Samsung has updated and enhanced the look of the main Home menu, making it look even more attractive than before. It uses a similar layout to last year’s models, with cartoon-like icons that enlarge when selected. It’s smooth, co-operative and helpfully stripped down to the core functions.
The Settings menu is similarly responsive and thorough, plus the decision to make it more akin to Samsung’s TVs ensures much-needed consistency between devices.
Setting the BD-E8500 up on a network – or configuring any of the related functions like Soft AP, Wi-Fi Direct or AllShare – is incredibly simple thanks to the clear and descriptive onscreen dialogue boxes. The use of explanations to the right of the Settings menu is a godsend for first-time users.
As for Smart Hub, the upgrade to HD graphics brings even greater clarity to the interface. It looks clean and attractive, with bright colours and large text that’ll make users feel instantly at home. The new features are integrated with minimal intrusion and clutter, and don’t affect overall useability. It retains the ‘recommended’ apps along the top, providing a handy shortcut to often-used sites, and the ability to organise the app icons into folders is once again a useful feature if several members of the family use the BD-E8500. Family Story, Kids and Fitness are skilfully executed with a bright and breezy design that’s perfectly matched to the target user.
Crucially, overall useability is boosted by the inclusion of a dual-core processor as opposed to the single-core version used by its predecessor and other products in this year’s range. This is particularly noticeable when browsing the web, as pages load quickly and the cursor is fast and responsive.
But slumming it with the real remote is actually a pleasant experience. This newly revamped zapper has a lot to cram in, but does so without compromising useability. Most of the main functions have their own buttons – web browser, 2D conversion, Smart Hub – giving you shortcuts to key features without having to navigate through the Home menu. The playback controls are prominently placed and glow in the dark, but the real key to its user friendliness is the handy placement of the menu controls and the surrounding keys – all of which allows you to navigate virtually without looking.
The EPG looks great, somehow making room for a live TV screen, the programme grid and the synopsis without seeming cluttered – but the grid only shows five channels at a time, which means you could have a lot of scrolling to do.
PVR flexibility is much improved by the ability to record two channels simultaneously, although when doing so you can’t access the EPG, which could be frustrating.
All of the Freeview displays are clear and attractive. The onscreen info banner allows you to browse the entire schedule on any channel and it’s packed with information about the current programme. It’s easy to plan recordings from the EPG, and they can be organised in the handy Schedule Manager.