The BD-H8900’s feature list is its greatest asset. It leaves few stones unturned, packed with all the networking and Blu-ray technology you’d expect from today’s disc players.
There are twin Freeview HD tuners, allowing you to record one channel while watching another, or record two channels while watching a third (and it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s on the same multiplex or not). With a 1TB hard-disk drive on board, you’re not likely to run out of recording space any time soon – it offers a maximum of 257 hours of recording time in HD, or up to 411 in SD. Features like pause/rewind live TV and Series Link are essential.
Samsung’s strongest suit is its networking functionality, easily accessible through the built-in Wi-Fi connection (with Ethernet as a wired alternative). The BD-H8900 allows you to stream content from PCs and NAS drives on the same network, and if you’re using Samsung Link software on your PC then you can stream a comprehensive range of video, music and photo formats (we couldn’t stream MKV from a laptop when relying on Windows Media Player).
The deck played MKV, AVCHD, DivX, 3GP, AVI and WMV video files. It’s also pleasing to discover that the Samsung will play high-resolution audio formats over a network or from a USB stick, although output is limited to 48kHz. It also plays WAV, MP3, AAC and WMA.
Also impressive is the BD-H8900’s line-up of apps, which includes BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 – all of which gives Samsung a significant advantage over big-name rivals who don’t yet offer this full range of catch-up TV services.
But away from catch-up TV the selection is staggeringly good, covering everything from movie streaming (Netflix, LoveFilm, Blinkbox and Samsung’s own Video Hub) to games, lifestyle, information, education, kids and sports apps. There’s a vast selection (too many to discuss at length here) but rest assured there really is something for everyone.
As before there’s a Films & TV Shows section that presents available movies in a clear, eye-catching manner and recommends titles based on what you’ve watched before using Samsung’s clever S Recommendation technology. There’s also a built-in web browser if you want to peruse the internet at large.
The only minor downside is that the online catch up TV services aren’t incorporated into the EPG as they are on YouView PVRs, which make it easier to access programmes you may have missed using a scroll-back EPG.
Multiroom audio support is a neat addition to the feature list, allowing you to play CDs on the H8900 and pipe them around the house to Samsung’s new M7/M5 speakers, using the Multiroom app for iOS and Android devices. Another cool features is Screen Mirroring (AllShare Cast), which allows you to replicate your smartphone’s screen on your TV through the magic of Wi-Fi Direct.
On the Blu-ray side, the BD-H8900 delivers a full house of features – 3D playback, Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio decoding/bitstream output and 4K (UHD) upscaling. There are Standard, Dynamic, Movie and User picture presets too, the latter allowing you to set the sharpness, noise reduction, contrast, brightness, colour and tint to suit your taste.