Samsung BD-D6900 3D Blu-ray Player Review

It's small, chic and Smart but can it do the business? Mark Hodgkinson takes a look.

by hodg100
Home AV Review

3

Recommended
Samsung BD-D6900 3D Blu-ray Player Review
SRP: £229.00

Introduction

Considering we’ve only just had the Samsung BD-D8900 through these very doors, for review, then the Samsung BD-D6900 should hold few surprises. It is after , to all intents and purposes, just a trimmed down version of the 8900, with the most notable omissions being a lack of hard drive – for either recording to from the in-built digital tuner or storing media files – and a second HDMI output, for those with 3D displays but non compatible AV receivers. We feel there is another important differential, however, and that’s in the price-tag. With online prices around £175 less than BD-D8900, the BD-D6900 gives owners the choice as to whether they wish to add external storage to make use of the, somewhat limited, PVR functionality; or ‘just’ to use the unit as a 3D Blu-ray player/DVD Upscaler/USB Media Hub/Freeview HD tuner and make use of Samsung’s internet based Smart features, eschewing the recording capabilities altogether.

We scored the BD8900 very highly in terms of its picture processing, Blu-ray, 3D and DVD playback. The Smart features were also very impressive and video file support was also decent so the 6900 should do similarly well in its core areas, but we won’t be taking anything for granted and we will be subjecting the unit to our usual array of testing, as you never know. There’s still plenty on offer with the Samsung BD-D6900 so let’s engage the remote control and see how it does.

Styling/Build/Connectivity

There’s one thing the BD-D6900 and BD-D8900 don’t share, and that’s looks. Where the 8900 is a fairly standard looking ‘black box’, the 6900 is far slimmer and - a good deal shinier - with its chrome effect top casing sitting on a matt black undercarriage. The optical drive is slot loading so don’t panic when you press the Eject button and no tray comes out. There’s an LED display, to the centre, which also features touch-sensitive buttons for Stop, Play/Pause, Enter and Eject. To the right of the LED display we have a flip down panel hiding a CAM slot and USB input. The svelte proportions of the 6900 means it will slip in easily to most set ups even if the shiny appearance means it won’t do it particularly unobtrusively.

To the rear of the D6900 is a single HDMI output; antennae connections – both in and out; a LAN port; Digital Audio Out (SPDIF) plus legacy RCA and Component connections. As per the AACS Adopter Agreement, the component connection is hobbled for Blu-ray disc in only allowing an SD (576i) signal through it, and you wouldn’t want that! It’s a fairly standard set of connections (bar the aerial sockets) for a Blu-ray player.

Samsung BD-D6900M

General build quality is probably what we’d describe as average and the plastic casing is of a fairly thin grade but the supplied remote control is of a reasonable standard, with typical Samsung layout and feel. Haters of material containing ‘black bars’, typically 2.35:1/2:40:1 shot film, may delight in the inclusion of the ‘Full Screen’ button that is designed specifically to eliminate them. We, of course, would never advise its deployment as it ruins pixel mapping but others differ. Most of the supplementary buttons, when compared to a typical Samsung TV remote, are at the bottom including the 2D>3D, Smart HUB and Record buttons but, otherwise, the majority of operations will be performed, comfortably, toward the centre.

Menus and Set Up


Much as the D8900 that went before, the D6900 set up process was a simple operation and we were soon ready to explore the features on offer. Menus were, as expected, comprehensive but that’s to be expected with a multi-faceted device. The structure consists of 5 main areas: Watch TV, Internet, My Devices, My Contents and Watch TV, Internet, My Devices, My Contents and Settingswith each containing a number of options and sub-menus.

Samsung BD-D6900M
Samsung BD-D6900M

The Settings Menu contains an absolute host of options, split in to 9 sub-menus, and we’ll go over the most important of these here. First of all we have the Display settings sub-menu where there are options for 3D Settings, TV Aspect, Smart Hub Screen Size, BD Wise, Resolution, HDMI Colour Format, Movie Frame (24FS), HDMI Deep Colour, Still Mode and Progressive Mode. We will look at what effect some of those do late rin 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.

Next we come to the Audio sub-menu containing settings for Digital Output from a choice of PCM, Bitstream (unprocessed), Bitstream (Re-encoded DTS), Bitstream (re-encoded Dolby D). 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); DTS Neo:6 Mode (Off/Cinema/Music) and Audio Sync to fix any lip synch/lag issues with the display.

