- Picture quality
- Smart Hub, DLNA and 3D support
- Two USB ports
- Not as well-built or attractive as other Samsung players
- No built-in Wi-Fi
- No 2D-to-3D conversion
- Review Price: £99.00
- 3D Blu-ray playback
- Smart Hub internet content
- AllShare DLNA networking
- Wi-Fi ready (with adapter)
- DivX HD, MKV, MP3, WMA and JPEG support
But these cut-price players aren’t necessarily bog-standard affairs – some, like the Samsung BD-D5500 on test here, still manage to bring you plenty of alluring features, which make them extraordinarily good value for money.
Naturally the design of the BD-D5500 has been compromised at this price – the bodywork is a little light and plasticky, plus the all-black styling lacks the pizzazz of Samsung’s silver players like the BD-D6900. There’s an old-fashioned disc tray in place of Samsung’s usual motorised slot too. But it does retain the clever touch-sensitive display panel, which cuts down fascia clutter, plus the super-slim, three-tiered shape sets it apart from other set-top box style players.
You’ll find a USB port lurking under a flap on the right-hand side of the fascia, and on the back you’ll find a decent selection of sockets. They include HDMI, component, composite, analogue stereo and optical digital audio outputs, an Ethernet port and a second USB port provided purely to house Samsung’s Wi-Fi adapter (WIS09ABGN), should you choose to buy one – unsurprisingly there’s no built-in Wi-Fi.
If you want a wireless web connection, the USB adapter will add quite a
chunk to the overall price. But it’s worth the investment, as it makes
it much easier to access the player’s range of connected functions.
We’re pleased to say that one of these is Smart Hub, an onscreen
interface that brings you a range of ‘Samsung Apps’, including catch-up
TV services, social networking sites, movies, video streaming, games,
puzzles and loads more.
The key apps are BBC iPlayer, BBC News, YouTube, Facebook,
Twitter, Box Office 365, Google Maps and LoveFilm. The beauty of it is
that you can add new apps as and when they’re added by visiting the app
store at the top of the Smart Hub interface, and once installed you can
organise them into folders.
Also found within Smart Hub is Your Video – which displays information about the movies available in Smart Hub apps, as well as giving ratings and recommendations – and a Search tool that looks for content by keyword. All-in-all Smart Hub is a beautifully presented and intuitive feature that adds a great deal of value to the overall package.
This wealth of online content is joined by AllShare DLNA media streaming, another mainstay of Samsung’s Blu-ray range. It allows you to access music, videos and photos stored on PCs, NAS drives and other devices on your home network. What separates Samsung’s streaming feature from its rivals is the breadth of supported formats – with MKV, AVI, WMV, DivX HD, XviD, AVCHD, MP3, WMA and JPEG on the list, this is the perfect player for those with large and varied digital media collections. The good news is that you can play these files from USB sticks too.
So far so generous for a so-called budget player, but surely 3D support would be too much to ask at this price? Seems not. The BD-D5500 can indeed play 3D discs thanks to the HDMI v1.4 output, so anyone with a compatible TV can see what all the fuss is about without having to pay through the nose. However, there’s no 2D-to-3D conversion as found on Samsung’s higher-end players, one of the few casualties of that budget price tag.
And in keeping with the other Samsung Blu-ray products we’ve tested this year, the BD-D5500 is an absolute joy to operate. Not only is the onscreen presentation gorgeous, using full colour HD graphics, impressive animations and a straightforward structure, but it’s also slick and responsive when moving the cursor around.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the inventive, sophisticated main menu, which shows a row of options sitting on a platform along the bottom – move left or right and the icons scroll along like they’re on a conveyor belt. These icons and the huge text above them make it easy to find any function, giving them obvious names like ‘My Devices’ and ‘Internet’.
This slickness and logicality permeates every screen, including the crucial setup menu. We particularly like the Network Settings section, which uses animated graphics to show you how to get online, as well as displaying easy to follow instructions. This is definitely a player designed to appease experts and technophobes alike.
Smart Hub might look a little busy at first glance but its layout is actually very thoughtful. It’s designed to resemble an Android handset or iPhone, with little square thumbnails arranged in a grid – a wise move given how easy those gadgets are to use. The only real difficulty we encountered was punching text into the dialogue boxes when setting up accounts or using apps like Facebook – there’s a mobile phone-style text entry system that means well but always takes an age to use.
Finally a word about the remote, which is child’s play – literally. The huge rubbery buttons, massive lettering and colour-coded keys make it look like something designed to control a toy robot or battery-powered space station, but that can only be a good thing. The intelligent button layout is the other key to its success, with a perfectly placed multi-directional pad and playback controls.
The BD-D5500 takes 46 seconds to load Terminator Salvation, which is relatively fast. And from the opening scenes of The Dark Knight, it’s clear that the BD-D5500 is an assured picture performer. As the camera moves towards the towering skyscraper, the image is dazzlingly crisp, allowing you to make out textures and delicate shading on the rooftops of the other buildings. And where the edges of the buildings meet the sky it’s emphatically sharp, with no noise to speak of.
Superb detail reproduction is backed up by a level of depth that makes the image appear suitably filmic at all times, but the perfectly-judged contrast allows you to make out everything that’s going on. So when viewing the scene in the car park as Batman goes up against Sandman’s gang, you can discern fast-moving objects, black costumes and even facial detail.
Colour reproduction is also excellent, with the Samsung getting skin tones spot-on and displaying the bright blue sky with dazzling vibrancy as the Joker blows up the hospital. We’re also impressed by the depth of blacks and the clear shadow detail within them. You might get a little more clarity by investing in a more expensive player but it’ll be a marginal amount.
Switching over to 3D (viewed on a Sony set) there are no problems with the quality of the deck’s image layering or with crosstalk, which results in an immersive viewing experience. You also get crisp detail, gorgeous colours and smooth motion, clearly demonstrated by our Avatar and Monsters Vs Aliens test discs.
Your DVD collection is also in safe hands, as the BD-D5500 upscales SD content with few artefacts, plus the quality of Smart Hub videos is excellent, making programmes on BBC iPlayer look remarkably smooth and free from the usual block and mosquito noise associated with web videos.
With Smart Hub, DLNA streaming and 3D support on board, the Samsung BD-D5500 represents excellent value for money for under £100. It also welcomes a wide range of digital media formats, boasts two USB ports and a first-rate operating system. There’s no built-in Wi-Fi and the design isn’t up to the standards of other Samsung players, but on the whole you can have few complaints when you’re getting a player as good as this for such a low price.
Score in detail
|BD Player Profile||Profile 2.0|
|Digital Audio Out||Yes|
|WiFi||With USB adapter|
|Analogue Audio Out||Yes|
|SD Memory Card Slot||No|
|DivX / DivX HD||Yes|
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