- Review Price: £292.15
Best Blu-ray Player(/centre)
After sampling the delights of Samsung’s first 3D-capable TV (the UE55C8000) and home cinema system (the HT-C6930W), we’re turning our attention to the BD-C6900, the world’s first 3D-capable Blu-ray player. Basically, it’s the HT-C6930W without the sound system, and despite its 3D talents its price tag is surprisingly affordable.
The first thing you’ll notice of course is the player’s stunning design, which holds no surprises for fans of Samsung’s cutting-edge couture – it’s slim, minimal and black as night. Turn on the power and the top panel comes alive with Blu-ray 3D logos, touch-sensitive controls and a backlit window that reveals the disc whirring in the tray.
Taking centre stage on the well-stocked rear panel is an HDMI v1.4 output, which ferries those 1080p 3D pictures to a compatible TV. The inclusion of only one HDMI output might be a problem if you want to enjoy HD audio but your AV receiver lacks HDMI 1.4 sockets, as it won’t be able to pass on the 3D signal.
Panasonic has solved this dilemma on its DMP-BDT3000 3D player by offering two HDMI outputs – one for your TV, one for your receiver – but Samsung’s answer is to provide a set of 7.1-channel analogue outputs, which send decoded hi-res sound signals to your amp, leaving the HDMI output free for direct connection to your TV. There’s on-board decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, as well as bitstream output from the HDMI output.
You’ll also find component, composite, optical digital audio and analogue stereo outputs on the rear, as well as an Ethernet port that opens up a wealth of web and networking possibilities. However, you needn’t rely on a crusty old cable to get online – this state of the art deck comes equipped with a built-in Wi-Fi adapter that supports 802.11b, g and n.
It really makes the most of this network connection too. Not only can you visit BD Live sites and download new extras (stored on 1GB of built-in memory, we hasten to add) but you can also play media stored on networked PCs courtesy of the AllShare feature and access Samsung’s Internet@TV portal.
Internet@TV boasts a collection of applications including YouTube, Twitter and Picasa, as well as news, history and TV listings sites. Apps for Facebook, LoveFilm and BBC iPlayer will be added soon. The interface looks great and it’s perfect for passing the time on a rainy day, but the slightly cumbersome navigation and text entry might test your patience.
You can also play media from USB sticks, using the covered port on the front. The comprehensive list of supported formats includes DivX HD, MKV, MPEG-4, WMV9, hi-res JPEG, AVCHD, MP3 and WMA.
Aside from that, you get all the usual stuff you’d expect from a Blu-ray deck, such as 1080/24p output (or Movie Frame as Samsung likes to call it), HDMI-CEC and a range of useful picture presets – including a user-defined mode that lets you tweak individual picture parameters.
Slightly more unusual is the built-in DTS Neo:6 processing, which expands stereo sources to pseudo-5.1 through the analogue outputs, and the Screen Fit feature, which expands 21:9 (or 2.35:1) pictures to 16:9 and removes the black bars.
Samsung has radically redesigned the onscreen design for this year’s Blu-ray players, and we love it. The menus are logical and attractive, making installation a cinch. In the setup menu, you can tweak the sound according to the capabilities of your speakers and there are just two 3D setup options – one which forces the deck to output 3D content as 2D, and another that tailors the picture to your TV’s screen size. Thanks to the excellent remote, with its large, carefully arranged buttons, day-to-day operation is a doddle.
It’s also easy to connect to a network and find media content. Searching for access points and entering encryption keys is nowhere near as infuriating as it was on last year’s Samsung players, while the main menu’s large cartoon-like icons clearly signpost the different types of content at your disposal. Files are arranged into clearly labelled folders with jazzy graphics and smooth scrolling.
Thankfully, the BD-C6900 shares the HT-C6930W’s speedy start-up and disc loading times – we’re yet to encounter a deck that can get ”Terminator Salvation” up and running any quicker than a Samsung.
The BD-C6900 is also a fantastic picture performer. We played a variety of 2D Blu-ray movies at 1080/24p, including ”Terminator Salvation”, ”Avatar” and ”Inglourious Basterds”, and in each case the picture quality was faultless.
The purity, depth and sharpness of the image is hugely satisfying, with no glitches or artefacts to sully the picture. The rolling green countryside at the start of ”Inglourious Basterds” looks as crisp and luscious as we’ve seen it, while ”Terminator Salvation’s” dusty desert wastelands are displayed with every last scrap of detail intact.
We also tried out the HQV Benchmark Blu-ray and couldn’t catch the player out with any of the tests, apart from the Film Resolution pattern which showed just a hint of strobing in some of the boxes. Although this appears to have little bearing on real world viewing, its assured handling of this disc does confirm that there’s some competent video processing on board.
For 3D testing, we viewed ”Monsters Vs Aliens” on Samsung’s UE46C8000 LED TV. In terms of quality, it’s hard to say where this deck stands in the grand scheme of things as it’s the first 3D Blu-ray deck we’ve tested. But on face value it certainly appears to do a decent job, making the image look deep and layered without compromising on detail clarity or colour vibrancy, even through the tint of the lenses.
After your eyes have grown accustomed to the effect, you start marvelling at the way characters seem to stand forward from backgrounds, and the exaggerated sense of perspective and distance that you don’t get from 2D pictures.
But as we discovered with the HT-C6930W, 3D playback isn’t always the breathtaking spectacle it’s cracked up to be. This is due largely to ghosting, where the faint outline of an object is visible next to it (most commonly thin dark lines set against light backgrounds), which muddles up the overall 3D effect.
The clearest example of this is the movie’s Golden Gate bridge sequence, where the bridge’s posts and suspension cables look blurred. As a result, you can’t get ‘lost’ in the image as much as the 3D hype-mongers would have you believe. We don’t know how much of this is down to the TV, but either way it’s something that will need sorting if 3D is ever going to take off.
Sonically, we can’t fault the Samsung – soundtracks fed to our test receiver through the HDMI output or the 7.1-channel outputs are clear, expansive and bursting with detail.
Even without its 3D capabilities, the BD-C6900 would be one of the best Blu-ray players on the market. It boasts a phenomenal range of features, the most impressive of which are comprehensive multimedia support and wireless networking, while its 2D picture quality, fast disc loading and slick operating system are also to be applauded. The only issue is the ghosting on 3D playback, but this is sure to be ironed out over time and the extra depth and visual dynamism still inspire enough wonder to make it worth the investment.
Score in detail