The BD-E8500 boasts a 500GB hard-disk drive, but if that still sounds too puny then the step-up BD-E8900 offers 1TB. The 500GB version lets you record up to 124 hours of high-definition programmes from the dual Freeview HD tuners, or 199 hours of standard-definition shows.
It also boasts a flabbergasting feature list, making it great value even before you’ve clapped eyes on a movie. No stone has been left unturned, supporting content from every source under the sun including USB devices, discs, the internet, home networks and Freeview.
Meanwhile, new features such as Soft AP, AllShare Play and Social TV are clever, convenient additions to this year’s PVR range.
AllShare Play is an evolution of the network streaming function from previous Samsung models. It’s no longer just about streaming content over a network from DLNA-certified devices – this new incarnation consolidates all of your content into one place, including recorded TV programmes, files stored on USB devices or the hard-disk and social networking services like Facebook. It’s split into Videos, Photos, Music, Recorded TV and My List, which shows recently played files, new items and playlists.
Soft AP is another interesting new twist. Naturally the BD-E8500 is equipped with built-in Wi-Fi, but the BD-E8500 can be used as an access point in itself, allowing other Wi-Fi devices to go online through the Samsung’s web connection. This could be useful if you want to use Wi-Fi devices with only a wired router in the house, or to extend coverage to areas of the house out of your Wi-Fi router’s range (using a HomePlug, for example).
The deck also features its own internet browser, but you’ll need a wireless mouse and keyboard to make the most of it – thankfully it supports most third-party devices. Using a mouse lets you navigate the entire Smart Hub interface, click on app icons and fiddle with menus just as you would on a PC. And using a wireless keyboard also pays dividends when signing up for accounts on the various apps, because entering text is long-winded with the remote control.
The BD-E8500 is a pretty powerful dual-tuner PVR with impressive functionality – even more so than its predecessor, the BD-D8500. Last year’s model couldn’t record two Freeview channels simultaneously, but thankfully the BD-E8500 puts that right. Now, not only can you record two channels at the same time, you can even watch a third while doing so, provided it’s on the same multiplex as the channels being recorded.
Freeview features also include editing, Timeshift and a flexible picture-in-picture mode, which also works with the web browser.
And after all that, we haven’t even mentioned the other main features, including 3D Blu-ray support, 2D-to-3D conversion (which also works with Freeview programmes), CD ripping, the ability to copy media files to and from the HDD (over a network or from USB) and its wide-ranging format support, which includes AVI, MKV, WMV, DivX, MP3, FLAC, OGG and WMA. The deck also supports features from Samsung’s TVs, including Dual View, Clone View, remote access from mobile devices and Social TV.