Following on from Audio there’s Channel, Network, System, Language and Support- which all contain fairly self-explanatory functions – and then we come to the General area with some Energy Saving and Display Light controls as well as the option for allowing a smartphone/tablet to act as a remote control, or not. Finally, for the Settings menu, we have the Support area that allows for online software updates and contains contact details for Samsung, in the event of difficulties with the product.

Samsung BD-D6900M
Samsung BD-D6900M

The other 4 main areas of the Menu - Internet, My Contents, My Devices and Watch TV - aren’t nearly so daunting as the Settings menu and actually contain a little duplication of one another, here and there, but they never really get confusing. The Internet tab is just an aka for the Smart Hub, more on which we’ll look at later. My Contents provides access to media stored on either connected USB storage, or from a media server on your network and is split in to Recorded TV, Videos, Photos and Music categories. Moving to Watch TV brings us access to the Guide (EPG); Schedule Manager – for setting watch and recording timers; Channel List (like a mini EPG) and Channel Manager, where unwanted dross can be shaved from your tuner. Finally, My Devices gives a drop down list of connected media servers or USB devices as well as the ability to switch over to the optical drive. You can just as easily access all of these from the My Contents tab but we have no objections to the duplication.

Samsung BD-D6900M
Samsung BD-D6900M

We like the Samsung EPG (Electronic Program Guide) with its 6 channel/2 hour view and there’s a video window top left From the EPG we can schedule recordings, set watch timers and sort by Channel Mode (All, Radio, TV or Data).

The Tools Button on the remote control brings up a few further options, notably one that affects picture quality, Picture Settings, housing four viewing modes - Normal/Movie/Dynamic/User . With User selected further ‘Advanced Settings’ are enabled – Sharpness, Noise Reduction, Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Tint. We’ll check over what these do in the Picture Quality sections.

Features

Whist the 6900 doesn’t have the media serving capabilities of its more costly sibling, it does do fairly well as a client for streaming media files and the built-in wireless capabilities are a boon here too. We can’t say it played back every file we threw at it but it did cope with the majority of .mkv files we tried and general .h264/mp4/AVC support seemed good; it’s probably the audio codecs that are more likely to trip it up so we’re not touting the BD-D6900 as a true media streamer replacement but what it does, it does well, and with a nice GUI. File support over USB was actually more robust, particularly with mkv, so it might be worth considering using that, over streaming, to avoid frustration.

Where we treated the Personal Video Recorder (PVR) abilities of the 8900 as a mainstay of the unit, we’d consider the 6900’s as an optional extra, as there’s no internal hard drive on which to record programming from the internal Freeview HD tuner. We complained that the PVR side of things seemed bolted on to the 8900, but we’ve no such gripe here as it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. To use the PVR functions of the D6900, a USB memory device needs to be connected and then formatted in the Device Management section of the System menu. To just use the time shift capabilities, i.e. to pause, rewind or fast forward ‘live’ TV, owners will only need 375MB of available space but we’d, obviously, recommend something much larger if you plan on doing any recording. Scheduling a program to record is a synch from the EPG but can also be done in the Schedule Manager in the Watch TV Menu

There’s only one tuner on-board so there’s no possibility of ‘watch one/record another’ through the box although, of course, one could just switch to the internal tuner of the display. It’s also possible to view content from media servers or from the optical drive (Blu-ray/DVD) whilst a recording is in progress. Unfortunately the limitation of only being able to ‘chase play’ from the EPG (meaning you have to rewind back through the action) is present here, too, and it’s something we’d like Samsung to address as it should surely be possible to implement better. As with the 8900, Smart Hub features can’t be accessed at the same time as recording but, overall, we’re far more forgiving of the limitations of the 6900 as a PVR as it’s a supplemental – rather than core – feature.

Samsung BD-D6900M
Samsung BD-D6900M

Samsung’s Smart Hub provides the usual cornucopia of apps and widgets, with the video on demand/catch up services from the likes of iPlayer, YouTube and Vimeo being our favourites. There are also decent Twitter and Facebook widgets, too, but you’ll need to create an account with Samsung Smart Hub services to use them. Apps are downloaded from the Samsung App Store and there appears to be plenty of internal memory to store them on, though we couldn’t find any details on just how much there is. There’s quite a nice search and recommendation engine built in to the Smart Hub, in ‘Your Video’ but it’s limited to activity on the Smart Hub only and doesn’t include anything from your actions on the digital tuner, which is a shame. We like the clean interface of the hub and also the fact it can be edited to allow the likes of parental locking and folder creation although it’s a shame the whole integration isn’t quite up to that found in the Samsung TVs; but it’s still very good!

