Flawless disc playback, 4K Scaling and a Superb Smart TV Platform. What's not to like?
What is the BD-H6500?
Just when it seemed like the manufacturers had run out of features with which to entice you in to a Blu-ray player purchase, along came Ultra HD.They may not be giving us actual 4K capable spinners, we’re awaiting the BDA and movie studios advices on that one, but there will be many a player capable of scaling up to a 3840 x 2160p resolution emerging in 2014. Such a player is the BD-H6500 and considering its recommended retail price is only somewhere around £130, it’s not a bad feature to boast.
The H6500 has a couple of other processing tricks up its sleeve, too, and has all the apps and services one would expect from a Samsung player so, on paper, this is looking like another value proposition from the Korean’s. As ever, there’s only ever one real way to find out if the specs live up to the promise, so let’s take this smart spinner for a spin.
Design & ConnectionsYou’ll forgive this reviewer a sense of déjà vu, as it is he who reviewed the predecessor, which bore a remarkable physical similarity to this model. In fact, we’d probably need to call on the forensic department in order to be able to tell them apart. As is Samsung’s current liking, the BD-H6500 features a large control ‘dial’ that nestles on top of a rounded-off front corner and has some touch-sensitive buttons for the basic controls.
The facia features a tray-loading disc mechanism which pops in and out at a fair rate of knots and is pleasingly quiet during playback but can be quite noisy when performing ‘seek’ operations. To the right of the disc tray is a large and easy-to-read display panel which can be dimmed in the menus but not turned off completely, which is slightly disappointing.
Connectivity options are limited but likely ample for most. You get one HDMI output and a S/PDIF digital audio connection plus wired and wireless options for networking/internet and a USB slot concealed behind a flap at the front. And that’s your lot. The supplied remote is plain and unfussy and features an index finger indent at the rear. There’s a dedicated button to take you in to the Samsung Smart Hub and the main transport controls are glow-in-the dark, for the benefit of late night movie watchers.
Not blessed with huge connectivity options
MenusThe Settings Menu is accessed from the new one-stop-shop Homepage and contains 6 further submenus - Picture, Sound, Network, Smart Hub, System and Support. The Picture settings sub-menu has options for outputting Ultra HD, TV Aspect Ratio, BD Wise, Resolution, Movie Frame (24fps) and an interesting DVD 24fps.
There are additional settings for the Smart Hub Screen Size, HDMI Colour Format, HDMI Deep Colour and Progressive Mode. We will look at what effect some of those do later in the review but, as a guideline, we’d advise switching off Deep Colour – unless playing back AVC HD material from a video camera; leaving Movie Frame (24FS) at Auto for smooth Blu-ray playback and the same for Progressive mode to ensure non 24p film cadence detection is operative for DVD’s. At the top are also some settings for playing back 3D Blu-rays in 2D and one for telling the player what screen size your 3D TV is.
The Sound sub-menu has settings for Digital Output from a choice of PCM, Bitstream (unprocessed), Bitstream (Re-encoded DTS) and Bitstream (re-encoded Dolby Digital). We’ll leave owners to experiment as to what works best in their systems but it’s always good to have the re-encode options. There’s also a Dynamic Range Control, Downmixing Mode (Normal Stereo or Surround Compatible) and DTS Neo:6 Mode (Off/Cinema/Music).
FeaturesAs we mentioned above, Samsung has streamlined their Homepage done to just one screen in 2014 and the smart TV platform is all the better for it. Within it are mini portals for playing back a disc, Films and TV shows, Multimedia, Samsung Apps (app store) and some pre-loaded recommended apps at the bottom. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to edit the recommended apps to those of your liking and the pre-installed selection doesn’t really include any of the big-hitters such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix or YouTube. Instead you get AccuWeather, Facebook, vTuner Internet Radio, the Web Browser, Vimeo and YuppTV.
Given our recent experiences with the BD-H8900 PVR/Blu-ray combi, we know the H6500 is able to download all those other services mentioned above – and many more – from Samsung’s app store but it was down for maintenance during the course of the review. Other notable video streaming apps include 40D, ITV Player, Demand 5 so all the major free to air broadcasters’ catch-up services are available. Bar the new Panasonic TVs equipped with the Freetime app, Samsung is still the only manufacturer to boast that.
The Multimedia portal is basically the media player which obviously plays very nicely with Samsung’s own AllShare PC software but will happily talk to other media servers. The Media Player is very robust and handles MPEG2/4, DivX/DivX HD, AVCHD, MKV and WMV video files and there is compatibility with JPEG and MPO (3D) for your photos. In terms of audio support the H6500 is able to output DTS-HD as Bitstream as well as decode it and output as LPCM. The player will also handle AAC, MP3 and WMA, whilst photos in JPEG and MPO (3D) formats can be viewed.
