-FOXT2, which offers a selection of Flickr, BBC iPlayer, Sky Player, Wiki@TV and internet radio, but we think Samsung’s offering is more impressive.
One surprising thing to find on the feature list is 2D-to-3D conversion – another crossover with Samsung’s Blu-ray decks – which means you can turn any Freeview programme into 3D. With so little 3D content available to anyone without Sky’s service, this could prove to be a useful feature – although don’t expect the same quality you’d get from a proper 3D Blu-ray disc.
And on the Freeview front, this is as comprehensive a feature set as you can expect to find, besides one notable exception – its inability to record two channels simultaneously. That’s because only one of the tuners is linked to the hard disk drive, but the second tuner at least lets you watch one channel while recording another. Samsung hopes to rectify this on future models but for now it remains a frustrating limitation.
Still, the BD-DT7800 boasts an eight-day EPG with full series link capabilities, Time Shift and a range of editing functions that let you split or delete part of a recording, which is useful if you wanted to edit recordings before making a back-up copy on an external recorder, but with no RGB Scart output that’s not something you’re likely to do.