- Review Price: £249.99
Samsung continues its groundbreaking Blu-ray exploits with the BD-P3600, which accompanies the superb BD-P4600 in the company’s latest line-up. Whereas the BD-P4600 was designed with wall mounting in mind, the P3600 sports a conventional set-top box design, and despite its lower model number it comes equipped with a more generous feature list, making it a player that enthusiasts will love.
But that doesn’t mean the BD-P3600 is any less attractive than its wall-mountable sibling. In fact, you could argue that it’s the best-looking disc spinner the company has ever produced. When we pulled the unit out of the box it was love at first sight – the P3600 is incredibly slim and clad in a deep black finish with grey highlights around its beautifully curved edges. It’s a full-on fingerprint magnet but looks like these are worth a squirt of Mr Sheen every now and again.
Perched on top is a row of touch-sensitive buttons that give off a gentle beep when pressed, and just below the display panel (which is a tad small if truth be told) you’ll find a concealed USB port. On the back is a healthy array of sockets including the usual suspects like HDMI, component, composite, stereo audio and optical digital outputs. But the most pleasing addition is a set of 7.1-channel analogue ports, which allow you to enjoy Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks on older amps without HDMI inputs.
Because the BD-P3600 is Profile 2.0 compliant, you’ll also find an Ethernet connection on the rear for hooking up to the Internet and accessing BD Live content. But making a wired connection can be a real pain in the neck if your router is in another room, so that’s why we’re pleased to report that the BD-P3600 can also connect wirelessly. In the box you’ll find an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi USB dongle (optional on the BD-P4600) that plugs into the second USB port on the rear, enabling you to hook up to the web without a cable in sight.
And thanks to the PC streaming feature, you can play music and video from a computer on your wireless network. Well, in theory anyway – after searching for devices it successfully found my laptop, but wouldn’t play any of the stored media content, instead displaying a ‘No Program is found’ message. It should be a very handy feature if you can get it to work.
Another convenient feature is 1GB of built-in flash memory, which rules out the need to buy a USB memory stick for storing web downloads. It leaves the front-mounted USB port free for further memory expansion or for playing back DivX HD, XviD, MP3 and JPEG files from a memory stick.
Elsewhere you’ll find all the other features you’d expect from a Blu-ray player – built-in Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio decoders, 1080/24p output for judder-free playback on compatible displays, HD audio output via HDMI in bitstream or uncompressed PCM, 1080p DVD upscaling and Anynet+ HDMI CEC support.
Installing the player is a piece of cake thanks to the superb main menu, which is easy on the eye, responsive and logically sequenced. It lists the choice of Video, Music, Photo and Setup down the left and gradually works its way across the screen with each submenu.
The Setup menu houses the Network settings menu, where you can select your wireless access point and enter your security password using a virtual keyboard. The player’s other options are easy to find, including the all-important HDMI resolution and audio output settings.
Also impressive is the display that pops up during playback when you hit the info key. It clearly lists everything you need to know about the current disc, including the selected audio track, playing time and chapter. Here you’ll also find a Picture Mode option, which offers a few presets (Normal, Movie and Dynamic) as well as a User mode with adjustable levels of sharpness and noise reduction.
This excellent onscreen design is supported by a top drawer remote, which sports a coffee table-friendly gloss-black finish and slinky curves. The buttons are big, chunky and well spaced out, plus the playback keys helpfully glow in the dark, but the Title/Pop-Up/Disc menu keys at the bottom are a tad inconvenient. On the whole, the operating system isn’t quite as clear-cut and intuitive as the Panasonic DMP-BD60 but it comes a close second.
However, where it does beat the Panasonic hands down is disc loading speed. It takes the Samsung a lightning-quick 27 seconds to get to ”Spider-Man 3’s” Sony Pictures logo (or 40 seconds to get to the main menu), which is fantastic by anyone’s standards and is roughly in line with other speedy decks like the LG BD370 and Samsung’s own BD-P4600. The BD Live functionality also works smoothly over the wireless connection, plus digital media files load up quickly and play back without any problems.
Not only is the BD-P3600 fast in operation, but it also produces very impressive hi-def pictures. We loaded up ”RocknRolla” and the deck beautifully conveys the visual swagger of Guy Ritchie’s decent crime caper – the opening whip pans across London’s busy skyline and the grittier ground-level scenes look crisp and striking, and all the tiny details are reproduced with razor-sharp clarity by the Samsung.
Bright outdoor scenes, such as the brilliant botched robbery sequence are clean and crisp, with smooth edges, fluid motion, terrific black depth and vivid, natural-looking colours. During shots inside Johnny Quid’s flat, the Samsung’s excellent contrast level ensures that all of the detail is still visible.
We also loaded up the Silicon Optix HQV disc and the BD-P3600 copes well with the various torture tests, keeping rotating diagonal edges free from jaggies, displaying excellent noise reduction and reproducing the panning stadium shot without any significant video noise. A DivX HD trailer of ”Madagascar” looks amazing too, with vibrant colours and sharp detail, and DVD playback at 1080p looks solid and free from artefacts.
And it gets better with news that the Samsung produces stunning sound from any source. The inclusion of 7.1-channel outputs will delight old-school cinephiles who prefer the analogue sound for movie playback, while the flawless on-board decoding delivers a fast, engaging experience. It also handles CDs with a smoothness not normally associated with Blu-ray decks at this price.
The BD-P3600 takes everything we loved about the BD-P4600, packs it into a different but equally attractive box and throws in a few extra frills for good measure. There’s a plethora of features (Wi-Fi and 7.1 outputs being the highlights), plus loading times are fast and AV performance is excellent. But best of all its £250 price tag makes it excellent value for money, putting it right up there with the LG BD370 and Panasonic DMP-BD60 in the holy trinity of budget Blu-ray decks.
Score in detail