Other notable features include a Web Browser, which is fine for perfunctory use but we wouldn’t want to surf with it regularly, and you can also mirror the screen of your phone or tablet using its built-in support or Samsung’s AllShare Cast app .
The DVD 24 fps Conversion option means the H6500 is capable of inverse telecine, which reconstructs the DVD frame rate back in to its original 24 frames per second format. This will only work with NTSC DVD’s, not the PAL versions made for the UK but it’s a promising addition for movie buffs.
As ever, Smart features are comprehensive and excellent
BD-H6500 2D & 3D Blu-ray PlaybackBarring the odd compatibility problem, virtually all 3D Blu-ray players we test are able to output the 3D content on the discs equally as well over HDMI, owing to its digital nature. The BD-H6500 proved no exception and it had no issues handling recent discs such as Gravity and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug without fault. We had the player hooked up to both Passive and Active Shutter 3D TVs during the process and the results were equally excellent with each – not that it should make a difference, we just like to drive a point home sometimes.
Provided you don’t alter the Picture Mode options accessed from the Tools button on the remote, the H6500 will playback all your Blu-ray discs in perfect order, with no unwanted effects on the colour or luminance channels, nor any sneaky noise/film grain reduction. The images produced were as pristine as one would expect and we put the player through its paces with a number of discs currently in favour, chez Hodgkinson. Those included the 2D versions of the titles noted above as well as season 3 of Game of Thrones plus Frozen – for the two-billionth time.
With interlaced content there is more onus on the player’s processing capabilities and those of the H6500 are very strong. The H6500 ustilses Samsung's proprietary video processing which is exceptionally good and the player passed every single cadence test on both our Spear & Munsil and HQV Blu-ray discs. We also used the HQV Blu-ray disc to check the quality of the video deinterlacing. This disc has a jaggies pattern which uses three rotating bars and the BD-F6500M displayed all three with no jaggies.
You really can't fault the disc playback
Standard DefinitionAs with the interlaced content, the BD-H6500 benefits from Samsung's excellent video processing when dealing with DVD material. It was able to fully reproduce the SMPTE 133 resolution test, correctly scaling the full 576i/50Hz signal without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. With the video deinterlacing tests the results were also excellent - the H6500 reproduced the rotating line without producing any jaggies, even at the most extreme angles. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance remained superb with all three moving lines being reproduced correctly, even on the bottom one. In the cadence tests the BD-F6500 also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the most common types 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European) and a few others besides.
Disc Loading TimesThe BD-H6500 maintains the rapid load-up capabilities of the 2013 range and will typically have a Blu-ray disc reach the Menu screen within 20 seconds. Performance was similar with DVDs, only a tad speedier, with an average load time of around 15 seconds. You can also quicken the general performance by enabling Quick Start from the System Menu which saw the device boot up in around 3 seconds, as opposed to eight with it off. It doesn’t sound much but those not blessed with a great deal of patience might favour it and not worry unduly about the standby power consumption increase it entails.
- Perfect 2D & 3D Blu-ray playback
- Brilliant scaling of DVDs
- Tons of video apps
- Quick to load discs
- Fantastic price
- Limited connections
- Uninspiring design
Samsung BD-H6500 3D Blu-ray Player ReviewThe BD-H6500 is an inoffensive black box with a rounded-out front-right corner, which has a set of basic controls moulded in to a dial atop it. There’s a large and very legible display panel just to the right of a tray loading disc mechanism, which is thankfully peaceful during playback. Around the back are a very basic set of connections, limited to HDMI and S/PDIF digital audio outputs and a LAN port. You also get built-in WiFi and a USB input at the front, behind a drop-down flap.
There is nothing at all remarkable about the bundled remote control but it’s easy enough to use and features glow-in-the-dark transport buttons. Navigating around the extensive menu system is easy enough and we like the fact Samsung has consolidated all its Smart TV goodies on to one page this year. Those features include a wealth of video on demand and catch-up services, a versatile media player and a so-so web browser and, for the price asked, make the H6500 almost worthy of consideration as a Smart TV box, alone.
When you factor in the excellent video processing, which means the BD-H6500 is fully capable of completely faultless playback of 2D and 3D Blu-ray, as well as providing superior scaling for your standard definition collection, the value just gets better and better. There’s also an element of future-proofing uncommon at this price point, with the inclusion of support for scaling to Ultra HD resolution, although it’s arguable how necessary that really is. Regardless, the Samsung BD-H6500 is top drawer value, whichever way you look at it, so well worthy of Best Buy Status.
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money9
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.