Samsung BD-F8500M 3D Blu-ray Player and Digital PVR Combi Review
Is Samsung's BD-F8500 the all-in-one solution we've been looking for?
Design and Connections
The BD-F8500M measures 430 x 55 x 282mm and weighs 2.6kgs. The front facia is very sparse, with only a disc tray, a display and a USB port, which sits behind a cover. The tray is a little noisy when opening and closing and navigating a disc was louder than we would have liked but the BD-F8500M was reasonably quiet when playing a disc. The display itself is large enough to read, clearly laid out and informative. In the top right-hand corner there are some basic controls - on/off, play/pause, stop and eject. These controls are in a circular configuration that match the rounded corner. On the right-hand side of the chassis there is a recessed area where you will find the CI (Common Interface) slot.
The rear of the BD-F8500M is minimal to say the least, with just one HDMI output. Additionally, there is the antennae input which is capable of receiving Freeview HD transmissions, a ‘loop through’ output for connecting to the TV, a LAN connection, an optical digital output and a further USB port.
The provided remote control is fairly standard but well designed when you consider the amount of functionality present in the BD-F8500M. Samsung has done a great job of not cluttering the remote and it manages to fit in all the main controls. All the features can be accessed via the Home page but it would have been nice to access more of them directly although we guess that would have resulted in more clutter. However being able to access features such as recorded content directly rather than going through the Home page first, would be very useful. Ultimately, given the multi-function nature of the BD-F8500M, the remote got the job done.
We will address the majority of the options in the Smart Hub page under the features section of this review, so for now we will concentrate on the Settings menus. Here you will find categories for Display, Audio, Broadcasting, Network, Smart Features, System and Support. In the Display submenu there are options for 3D Settings, TV Aspect Ratio, Smart Hub Screen Size, BD Wise, Resolution, DTV Smart resolution, Movie Frame (24FS), HDMI Colour Format, HDMI Deep Colour and Progressive Mode.
The next submenu is Audio and here you will find options for Digital Output, PCM Downsampling, Dynamic Range Control, Downmixing Mode, DTS Neo:6 Mode, Audio Sync and the Connected Device. In the next submenu, Broadcasting you will find Auto Tuning, Aerial choice, Channel List, Guide, Schedule Manager, Edit Channel and Edit Favourites.
In the Network sub-menu there are options for Network Status, Network Settings, Wi-Fi Direct, AllShare Settings, Remote Access, Device Name and BD-Live Settings. In the Smart Features sub-menu you can access options for Apps Settings, VOD Rating Lock and you can Reset the Smart Hub.
Then there is the System submenu, where you can access the Setup, choose a Language, setup the Device Manager, set the Clock, check the Storage Device Manager, select Auto Power Off and set the Security options. Finally there is the Support sub-menu, where you can select Remote Management, access the e-Manual, perform a Software Update, Contact Samsung and Reset the BD-F8500M.
Of you access Movies & TV Shows you can then access Samsung's premium video service where you can pay to download movies and TV shows. This page will let you select from your Favourites or Featured items and check those that you've purchased. The next option on the Smart Hub page is Apps and here you can see all the apps you have selected plus some that are recommended to you by Samsung. There is a heavy emphasis on video-on-demand serrvices, which makes sense when you consider that is the BD-F8500M's primary purpose. Samsung has provided every major VoD service available including BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Netflix, LoveFilm and YouTube, with Channel 5 coming shortly.
The BD-F8500M also includes Facebook and Twitter, although we wonder how useful they would be on a BD player, as well as access to Samsung's full apps page, where you can choose from a multitude of available apps. The next section in the Smart Hub page is Photos, Videos & Music and this provides a useful point from which to access all the available content. Here you can access photos, videos or music from any connected device or home network. In this area you can also access TV programmes that you recorded, either on the built-in 500GB HDD or a connected USB device.
The BD-F8500M works very well as media player, it has excellent file support and we encountered no problems with the media servers and files we tried. The built-in WiFi is also extremely useful and the BD-F8500M includes a Web Browser, although we found it extremely slow and painful to use. Samsung provide a remote control app for both iOS or Android devices, these are well designed and effective to use and certainly made the Web Bowser easier to operate, although it still wouldn't be our first choice for surfing the net.
