Apart from 4K upscaling, the video processing is identical inside both the BD-F7500 and BD-F6500, with the cheaper player offering exactly the same stunning hi-def picture quality as the step-up model. The first thing that jumps out when watching 2D Blu-ray discs is the intense detail, which results in punchy, forceful images. Areas of fine detail look razor sharp, which is particularly noticeable on facial close-ups where you can see pockmarks in skin and fine hairs. Tricky patterns and textures hold steady, contributing to a beautifully sharp, nuanced picture.
The picture is also duly cinematic thanks to the wide contrast range, solid blacks and excellent handling of shadow detail. The many murky shots of Gotham City streets and sewers during The Dark Knight Rises, for example, look gloomy and atmospheric and but you can make out everything that’s going on.
The BD-F6500 also renders colours with wonderful sensitivity, lending subtlety and smoothness to tonal blends. But when called for it fires out stronger colours with punch and vibrancy, making the bright comic-book colours of X-Men: First Class really stand out.
With 3D material, the BD-F6500 takes things up a notch, retaining all the sharpness and vibrancy of 2D pictures while rendering the ‘layers’ with remarkable composure and clarity. That results in a wholly absorbing, immersive viewing experience – provided your TV keeps up its part of the 3D bargain, that is.
Like the BD-F7500, the F6500 handles the Silicon Optix HQV disc without any major malfunctions. The Video Resolution Loss test pattern is crisp and composed; diagonal edges on the jaggies tests look super smooth; the Film Resolution Loss test pattern strobes slightly but looks otherwise stable; while the camera pan across the football stadium is expertly handled, keeping judder and moiré noise under control. This suggests the BD-F6500 can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.
If you have loads of DVDs that you can’t be bothered to replace on Blu-ray, then the BD-F6500’s excellent upscaling means you don’t have to. Don’t expect miracles, but SD images look clean and stable in 1080p, with tight edges, clear detail and deep colours. There’s a significant drop in quality when you watch web video – prevalent mosquito and block noise makes programmes from BBC iPlayer look hazy, but it’s perfectly watchable.
Plumb the player into a decent system and you can get some pleasing sound quality out of it. It’s nicely balanced, easy on the ear and handles rhythms with good timing.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to the BD-F7500 – or you simply don’t need 4K upscaling, two HDMIs and analogue audio outputs – then the BD-F6500 is a fine alternative. Apart from the above features and a more basic design it’s essentially the same player at a lower price. That means you get the same generous internet content, slick DLNA streaming, screen mirroring, 3D playback and wide format compatibility, not to mention the superb new operating system that makes navigation a breeze. It’s also quick in operation and loads discs faster than ever, making it an early contender for 2013’s best budget Blu-ray deck.
Read more: Best Blu-ray players to buy