For a unit that can be acquired for less that £200, we’re very impressed with all that the Samsung BD-D6900 crams in, feature wise, and we’ve not even mentioned HDMI CEC or 2D to 3D conversion over even broadcast material. There we just did.

3D Playback

From here onwards we’ll forgive readers of the BD-D8900 review to skipping down a few sections because – as we suspected – the BD-D6900 shares exactly the same video processing prowess. 3D presentation was in-full, both horizontally and vertically, and free of induced crosstalk or any unwanted artefacts. In short, it’s as good as anything else out there for 3D playback.

1080p Playback

As above, the D6900 stays faithful to source without filtering high frequency information from the picture, adding sharpening/edge enhancement or imposing any colour processing to the signal. There is a proviso to that, from the TOOLS button on the remote there are four picture modes available - Normal/Movie/User/Dynamic and we’d advise using User to avoid any tampering to the gamma (Dynamic raises it and Movie lowers) of the display. We measured next to no differences in effects to either greyscale or gamut performance of our calibrated display, however, with anything but the Dynamic mode.

1080i Playback

Deinterlacing performance was first checked using a rotating bars pattern with only a slight hint of jaggies on show. The BD6900 skipped gaily through all our cadence detection tests at both 50hz and 60Hz, meaning we were seeing no loss of resolution or artefacting owing to unnecessary deinterlacing. As with the 8900, the handling of 1080i content is also a bonus when viewing from the tuner or connected storage.

SD Playback

As with the 1080i tests, the two most common cadences used in SD – (PAL) 2:2 and (NTSC) 2:3 – were picked up with no issues and scaling was up to the standard of the better Samsung products we see, with no apparent haloing or detail loss. We’re not saying it could make a shopping channel look good but the BD-D6900 certainly works as well as could be expected, given source material.

Disc Load Times

The BD6900 behaved exactly as the BD8900 here, with most Blu-rays showing copyright warnings in under 30 seconds and menus around 15 seconds after that. Good ol’ DVD’s were up and running in less time that it takes to go and get a Kit Kat and a can of coke from the kitchen. In our house, that’s about 10 seconds

Energy Consumption

The 6900 was ever-so-slightly less green than the 8900, surprisingly, drawing an averaged 26.4w in operation and less than 1w in standby.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Excellent disc playback
  • Quality - 3D/HD/SD
  • Very good scaling and deinterlacing qualities
  • Smart Hub
  • Optional PVR functions
  • Freeview HD tuner
  • Extensive video file playback - especially via USB
  • Well presented GUIs

The Bad

  • Build quality isn't the greatest
  • Smart Hub inaccessible during recording

Samsung BD-D6900 3D Blu-ray Player Review

We have absolutely no problems in bestowing a Recommendation upon the Samsung BD-D6900 as it performs all its core duties with general excellence, whilst also offering the opportunity to upgrade to a ‘Smart TV’ experience and gain a Freeview HD tuner for a low price premium. The opportunity to add USB storage to make the unit in to a single tuner PVR is a nice option for a light user or supplementary to an existing box. Support for video files, particularly via USB, was impressive and we also achieved reasonable success when streaming over a network, the inclusion of Wi-Fi, out of the box, is also a welcome addition here. The D6900 may not suit everyone’s requirements but, for those that it does, it’s a neat little combination!

We weren’t overly enamoured by the looks or build of the BD-D6900 but it is small, light and easy to squeeze in to tight spaces. The remote control gets the job done, without too much fuss, but it could perhaps have benefited from being a little larger to enable some of the ‘feature’ buttons to be placed higher up. Connectivity was adequate, although those with 3D displays but incompatible receivers may want to seek out a box with dual HDMI output.

Whilst the Menus are pretty extensive, and items sometimes cross over, we never found them too difficult to navigate. We liked the general presentation of the GUI and, as ever, Samsung’s EPG is clear and easy to read. We would advise any owners that have calibrated displays to use the TOOLS button on the remote to navigate to the Picture Modes to ensure ‘User’ is selected, meaning the picture will be left, all but, untouched.

As with the D8900, that we covered recently, the all round abilities of the D6900 as a disc spinner make it a worthy consideration. From SD to 3D, through HD, we were left very impressed by the general standards of video processing displayed. Deinterlacing and cadence detection duties were handled with aplomb, whilst High Def and 3D content was displayed full resolution, free from underhand processing.

We think Samsung have a little winner on their hands here, especially if you have catch a touch of upgraditis this Christmas.

Recommended

Scores

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Features

.
9

Ease Of Use

.
9

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Value For Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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