Review Price £400.00
Samsung BD-E8500 - Smart Hub
Samsung’s internet content portal is one of this unit’s star attractions. It’s had a little cosmetic surgery since last year’s models but still boasts some of the best content around, with BBC iPlayer and Netflix being two of the key apps, alongside a comprehensive line-up of social networking sites. That said, the line-up could still benefit from a few more catch-up TV services as found on Sony’s products (Demand Five, Sky News, Eurosport).
One of the greatest advantages of Smart Hub has always been its family-friendly content, such as puzzles, games and stories, and this lifestyle-oriented approach has been augmented this year by the inclusion of new ‘Signature Services’ such as Family Story, Fitness and Kids. These dedicated zones bring together relevant apps and other services into one convenient place.
Family Story is like a mini Facebook, aimed at users who want to share photos with people not on popular social networking sites but who do own compatible Samsung products (elderly relatives, for example). To that end, it’s designed for simplicity – you can create a group of up to 20 people, who can be invited to join using just an e-mail address or phone number and pin, which helps if they haven’t set up their Samsung User ID.
The Fitness section cleverly taps into the Wii Fit/Kinect market with features designed to improve your well-being (with suitably breezy, pastel-drenched displays). After you set up a profile, you can watch workout videos, set targets and link up with the Wi-Fi Body Scale or Noom Weight Loss coach – the latter tracking the calories burned when you’ve been for run.
The Kids section provides safe, entertaining content for youngsters, all presented in a bright, cartoony layout. This pulls in Smart Hub’s child-friendly apps – even linking up with BBC iPlayer’s kids’ shows and other third-party providers in future – as well as learning tools and a virtual ‘sticker book’ reward system, where parents can check which educational videos have been watched.
It’s a wonderful idea, widening the appeal of this product beyond the usual home cinema market. Sure, these aren’t features that movie fans and home cinema enthusiasts will base their buying decisions on, but they certainly add value to the overall proposition, particularly for those with young families.
The Samsung Apps store has had a subtle but effective revamp too, allowing users to download them even more quickly and easily than before using a clear layout that separates available apps into their respective categories.
Elsewhere, all the useful features from previous models are present and correct, including Your Video (pictured above) and the Search tool (below). The Search tool performs quickly and efficiently, pulling up results from video and social networking sites – although once again it might have been quite useful to link the it with the built-in EPG and bring up Freeview TV programmes relating to the keyword search.