Such was the success of the F6500 in fact that its replacement, the BD-H6500, has been promoted to flagship status for 2014 – thankfully while retaining its budget price tag.
This standalone Blu-ray player sticks to the formula of its predecessors – a sleek, sexy design, tons of features and extensive online functionality – but throws in a couple of new frills to keep things fresh. It’s not luxurious or ‘high-end’ by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re looking for an affordable HD disc spinner packed with all the latest tech then it could be another no-brainer.
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There isn’t much of it, but the BD-H6500 is a handsome slip of a Blu-ray player. Samsung’s customary sleek gloss-black finish and clean lines give it maximum living room appeal, while the super slim dimensions (33mm high) are perfect for slotting in an AV cabinet or perching under a bedroom TV.
The most distinctive feature is the curved front corner, a pointless but attractive quirk introduced on last year’s range. On top, a circle of touch-sensitive controls sits inside the curve, including play, stop, open/close and power keys.
Samsung has squeezed an LED readout, disc tray and USB port onto the slender front panel. The display shows elapsed time and other choice words in large digits, which are comfortably legible from a typical viewing distance.
Our only design reservation concerns build quality – the bodywork has the light, plasticky feel of many budget Blu-ray decks and doesn’t inspire confidence in its long-term durability, but that’s no great surprise for the money.
On the rear panel is a typically sparse selection of sockets for a budget player. There’s an HDMI output (capable of handling 3D and upscaled 4K video signals), an optical digital audio output and an Ethernet port. Unlike most high-end players, there are no dual HDMI outputs, analogue outputs (stereo or multichannel) or other sockets for legacy amps – this deck’s target audience simply doesn’t need them.
The BD-H6500’s slender frame is stuffed with features, reinforcing its position as one of the best-value Blu-ray players around. Heading the bill is Samsung’s selection of online content – accessed via the built-in Wi-Fi connection – which once again features the UK’s four main catch-up TV services: BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5. As far as we’re aware Samsung is still the only company to offer all four of these services.
They’re joined by a plethora of other video apps (56 at the time of writing), including YouTube, Viewster, BBC Sport and News, Vimeo, Netflix, LoveFilm and Dailymotion. Among the 36 ‘lifestyle’ apps are Napster, Twitter, Facebook and Picasa, alongside vTuner internet radio. Add the wealth of games, sports, information, education and kids’ apps to the mix – not to mention a built-in web browser – and you’ve got a formidable web line-up that offers something for everyone.
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If you get bored of Samsung’s selection you can play your own content stored on PCs, phones or NAS drives connected to the same network as the BD-H6500. There’s also Wi-Fi Direct if you want to beam content from a mobile device without going through a network.
But there’s a nifty new twist to this deck’s network functionality. It’s also designed to work in tandem with Samsung’s new Sonos-challenging multiroom speaker system (WAM750 and WAM550), allowing you to play a CD on the H6500 and send it to multiple speakers around the house.
Format support is wide-ranging. On the music side it will play hi-res FLAC files (but converts them to 48kHz) as well as MP3, WMA, AAC and WAV, while supported video formats include DivX HD, WMV HD, MKV, AVI, 3GP and MP4.
Elsewhere you’ll find screen mirroring, which lets you view your Android phone or tablet on a TV over a network, 3D playback, 4K (UHD) upscaling, a DTS Neo:6 mode and support for HD audio formats. The Tools menu offers a range of picture presets (Standard, Movie and Dynamic) and a user-defined mode that allows you to adjust sharpness, noise reduction, contrast, brightness, colour and tint.