Freeview HD PVR
We set a clutch of series records, single timer events and back to back recordings and the BD-F8500M turned in a perfect performance, recording everything and not missing the beginning or end of any of the programmes. It should be pointed out that anyone used to other PVR’s where buffering is automatically enabled will need to readjust. Buffering is the process whereby the tuner contents are automatically written to part of the hard drive to allow for pausing, rewinding or recording. With the BD-F8500M, users will need to press either the Pause or Play button of the remote before it’s activated. Since other media can be stored on the hard drive, we can understand Samsung wouldn't want to enable automatic timeshift features but those used to such flexibility might want to get in to the habit of pressing play before they settle down for an evening’s viewing.
Overall the BD-F8500M proved to be a very capable PVR, especially considering its other functions but there are still some minor issues. As with previous years, you can't enter the Settings menu whilst the player is recording. There is still no ‘Global Padding’ option, where automatic over-run/early programming start could be taken care of, but you can do it on a per programme basis and there is the ability to specify how consecutive recordings on the same channel are handled. We had no issues in testing but then there were no serious over-runs of specific programmes and often you are at the mercy of individual broadcasters. We would have liked it to be easier to access the recorded content, rather than having to go through the Smart Hub page, a dedicated button would be more convenient. Since the BD-F8500M offers all four major catch-up services, it would also be very useful if they were combined with the Freeview EPG to make it easier for users to go back and find programmes they missed.
Disc Load Times
- Standby – 0W
- Displaying 50% Full Screen White Pattern – 25W
- Excellent video processing
- All the major VoD services
- Full Dual Tuner PVR capabilities
- Built-in WiFi
- Freeview HD
- Can't record whilst in the Settings menu
- Picture Modes slightly alter the video signal
- Accessing recordings is time consuming
Samsung BD-F8500M 3D Blu-ray Player and Digital PVR Combi Review
The design Samsung BD-F8500M is surprisingly derivative, especially given how influential the Korean manufacturer has been when it comes to the look of TVs. The plain glossy black box has nothing on the front except a disc tray, a display and a USB port. On the top are some basic controls in a circular configuration, which results in a rounded corner that is reminiscent of the Apple TV. The BD-F8500M comes with a standard Samsung remote control, at the side is a CI slot and at the rear is a single HDMI output, a LAN port, another USB port and an optical digital out. Thanks to an attractive and well designed menu system the setup was extremely easy and intuitive. The Smart Hub user interface has had a redesign since last year, with a more simplified approach that we like. There are options for accessing premium content, along with recorded content and apps, all providing an effective single interface. In terms of its Smart capabilities, the BD-F8500M has all the major catch-up and Video-on-Demand services, along with built-in Wi-Fi, countless apps, a Web Browser and a remote app for both iOS and Android.
The BD-F8500M includes twin tuners and a 500GB, which made it a very capable PVR. The EPG follows the same layout as Samsung's TVs, which means it is well presented and simple to use. Our only comment would be that since the BD-F8500M includes all four catch-up services, it would be useful to integrate them with the EPG. Whilst there are some minor improvements relating to buffering and global padding that we would like to see, overall the BD-F8500M performed extremely well as a PVR. Our only other suggestion would be to make it easier to access the recorded content, perhaps with a dedicated button on the remote. As a Blu-ray player the BD-F8500M performed extremely well, delivering excellent pictures from both 2D and 3D Blu-rays. Samsung have sorted out the issues with 2:2 cadence detection that affected last year's model and the scaling of standard definition material was excellent. Our only complaint was that the picture modes affected the video output and whilst User is an acceptable compromise, we would like to see a direct mode.
Overall the Samsung BD-F8500M proved itself to be a highly effective jack-of-all-trades, delivering an excellent performance as a Blu-ray player, a PVR, a media player and a Smart TV platform. If you're looking that 'one box' solution that can perform a multitude of functions without compromising performance, then the BD-F8500M could well be the choice for you.
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money8
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Disc Formats Blu-ray
DVD + R/RW
File Formats XViD
Audio Formats Dolby Digital
Dolby Digital Plus
DTS-HD High Resolutiuon
DTS-HD Master Audio
Upscaling Engine Yes 3D Blu-ray Playback Yes Smart Features Yes Hard Drive Yes Hard Drive Size 500GB Remote App Yes
Tuner Yes Tuner Type Freeview
Release Year 2013 Colour Black Width 430 mm Height 55 mm Depth 282 mm Weight 3.6 Kg
HDMI Out 1 Optical Digital Out 1 USB Ports 2 Ethernet 1 Wi-Fi Built-in
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